the best. really.

What Is the Best Work Bag for Women?

Photo: AMC

Update: After we first published this story, many of you commented to request cheaper selections, and we heard you. For this update, we took out a few of the sold-out pricier options, reached out to more experts, and updated this post with seven more office-approved bags for under $250.

The best work bags are a little bit of everything at once: They are professional, but not too stuffy, roomy enough to juggle gym sneakers and a laptop, equipped with additional pockets to store the miscellany you don’t need but carry anyway (reading material, kid’s toys, and even the odd wine bottle), and not required, but still appreciated — able to be worn multiple ways. Below, we surveyed 16 industrious women on the multitasking tote bags, backpacks, and over-the-shoulder options they rely on to get them through the workday and beyond.

The Best Wide Tote Bag for Work

Madewell Transport Tote
$168 at Nordstrom

“I do not have very exciting or expensive tastes in handbags; I just need a bag with a handle drop length, so I can shove it over my shoulder while wearing a puffy jacket that holds a laptop, water bottle, and all the toys my kids swear they want to play with that I get stuck carrying home. So basically, I need a black garbage bag. I’m on my second or third Madewell Transport Tote, but this most recent one, in pink (sorry, “antique rose”) — but, like, the perfect pink — is definitely helping offset the winter doldrums.” —Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen

The Best Long Tote Bag for Work

Baggu Basic Tote
$180 at Baggu

“I love my Baggu tote because it’s roomy enough for whatever I need, yet still small enough that I never feel I’m carrying something more than a purse. It’s like Mary Poppins’s carpetbag. I use it for everything from carrying my gym stuff to groceries to going out for drinks. The thing that I love most is that the leather and finish age really well, so even oil stains and scratches give it beautiful character. It’s low-maintenance, so versatile in its simplicity, and super cute.” —Sam Anderson, product designer

The Best Reversible Work Bag

Urban Outfitters Reversible Tote Bag
$59 at Urban Outfitters

“I noticed a friend who had this bag, and as a New Yorker, I love a big bag. Something about the tote was so stylish because it didn’t have all these compartments, meaning you could see everything without digging around. It was a fly bag! I asked her about it, expecting it to be some $300 thing, and when she told me she got it at Urban Outfitters, I was like, ‘Oh, whaaat Urban Outfitters?’ So for my birthday that year, I asked my mom to get it for me, and I now get so many compliments on that bag. I’ve had it for so many years, and I still get compliments.” —Susan Kelechi Watson of This is Us

The Best Vegan-Leather Backpack

Matt & Nat Fabi Faux Leather Backpack
$175 at Nordstrom

“My Fabi backpack from Matt & Nat is truly an essential part of my workday. This bag merges fashion and function in the most durable and innovative way possible. Ethically made and manufactured with sustainable resources, the bag features adjustable straps, expandable gussets, and pockets for laptops and smartphones. Not only is the bag multifunctional for work and play — it’s a long-lasting investment.” —Libby Bartley, content strategist and branding stylist

(Editor’s Note: This backpack is no longer available in the tan color above, but can still be purchased in black, below.)

The Best Quilted Work Bag

MZ Wallace Medium Metro Tote
$215 at Bloomingdales

“When it comes to a versatile work bag, my goal is to be able to fit my entire life in it without it actually looking like I have my entire life in it. My go-to is MZ Wallace’s Medium Metro Tote — it’s roomy enough to fit my computer, planner, gym clothes, and everything else I drop in my bag for the day. It’s versatile enough to take me from the gym to happy hours without skipping a beat.” —Arielle Berneman, founder and creative director of Sweat in SD

The Best Two-Handled Work Bag

Madewell Medium Leather Transport Tote
$158 at Nordstrom

“As a graphic designer, I have struggled to find a bag big enough to fit my laptop, iPad, and sketchbooks, along with all the other day-to-day necessities. All the other bags were either very large or not big enough, but Madewell’s medium transport tote is quite literally the perfect medium. I love the carrying versatility of the bag because you can wear it over your shoulder with a longer strap or carry it by two handles for a different look. I am also a fan of the minimal interior — with only a single pocket, it is easy to find what you are looking for.” —Meagan Sapashe, graphic designer

The Best Bucket Bag

Baggu Drawstring Bucket Bag
Photo: 17-11-20 Accessories PM1 B1 raypfeiffer W
Baggu Drawstring Bucket Bag
$140 at Shopbop

“I’ve worn this bag almost every day: to work, on weekends, even to the occasional wedding, dressing it up and down. When circumstances demand — air travel, or an afterwork event that requires a change of shoes — I carry a large tote or a backpack, and I simply tuck the Baggu, essentials undisturbed, inside the bigger one. It always fits.” —Hannah Goldfield, writer

