If you followed along with our coverage of Fall 2011’s runway handbags, you might have noticed the same thing that I did – even more so than most years, designers had models clutching their purses in any manor of non-intuitive ways. The incomparable Lynn Yaeger also took note of the styling trend, but she took her curiosity one step further – Yaeger spoke to body language expert Dr. Lillian Glass and wrote a column for Vogue about what our preferred method of handbag-carrying says about us.

Applying those kinds of theories to runway styling is probably a specious practice; fashion shows often have little if anything to do with how fashion is actually supposed to be worn or how customers will wear it once it’s in their closets. But Yaeger’s intent is interesting, in light of how idiosyncratic and exacting some of us can be when it comes time to buy a handbag. Are you a shoulder-carrier? Do you prefer the crook of your arm? Or do you carry your bags by hand? And finally, how does that influence your choice of which bags to buy?

I’m something of a handbag slut; if I like how a bag looks, I tend to be willing to carry it however the designer intended, even if it becomes a slight inconvenience in my day-to-day activities. In a perfect world, I like to be able to breezily sling a bag onto my shoulder and go. The world is rarely perfect, though, so if the structure calls for arm-carry, that’s how I do it, extra shoulder straps be damned. Since I don’t have any children to wrangle or school books to carry, that usually works out okay for me, even if my Marc Jacobs Stam has given me a sore shoulder or two in the past. I have a feeling that Dr. Glass would tell me I’m a fashion victim; I prefer to think of my affliction as a reckless enthusiasm for design.

I have a feeling that most of our readers have criteria for choosing their bags that goes a little further than “OMG WANT,” so tell us in the comments how you choose your bags and how you prefer to carry them. Is it essential that you’re able to put your bag on your shoulder? Do you have a size requirement?

[via Vogue.com]

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Share Your Thoughts With Us

  • Maggie

    I usually go for bags that are in the satchel style, which I usually only hand carry. But, lately, I have been looking for mostly bags that are messenger style for crossbody simply because when my hands get tired, I can always wear it across my body hands free. I rarely wear bags on my shoulder so the shoulder strap is not a requirement when I look for bags.

  • Kat

    I prefer bags that I can carry on my shoulder, but it’s not a deal breaker, as evidenced by my latest purchase. Admittedly, though, that bag gets less use than my shoulder-strapped bags. I mostly carry it by hand when I do. Sometimes I do carry it in the crook of my arm, but I almost always immediately put it back in my hand, as I find that method so awkward, the way you always have put your arm up like that. I don’t know what to do with my hand, if it should be open, in a fist, holding something. It’s just really awkward for me.


  • Lulugurl

    I generally do the crook-of-arm carry or crossbody whenever possible….

  • Marion

    I don’t discriminate between any bags. I’ll carry it in my hand, as a clutch or on my shoulder depending on what is available. It will really depend on the occasion

  • Kells

    I’m a student and live in Chicago, so I take public transport everywhere and need my hands a lot. Lately I’ve converted to a huge tote for my laptop and books and crossbodies for my everyday running around. Before I moved here though, I was almost solely a satchel girl. It’s interesting how much my living situation has influenced my bag choices!

  • Rebecca

    I prefer shoulder bags, but do not discriminate against satchel. It it is a satchel, I carry it in the crook of my arm, not hand holding it.

    • Backpack girl

      I pretty much think all handbags suck. Shoulder bags make my shoulders hurt, and it’s such a hassle to carry a purse in my hand OR on my arm. I will only carry a backpack style bag, it’s just plain better. I need my hands and arms for too many other things. Also, I absolutely will not put my purse on a bathroom floor. So many public restrooms don’t have purse hooks. Since I carry my purse on my back, that’s never a problem.

  • Chels K

    Crossbody all the way, if I can manage it, shoulder otherwise. I simply won’t do a clutch and likely won’t do a hand carry. I have bought both the latter because I like the styles but they sit in my closet unused.

  • Jacki

    I prefer shoulder bags.

  • sunflower

    I switch back and forth between crook of the arm satchels and after a day or two – back to a shoulder bag. I simply cannot do clutches. Looking at my collection though… I seem to have more satchels than shoulder bags. I would love more nice shoulder bags but its hard to find ones that aren’t tiny or sloppy hobos.

