Seated in the back corner couch of my high school’s library, I once found myself discussing the importance of small handbags with a friend. Mind you, this was the early aughts, a time when fits-a-Maybelline-Great-Lash-and-flip-phone-only (yes, flip phones! remember those?) Fendi Baguettes were the Holy Grail of accessories, so we were willing to sacrifice convenience for the sake of looking cool. So there we sat, shoulder-strap clutches no bigger than a panini sandwich on laps, heavy bookbags at our feet, smugly discussing how little is better.
This seemingly steadfast opinion began to change when I moved to New York City for college. My arrival was during those few years that the Olsen twins attended NYU; between classes they would run around the city wearing oversized sunglasses, holding oversized Starbucks cups and carrying oversized hobos. It didn’t take long for me to switch out my teensy bread-sized satchels for one ginormous slouchy tote, which broke within two weeks because I stuffed too much inside. (Also, maybe, possibly because I was poor art student who could only afford the $60 polyurethane version of Mary-Kate and Ashley’s buttery Balenciagas.)
Nowadays, at the wise old age of 26, I’ve reached a certain state of handbag enlightenment. While I haven’t settled on a signature style quite yet (hey, I bet even Margaret Thatcher messed around with different shapes in her twenties!), the pieces I try out are always of a reasonable size: they’re all roomy enough for my essentials—keys, wallet, even a spare pair of clothes for a spontaneous SoulCycle class—but not so crazy roomy that I find reasons to carry stuff I shouldn’t. Below are 11 I’d happily add to my growing collection; click through the slideshow to shop them now.
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