How to Choose the Right Bag for Your Body

Get It Right and You'll Feel Your Absolute Best!

Street Style: Day 7 PFW SS16
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Consider something for a moment. You probably don't give handbags the same scrutiny you give a pair of jeans, right? If a handbag is chic or works with your lifestyle... Well, then it works! But did you know that a handbag can flatter your shape almost as much as the right pair of jeans?

We kid you not! Apply these easy steps to find a bag that's in proportion to your figure. It can not only knock off pounds visually (seriously!), it'll also polish up your style in a flash.

Handbag Shapes vs. Body Shapes

If you are trying to play down a body type, choose a shape that is the opposite of your body silhouette. For example, if you are very tall and thin, you can add a slouchy, rounded hobo bag to add some curves to your figure. If you're short and curvy, play off opposites by choosing a handbag that is tall and rectangular or long and sleek (like a clutch).

In general, the rounder your figure, the more structured your bag should be. That doesn't mean that you have to carry a hard box around to counterbalance your womanly shape: rectangular or square silhouettes in soft leathers or fabrics will do the trick. For example, a petite, curvy figure (like Kim Kardashian or Adele) would look great carrying a large rectangular clutch bag.

Terminology for Handbags

Here are some popular shapes:

  • The tote: An open-top bag with straps or handles.
  • The hobo bag: A crescent-shaped shoulder bag. This style is often soft and slouchy.
  • The duffle: A tall shoulder bag, often with a wider opening on top.
  • The field bag: A flap-top shoulder bag with utility-type closure (buckles, snaps, etc).
  • The clutch: A small, handheld bag or a larger, geometric shape that is tucked under the arm or carried in your hand.
  • The satchel: A large, handheld bag. Many satchels are structured.
  • The baguette: Long and rounded shoulder bag resembling the namesake bread (and made famous by Fendi).
  • The messenger bag: A large, soft shoulder bag one long strap worn across the body.
  • The cigar box: A small, boxy, hard bag, also called a minaudiere.
  • The pouch: A soft, small bag.
  • The Kelly bag: A classic Hermes style named after Grace Kelly; a large, structured handbag with distinctive hardware closures — it's so unique it has its own category.
  • The crossbody bag: A bag — often mini in size — that is meant to be worn across the body on a long strap or chain.

All About Scale

Will the right bag make you look thinner? Not exactly, but it can flatter your shape. While the shape should oppose your body type for maximum flattery, the size of the bag should be in proportion to your figure.

Think about scale here: A woman who is 6 feet tall and a size 14 would look lost with a teensy hand-held bag. A petite size 0 would look overwhelmed by an enormous slouchy bag. A shoulder bag's length (where the bottom of the bag hits your body) will accentuate whatever part of the body it comes near.

For example, a shoulder bag that ends around the hips will play up your hip width (the eye is drawn to the bag). Most women look great with a bag that hits mid-torso because it flatters the waist.

Crossbody bags are difficult to carry off for busty women because the strap cuts right across the bust line.

A Few More Tips

  • Take time in a store to try on handbags in front of a mirror just like you would apparel.
  • Don't be tempted by trendy shapes that don't suit your figure. There are plenty of great alternatives that will work.
  • Think lifestyle when shopping for handbags. If you're toting diapers and graham crackers, an artsy vintage bag won't hold up.

Updated By Taylor Davies