This post on the perfect work tote is part of The Five Must-Have Pieces for Your Work Wardrobe series. Take the Five Must-Haves Challenge with Real Life Style. Join us on Zoom for suggestions on how to shop for and style these pieces every Tuesday from March 9th to April 6th, 2021. Register for all of the remaining sessions here.
What’s a perfect work tote, you ask? It has to be structured so you don’t look sloppy at work. And, it also has to be perfect for you.
As we consider what meets your criteria, ask yourself if a bright color is a welcome pop to your usually neutral-colored clothing. Or, do you often wear brights, so favor a neutral bag? Do you prefer a backpack or a tote? Nylon, leather, or vegan leather? Next comes the fun part of the process, choosing between all of the wonderful options RLS has pulled together for you!
If you own any of these work totes already, let us know. And, tell us what you think makes a work tote “perfect.”
P.S. If you love any of these bags, click through to the website to check for sale prices!
Cuyana‘s bags are simple, functional, and almost designer quality. This first option features a zip-top close, a popular request for the perfect work tote.
Dagne Dover is a “greatest hit” in the super functional tote category. They’ve thought of everything from a laptop sleeve, multiple pockets, and a water bottle holder. If you’d like to try their pieces in person, check out your local Nordstrom.
We discovered Leatherology when we were looking for small leather pouches for a client a few years ago. I own and wear their elegant phone crossbody constantly. They have a ton of colors, so don’t be afraid to try something fun!
Lo + Sons
I’ve been using the Rowledge backpack for business and personal trips alike since connecting with the owner of this family business. I am now obsessed. The materials and construction are high quality. And, the pockets are endless, well-thought out and specific, and the straps are really comfortable. As a bonus, the interior is available in Real Life Style’s signature lavender!
Let me tell you why Lo & Son’s Seville Tote is genius. Ever have a hard time choosing the one color tote to buy to match your whole wardrobe (the pressure!)? Hate having to change your tote at the last minute because a different color might match better? Lo & Sons has solved your problems by creating a tote that comes with interchangeable sleeves. Change the outside, not the inside of your bag.
So many women swear by the Madewell tote for its hardy leather and edgy looks. There is a reason it has been a bestseller for years! The Zip-Top Transport Tote works well as a casual work tote, while the Sydney Tote reads “creative entrepreneur”.
Matt + Nat
Matt + Nat was one of the original brands to make high quality vegan leather. I appreciate the many, well-thought out styles and colors they always have available. There is not a shape or function they have not thought up!
Mark and Graham
Mark and Graham‘s bags are all super cute and monogrammable. The options are endless, including custom combinations. You can see all of the options on their website. I can attest to the quality of the product too. Mr. Real Life Style has a camo briefcase (the same pattern as the tote below) from Mark and Graham that practically stops traffic.
Mark and Graham Build Your Own Tote, $249 (an additional $49-$59 for customizable straps)
Nisolo began as an ethical solution to leather shoes, before expanding into bags and accessories. Feel good purchasing their totes made by fairly paid workers at their own leather factories!
If you’re looking for a fashionable vegan leather tote, Pixie Mood should be your first stop. They have tons of styles and colors for professional to casual workplaces alike. Kyle and I both have a Pixie Mood tote in a limited edition holographic silver!
Kyle and I have matching Rebecca Minkoff bags too. They have lasted wonderfully well, after several years of trips to New York and running around DC. Of course I haven’t seen Kyle’s bag in a while, but I can tell you that mine still looks brand new. Rebecca Minkoff always has fresh and exciting designs for a more fashion-forward workplace. Although usually in a more relaxed silhouette, the leather is such high quality that the bags don’t look sloppy.
Tumi bags are a go-to for functionality but give you a hint of fashion too. They’re sleek, low-profile, and sometimes come with straps that fit onto luggage handles.
Which structured work tote is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!
Real Life Style is a style consulting firm that teaches busy women to wear their power so they can live their lives fully and confidently. Lani Inlander and Kyle Dunphy are based in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area and serve clients across the country. We offer personal styling services, an on-demand e-course, corporate services, and training to become a personal stylist.
You can find Lani Inlander and Real Life Style on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.