I began my career working as an assistant to the head of an NGO. She wore many hats as our leader — running the organization’s programs, administration and fundraising — and she carried three bags to and from work each day: a handbag (for personal items), a small satchel (for fact sheets, handouts, and her notes), and a tote bag (for newspapers and whatever else). She was a role model to me in a dozen distinct ways: she was brilliant, relentless, courageous, and always immaculately turned out — but in one way, I vowed to be different: I was never going to carry a zillion bags like a pack-horse.
At forty-five, I find I am more encumbered than I was at 22. I have a couple of large leather bags that can carry personal items and files, and even a laptop — but leather can be heavy and when all of those belongings are dumped inside, the total weight can be considerable. So more recently, I have been carrying a smaller bag — a handbag or satchel — and using a tote bag as an adjunct. Occasionally – on a rainy day or casual Friday – I carry a tote bag instead of a proper bag.
A tote bag is light, generally machine washable, sometimes made of waterproof fabric, and almost always capacious.
But I still like to look pulled together, so I have a few to choose from. Here are a few ideas for you.
I am a huge fan of Les Toiles du Soleil; in addition to tote bags (in various sizes), they make iPad covers, toiletry bags, and espadrilles. Sadly, they discontinued Kindle covers after I lost mine on the Metro. I’m not sure what the scale of their operation is, but when I visited their store on W. 19th Street in NYC a few years ago, a sewing machine was plainly in view at the far end of the shop floor. Charmante!
On an even smaller scale, great finds abound on Etsy — so this is an excellent opportunity to support small businesses and craftspeople. Since many of the stores on Etsy welcome custom orders, consider having a tote made in a menswear fabric, like grey or navy pinstripes.
Les Toiles du Soleil Tote Bag in Ste Colombe; Tote No. 5 by Hable Construction in Clementine Beads; Les Toiles du Soleil Tote Bag in Tom; bookhouathome Zip Tote in Lines on etsy.com; Whitney Jude Gray Flannel Tote on etsy.com; Brew Me A Bag Burlap Tote on etsy.com