foundations: 5 timeless handbags under $500

source: The Row 

i get this question a lot from readers: "how can i build a functional and timeless handbag collection when i'm just starting out?"

whether you're a college student making the transition to young professional or rebuilding your accessories collection after a wardrobe purge, figuring out where to start can feel overwhelming.

twenty years ago at the start of the 'It Bag' era, affordable yet elegant handbags were still relatively scarce. the retail landscape has grown and changed so much since the early aughts. now, options abound.

here are a few tips to keep in mind when you're seeking out timeless designs at any price point:
  • stick with quality leather, in neutral colors. (black, navy, and brown look elegant every time.)
  • keep hardware and branding to a minimum.
  • choose simple shapes with clean lines.
  • prioritize designs that work with your habits, and lifestyle. 
these are my top picks for essential and timeless handbags under $500:

1. a large tote (slouchy) or structured (reviewed): both of these are great as a work/all purpose tote, it just depends if you prefer a slouchy or more structured shape.
2. a medium hobo bag: a softly structured larger hobo with a zipper closure is very handy for when you don't need a large tote, but still want to have enough space to stash the essentials + then some.
3. a small structured crossbody bag: this half moon style has been mainstay for a number of years, and holds just the essentials for hands-free mobility. bonus: the zip top and low key design means it's also perfect as the go-to crossbody for travel.
4. a foldover crossbody/clutch: the simplicity and versatility of the foldover clutch is genius; it's roomy enough as an organizational zip pouch for your essentials, and easily stashes away in your work tote for day. the Celine vibes don't hurt, either. just grab and go for lunchtime and nights out.
5. an expandable travel duffel: a 2-in-1 must-have in your travel wardrobe, this lightweight workhorse transitions from a spacious weekend duffel to a generously roomy carryon.

i hope this is helpful, and as always, feel free to weigh in with your thoughts on the above, or your own handbags that have stood the test of time!


  1. Great post. I am always on the road and I would like to share my recommendation for an expandable travel duffel is Muji's Paraglider Foldable Boston Bag. I like the dark navy color http://www.muji.us/store/paraglider-foldable-boston-bag-navy4549738176008.html It is elegant, solid and logo free.

  2. So glad you’re posting again - you’re always a unique voice in the blogosphere.

    You hit on 4 out of 5 of my favorite essentials. I used to have a Le Pliage, but I just didn’t use it so I gave it to my daughter. I really have to have a small carry-on bag, even for weekends....toiletries (I’ve got a complicated routine!), medications, and shoes make it a necessity.

  3. I really don't think you can go wrong with Longchamps Pliage or neo Pliage (formerly planetes). Ive bought several as gifts through the years. I just don't "need" one for myself. I tend to gravitate towards "statement" bags, the simplest I have is Le Sportsac medium travel tote and it's taken me through everyday bag, work, airplanes, overnight bag, job interviews (I was hired), school, etc...
    I like the tote options you picked. Can't go wrong with a large structured/semi-structured tote. Easy to find at all price points


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