The Best Work Bag That’s Also a Gym Bag

The City Adventurer Backpack
$128 at Lululemon

“I like using a backpack because it’s important to keep my hands free during my commute — so I can hold the essentials, umbrella, MetroCard, Starbucks — while stashing all my stuff. This one has a separate pocket on the bottom for sneakers and sweaty gear, and a padded laptop sleeve, so I can transition right from the gym to meetings without looking like I’m toting around tons of gym stuff. I use it almost every day, since I usually go right from a fitness studio to the office.” —Emily Martin, account director at Ogilvy & Mather

The Best Work Backpack

Studio 2 Bag
$350 at Caraa Sport

“Caraa’s super-versatile ‘luxury sports bags’ are magical. My Studio 2 carries me through work, workouts, bagless grocery shopping, sneaking wine into movie theaters, and whatever else the week throws my way. It has a million secret pockets, adjustable straps that convert to a backpack or over-the-shoulder weekender, and a big, cushiony pouch for my laptop. Plus, it zips fully closed. (Why is that so hard to find??) Sorry to brag, but people stop me in the street to ask where I got it all the time.” —Katheryn Thayer, special features deputy editor at Forbes

The Best One-Pocket Work Bag

The Day Market Tote
$165 at Everlane

“When it comes to versatile work bags, I always prefer the simplest option. To avoid carrying multiples, I like a large leather tote — roomy enough to carry a change of clothes and sneakers, and versatile enough to take me from the gym to the office to any plans I have afterward. Everlane’s Day Market Tote is all the right mix of things.” —Biz Lindsay, director of public relations at Outdoor Voices

The Best Floppy Work Bag

Classic Leather Tote
$175 at Cuyana

“The best work bag is the Cuyana Classic Leather Tote. It’s soft and buttery, fits everything without swallowing it, and comes at an accessible price point. It’s also made sustainably by a company run by two smart, great women. I like to monogram mine with my initials.” —Audrey Gelman, co-founder and CEO of The Wing

(Editor’s note: Gelman once represented Cuyana.)

The Best Cross-Body Bag

A.P.C. Tan Half-Moon Bag
$385 at Ssense

“This bag is over four years old and has been all over the world with me, but it’s best known as my go-to spring and summer work bag. It has developed a natural patina, so it’s quite dark and wears so well. I love it because I can fit my wallet, my rolled-down sweater, lip balm, and eye drops in it perfectly, and I can also wear it cross-body for when I need two hands.” —Michaella Kurdziel, director of customer experience at MM.LaFleur

(Editor’s Note: The half-moon bag is sold out in tan at Ssense, but it’s still available in black, navy, and brown elsewhere.)

The Best Work Handbag

Dagne Dover Legend Tote
$265 at Dagne Dover

“As a working woman and a mother, I need a bag that is versatile enough to adapt to the needs of all my roles in life. Whether my bag needs to hold important documents or snacks for a soccer game, the Dagne Dover meets all my needs. If you open my bag you will find my DSLR, work folders, and supplies for my work life, snacks for my little one, and my travel coffee tumbler to keep me going. Best thing is, this bag has compartments to safely keep all these items.”—Jade Stenger, high-school assistant principal

The Best Ladylike Work Bag

The Business Bag
$425 at Mlouye

“I am obsessed with this Mlouye bag. I travel quite a bit for work, and it’s very important to me that I pack light and bring one bag that does it all. And when I say does it all, I mean it’s something that I can bring on flights, to my client meetings, and then eventually dinner with my girlfriends all in one (without looking uptight). Basically, a day-to-night bag, but fashion. I have a MacBook that fits in snugly, and it holds all my other knickknacks in what seems like 500 compartments. The look is fairly minimal, unlike the rest of my look, so it nicely balances out my outfits.” —Rachel Effendy, global head of social at Ralph

(Editor’s Note: The blueberry color above is sold out, but the Business Bag is still available in taupe and tan.)

The Best Lightweight Work Backpack

Hanover Deluxe Travel Backpack
$148 at Lo & Sons

“My go-to bag when I’m working and traveling is the Lo & Sons Hanover Deluxe backpack. Is it beautiful? No, but when I’m schlepping all my photo gear and my laptop, yet still want to be as portable as possible, it’s the most practical option for me. The design is minimal enough and understated. The back of the backpack has a sleeve that slides over my luggage handles, which is a simple design godsend. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had bags fall off my luggage in transit in the past!” —Alice Gao, photographer

The Best Work Satchel

Angela Roi Eloise Satchel
$245 at Angela Roi

“Who says vegan can’t equal luxurious? This vegan-leather minimal bag is the perfect pairing for your everyday lady-boss get-up that’ll easily transition from day to night. On top of elevating that pantsuit, the Eloise satchel is cruelty- and sweatshop-free. That, my friends, is what you call a triple threat.” —Christina Sewell, sustainable fashion consultant

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best women’s jeans, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, ultra-flattering pants, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

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What’s the Best Work Bag for Women?