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Work Wardrobe

Your Wardrobe Workhorses: The Work Tote

Do you own the perfect work tote? What is the definition of the perfect work tote you ask? Well, it has to be perfect for you. Is your workplace casual, fashionable and/or formal? Do you wear neutrals every day so a bright color would be a welcome pop or do you wear brights so a neutral would be a better choice? Do you prefer a backpack or a tote? Nylon, leather, or vegan leather? These are all questions you have to answer. Then comes the fun part of the process, choosing between all of the wonderful options RLS has pulled together for you!

Do you own any of these work totes already? What do you think makes a work tote “perfect”? Let me know!

Happy Shopping!

Lo + Sons

I’ve been using the Rowledge backpack for my business and personal trips since the owner of the family business gifted me a few of their pieces around the holidays. I am now obsessed. Their materials and construction are high quality, the pockets are endless, well-thought out and specific, and the straps are really comfortable.

Lo + Sons The Rowledge Backpack, $375

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 for its Seville tote. Change the outside, not the inside of our bag. Hurry though, they are having an incredible sale on certain colors of a lot of their styles.

Lo + Sons The Seville Tote, $418


Tumi bags are primarily function, with a hint of fashion. They’re sleek and elegant, and the Hudson used to be the number one work backpack we recommended. These bags are low-maintenance and last a few years.

Tumi Hudson Backpack, $595

Tumi Mauren Tote, $325

Pixie Mood

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. The Betsy Fisher boutique in DC usually has some of their bags in stock.

Pixie Mood Greta Work Tote, $100

Pixie Mood Jasmine Bag, $75

Dagne Dover

Dagne Dover is another great option for a super functional tote. 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, they are now carried at Nordstrom.

Dagne Dover Allyn Tote, $325

Dagne Dover Signature Tote, $245


Everlane‘s totes are more no-frills, in the sense that there is only one side pocket. However, if you’re looking for a high quality leather bag that can fit a ton, these are great options. Kyle just picked up the Boss bag as pictured below and I am sooo jealous!

Everlane Day Market Tote, $175

Everlane ReNew Traveler Tote, $88

Everlane The Boss Bag, $158


Another tote with one side pocket, Cuyana‘s bags are simple, functional, and almost designer quality. They also make them with a zip-top close!

Cuyana Classic Leather Zipper Tote, $195

Cuyana Leather Backpack, $495

Matt + Nat

Matt + Nat was one of the original brands to make high quality vegan leather. They have a ton of different styles, including super chic luggage.

Matt + Nat Schlepp Tote Bag, $135

Matt + Nat Annex Backpack, $150


Nisolo began as an ethical solution to leather shoes, then expanded into bags and accessories. You can feel good purchasing their totes made by fairly paid workers at their leather factories.

Nisolo Lori Tote, $168

Mark and Graham

Mark and Graham‘s bags are all super cute, monogrammable, and this one even has RFID protection within the lining. The options are endless, including custom.

Mark and Graham Brooklyn Carryall, $359


We discovered Leatherology when we were looking for small leather pouches for a client last year, and I asked for the phone cross body for the holidays, which I now use practically daily. They have a ton of colors, so don’t be afraid to try a bright blue or red.

Leatherology Large Zippered Downtown Tote, $195

Leatherology Uptown Vertical Tote, $150


Shinola makes sleek bags that are designer-quality and beautiful. We’re big fans of the bag below that can store files and a laptop without bulk.

Shinola Accordion Tote, $695


So many women swear by the Madewell tote for it’s resilience. There is a reason they’ve made it for so many years now!

Madewell The Zip-Top Transport Tote, $188

Madewell The Abroad Tote, $198

Rebecca Minkoff

Kyle and I have matching Rebecca Minkoff bags that have lasted wonderfully for a few years, through trips to New York and running around DC. They always have something new and exciting for a more fashion-forward workplace.

Rebecca Minkoff Gabby Tote, $298

Rebecca Minkoff Signature Top Zip Tote, $298

This is a post in our series of Work Wardrobe Must-Haves, a companion to our e-book “Your Work-Week Wardrobe with 10 Powerful Pieces.” Subscribe to our email newsletter for more information on how to style these pieces.

Lani Inlander is a personal stylist who has been working with clients who want to feel their best and look put-together every day for over 20 years. You can find her in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Learn how you can train with Lani and Kyle to become a personal stylist at The Stylist Studio

You can find Lani Inlander and Real Life Style on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

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