  • Jen

    My favorite “look” is a handbag or crook of the arm bag (though I sometimes think the crook of the arm thing looks forced and insecure, as if to scream “look at my bag!!”). HOWEVER, I pretty much can’t stand wearing a bag that doesn’t leave my hands free, so I usually have to “settle” for a shoulder bag or a messenger bag (like a PS1). Like, Kells, I live in a large city, walk a lot and take public transport, so I think that has a lot to do with it. If I toted myself around in a car everywhere, then I suppose I would indulge more in hand bags.

  • 19yearslater

    I like shoulder bags best, but I like crossbodys as well. I only have one purse that restricts me to hand or crook of arm carry. I walk a lot and I don’t want to have to be holding a bag in my hand. I prefer medium-large bags, large enough for the essentials and a book. My favorite style is probably a hobo.

  • behlary

    yup I’m a handbag slut like you too!

  • Pam

    Due to a shoulder problem, I can no longer carry a shoulder bag unless it is very, very light weight. I now carry bags by hand or in the crook of my arm. My bags are now light weight and smaller than I used to carry, which means I have to be very selective about the items I put in my bags.

  • Mochababe73

    I am scared to use a clutch for everyday. I know that I would leave it somewhere.
    I am a mother so of course I prefer a shoulder bag. For Galleria shopping (our high end mall), I use one as well, but I will at times use one that only fits in the crook of my arm.
    Right now, I am carrying a Kenneth Cole Easy Piecy that looks good as a shoulder bag and a satchel. Now, for my sons’ athletic events, I definitely wear a crossbody. When I traveled for two weeks in D.C., I used one as well.
    Now that I have a purse orangizer, I am loving hobos.
    But again, no clutches.

  • Ysatnaf

    My favourite style of carrying a bag is crossbody. BUT before the favourite style comes the ideal handbag that I keep seeking and its own carrying preferences. What is the ideal handbag? I am driven by two principles in my search: “omnia mea mecum porto” and “Occam’s razor”. These two principles apply to both the design of the bag and its content. They motivate me in the choice of the bag, but also in deciding what to carry in it.

    1) “Omnia mea mecum porto”, or “I carry all of my possessions with me”. This is, I believe, another expression of what Glass is referring to when she says “we live in our handbags”. The bag should accommodate all I need to have… If I can have all I need with me, then I am able to be always on the move… and not suffer want! It is clear that no single bag can ever contain all that one needs – and that’s actually why the search for the ideal bag is infinite! To wit, when you find out that you cannot carry everything, you have to cut down the number of objects you carry… And how do you cut it down?

    2) Here comes to help the second principle, “Occam’s razor”, or the “Law of Parsimony”, employed in theory construction. It states that we should not increase the elements of our reasoning without cause: do not make complicated something that is simple. Applied to bags: carry around as few things as possible and only those that are indispensable. (Now, of course, there are various definitions of indispensability, for example, if you are a superstitious person and your talisman is a “sine qua non” during your daily journeying, or, switching from contents to design, if you are playful and enjoy cuddling the heavy hardware of a decadently unpractical bag.)

    Be always on the move (= “omnia mea mecum porto”), but be flexible and light on the move (= Occam’s razor). Occam’s razor turns my attention to smaller and smaller handbags, while my real needs always make me tote around the largest. And from this contradiction my whole handbag obsession is born and fed!

  • Amy

    I think that cross-body bags are the only ones that are truly hands free, but I don’t like how they look on me. I like to carry my bags in my hand or in the crook of my arm, because I know from experience that a lot of shoulder bags fall off my shoulder into the crook of my arm. That drives me crazy. I’d rather just start out knowing what I’m getting into. I don’t have kids though – and holding a bag by hand can get pretty tiresome when doing day-to-day activities (e.g. reading while standing on the train!)

  • heather speaks

    i have a large handbag which i drape over my wrist most of the time….if i need my hands for whatever reason, i’ll put my purse on my shoulder…i also have a messenger bag type purse that i wear across my body to keep my hands free.

  • eorchid

    Somehow all my bags end up wedged under my arm with the strap over my left shoulder. Except for crossbodies that get to stay on my right shoulder and hang on my left side. I’m left-handed, so that may explain it.

