In praise of a simple little bag that gets things done and shows no wear

Hear me out on this: getting offered free stuff has diminishing returns when you cover a product-based industry for a living. At first, of course, it’s exciting: being alive is expensive, and being in the position to get freebies of basically any kind totally rules. We’re lucky to have the opportunity, and also lucky that any of this is our job. Like any good thing, though, you eventually hit a ceiling where it stops being so fun.

You start running out of space to store things, first of all, especially if you live in New York and barely have enough storage for the things you paid for and desperately want to be able to keep. Also, a lot of brands and PR agencies who send over unsolicited things then expect you to write positively about those things, which is both unfair to you guys (we know you don’t want to show up here and find us faux-gushing about a bunch of free bags) and to us (we take what we do seriously and aren’t interested in letting third parties dictate what we should cover). So usually, I either ignore or decline offers for bags unless it’s something I genuinely love and think I will actually use. Otherwise, I’d just be some unfortunate combination of an opportunist and a hoarder. If something I don’t like makes its way to me anyway, I usually give it to a friend or donate it to Housing Works.

Most of the time, this policy works great in order to not waste a brand’s budget or waste a bag that might be better appreciated by someone else, but because of it, I almost missed out on a bag I’ve reached for countless times over the past two years, so I told you about all that in order to tell you about it: the Dagne Dover Signature Petite Coated Canvas Tote. The indie upstart brand first reached out to me in 2015, but the emails got lost in the usual Fashion Week deluge that season, and I didn’t notice their request for my address until later. The brand’s PR person was clearly on a mission, though, because in a couple days, the bag was sitting on my desk anyway. I was immediately surprised by how much I liked it, especially considering the very reasonable sub-$150 price point. I took it home with me.

Two years later, that same little bag is sitting on my desk behind my laptop as I type this, looking almost shockingly like it did when it landed on my desk in 2015. The coated canvas material shows absolutely no wear, in spite of the fact that I’ve taken it to everything from baseball games to outdoor concerts, plopped it down on innumerable restaurant floors and gotten caught in the rain with it more than once. I’m hard on my bags, and very few of them last more than six months or a year in my rotation with regular use. Not only have I used this one a bunch in the time I’ve had it, but I carried it basically every day this summer, which includes sweating on it, sitting it in the grass and dirt at Prospect Park and leaving it in the sun for hours. Everything about it still looks basically pristine, including the leather top handles and shoulder strap. There are no loose stitches, no peeling edges, nothing—it’s as well-made a bag as anything I have in my collection, including any bag I’ve ever owned that cost thousands of dollars.

The Dagne Dover Signature Petite Coated Canvas Tote isn’t very big (although it does come in larger sizes, included one big enough to be a laptop-toting work bag), but it’s the perfect size for running errands or doing anything else where you want your hands to be free and your bag to be lightweight. At 8″ wide at the base and almost 4″ deep, it fits everything I always carry with me: my sunglasses in a slim hard case, my iPhone 8 Plus, my keys, and a zipped coin and card case that I use as a wallet. In a pinch, I’ve been able to rearrange it to accommodate a 16-ounce bottle of water or Gatorade alongside all that stuff. The bag has a zip closure, but I never use it, and it’s designed to fold down and out of the way for people like me who prefer that.

The interior of the bag has more pockets than you’d expect for something this size, with one side lined in slips for pens or lipglosses and the other with both a large zip pocket and a magnetic-closure pouch pocket on top of it. The interior of the bag is lined in the same coated canvas as you see on the exterior, which undoubtedly adds to the design’s durability and its ability to keep its shape while still being flexible. The tote top handles are long enough to sit in the crook of my arm, and the slim crossbody strap, although only slightly adjustable, is the perfect length for me.

One thing that I really love about this bag and that I didn’t expect to care about is the top handles. Bags of approximately this size are common in my collection because I hate carrying around unnecessary bulk unless I need to, but in the past, I’ve always gone for the camera bag style, which has only a long strap, instead of a shrunken tote. With the tote style, it’s easy to grab this bag from wherever it’s sitting and go, and then I can sling it onto my body while I’m waiting for the elevator or after I’ve exited a crowded restaurant. That’s something I’d never even thought about until I started using this bag frequently; sometimes, with a strap-only bag, trying to grab it and run out the door can get awkward or spill some of the bag’s contents. With top handles, those haphazard grabs are always secure, and since I rarely full close my bags, that makes a difference.

Tons of bags come across my inbox and mailbox every year, but in the interest of impartiality, it’s always been my policy to avoid writing about them unless I think an article would genuinely benefit our readers. After using it on an off (and on more than off recently) for two years, I can say without trepidation or hesitation that the Dagne Dover Signature Petite Tote would be a steal at twice the price. Buy through Nordstrom in black or navy for $145 or shop the upstart brand’s other bags.

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