  • Nicole

    My bags must:
    – be large enough to hold my wallet and agenda
    – go with very outfit

    I usually carry my bags on my shoulder or crook of my arm (like hollywood-typical-celeb style lol). My bags are always large heehee! I have like one or two clutches and two small handbags.

  • ScottishLass

    I am a shoulder bag gal at heart. I carry them until my neck/shoulder starts acting up again and I switch back to arm carry. It is awkward for me and if I am not carrying anything else, I will hand carry instead. But when I do arm-carry, I keep either my keys or my cell phone in that hand because it reduces the awkward, what do I do with my hand, thing.

    I am not a victim to fashion to a great extent, though. It needs to serve my physical needs and aesthetic sensibilities. Not someone else’s. sometimes, if I like a bag enough, I will carry it IN SPITE OF (rather than because of) someone “famous” carrying it.

  • Cristina

    It’s cross-body strap all the way for me. It’s the first thing I’m looking for for in a bag that I like. I almost never purchase a bag that doesn’t come with it and often droped off a gorgeous bag model because it lacked that strap.


  • pltprincess

    I, too, carry them as designed. Even with kiddos in tow or a laptop stuffed in them! On the off chance a bag is both arm carry with an additional strap, I always opt for arm carry and consider the strap decorative.

  • Kristina

    The type of bag completely depends on what you need it for. Everyday has to be shoulder because I carry a ton of stuff around for work and holding all that in the crook of my arm is not going to happen. And I think small bags with long straps you can wear cross body are best for going out at night so you dont set it down and lose it!

  • Ravienna

    I normaly use my home made bags, so its crossbody. I have two that I use on daily basis. One is hand crochet in plarn (plastic bag yarn) and on is made from the back of a old pair of jeans.

    But when i do buy purses I usuly go for the sholder once. Since I use my hands so mutch making stuff. They easely gets tierd holding the purses. And I tend to carry a lot of stuff with me. So I need the spacy kind of purse.

  • Decor Girl

    Thanks for the new term. I too am a handbag slut. If I like it, the method of carry is irrelevant. I prefer a shoulder bag but only 30% of mine would fit in this category. The rest are hand or arm.

    Though I admit when I’m traveling I do think about how I’d like to be carrying the bag. Of course as a good handbag slut, I never travel with only one. :)

  • Shopping Lady

    A local shopping trip – any style will do , as long as it pairs well with the outfit
    An Intl trip – a cross body light weight bag to avoid pick pocketing
    A night out – a clutch
    Beach – a giant fun colorful beach bag
    Work – a structure shoulder bag

  • Lianne

    My purses are all either over one shoulder, tucked between my side and elbow, or held in the hand. I can’t stand the elbow carry, and I’m not crazy about crossbody.

  • mia

    I carry it on the handle using either my shoulders, the fore-arm??, or my hands. but shoulders are definitely most convenient!

  • The Little Dust Princess

    I generally prefer shoulder bags because it’s more convenient for me and my lifestyle. Clutches are cute, but I just can’t do it! I’m not too crazy about crossbody though.

  • lula

    To me crossbodies look stupid, shoulder bags fall off all the time. I would say the best kind is the clutch..because it sends out the message of minimal obligation, hey i’m not running any errands, i’m simply enjoying a walk here.

  • Brandy

    My only real prerequisite for an everyday bag is that it must be hold enough to hold a book.. So obviously clutches etc don’t apply. I carry keys, a wallet, my iphone in my bag which doesn’t take up that much space, but I must must have space for a book.

    Now that said most of my bags I carry in the crook of my arm, but I like to be able to switch between that and wearing it on my shoulder.

    I have a couple crossbody bags, but I am not really a fan. For one thing, they aren’t usually big enough. And I am a little big paranoid when I don’t have a constant eye on my purse.

  • Musette

    Because of shoulder injuries I am now a hand/arm crook kinda gal. Mulberry Bayswater is my everyday friend. Sturdy and structured enough to carry a buncho stuff without looking sloppy.


  • Patricia

    How funny, just the other day I was wondering why I prefer to carry my bags in my arm, instead of on my shoulder or in my hand …

  • KaylaNiche

    I always carry my bags depending on how they’re structured. I prefer hobos, so most of the time, I’m a crook-of-the-arm chick. When I’m in don’t mess with me mode (e.g. If I’m shopping) I carry my bag by the strap(s) in one hand to where it’s almost touching the floor-That just screams bit*h to me for some reason lol

  • domesticatedKat

    I’m a Mom and I have to have lots of stuff in my purse…like baby wipes, tissue, mosquito repellent, hand sanitizer (you can say I’m a germ & insect-freak…that’s what being a mom does to a woman) and a lot more! I need my bag to be roomy and my hands free when going about errands and shopping!*wink* I usually prefer totes over crook-of-the-arm bags, but from time to time I switch to clutches or small sling bags to give my shoulders a rest.

  • Mayette

    I carry books, a water bottle and a lot of other things I think I cannot do without. So my bag is often a tote or a shoulder bag or a shoulder bag and a tote. It’s a treat to just carry a small sling or no bag at all.

  • Amy A

    I have a habit of purchasing shoulder bags, and top handled totes, so naturally if i can carry it effortlessly on my shoulder then great!

  • DJ

    I love your posts, Amanda, because your sense of humor really shines through.

    I can only wear shoulder bags and, on occasion, hand-carry clutches; I can’t do a crook-of-the-elbow bag to save my life.

  • mrsjones

    i am a mother of two so definitely a crossbody.

    i love shoulder bags with flat straps rather than rolled as it always roll off my shoulder every now and then. it’s even worse if there are two rolled handles instead of one, it’s driving me crazy.
    i will use totes if i need to carry lots of things..

    also, i prefer bags with a 13″ width, (it’s most ideal size) and slim ..i don’t like a bulging handbag, not good for my shoulder and definitely not flattering..

  • Priscilla

    I like all kinds of bags and ways to carry them. I will carry a clutch, wear a crossbody, carry a tote by hand, and wear a bag on my shoulder. It all depends on how I like the look of a bag.

  • jaclyn

    i carry my bags mostly by the crook of my arm but i don’t mind slinging it on my shoulder at times.

    my criteria for buying bags are:
    – OMG….WANT!
    – can i afford it?

  • bindc

    I love all bags of all sorts. I love clutches but for every day I like a shoulder bag. I do have a mbmj totally turnlock crossbody that is my go-to when I’m chasing after the kids and I need to be hands free.

  • Stacy

    Prefer shoulder bags but will carry a bag in the crook of the arm. Clutches are out. Prefer hobo styles and totes.

  • Chele

    I prefer a shoulder bag but have recently began carrying a few of my bags on my arm. Some styles do look better that way and my bags tend to be fairly light, so weight is not a problem.

  • Linda

    I am strictly a hobo/shoulder girl and wear my bags slung back, gives a more carefree vibe. Even one of my formal bags is a pouchette by Elsa Peretti with a shoulder strap so that my hands are free to hold a plate and drink!


    i used to always be about the shoulder bag, but recently i carry everything i nthe crook of my arm or cross-body style. if the straps fit over my shoulder i will sometimes carry it like that. it at least has to have some sort of strap!!

  • Cathy Fitz

    Shoulder bags, except for the occasional clutch which must have a wrist strap.

  • priscilla Garces

    I mostly like Shoulder bags because they are easier on me. But cross-body is preferred. I could also do the crook on the arm. In fact i have a Juicy couture purse which i can’t fit over the shoulder so i have to carry it on the crook of the arm since the straps are short. same with my black bebe bag which was my very first purse, i have to carry that on the crook of the arm because the straps are short. even though the bebe bag was my very first purse at age 18, i still use it and has lasted me a long time. y purses have to be medium size though so that they are roomy. i like small ones but prefer medium size because it’s the perfect balance. i don’t have bags that you can carry by hand because that is not really my preferred method.

  • rainrowan

    Ever since falling head over heels with the Marc Jacobs Stam, this stay home mom is willing to sacrifice a bit of function in the name of fashion

  • Lovely

    I like the shoulder option.  If the satchels have a handle just long enough to put on my shoulder to free my hands while shoping, I love it.