Our bags say a lot about us, and are one of the items that get the most wear.
Here are few considerations on picking and wearing your professional everyday bag.
HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT BAG
Buy the best quality you can afford. You are going to wear this bag a lot, which means it not only needs to look good, but it needs to last. But you don't need to spend thousands of dollars on a designer "It bag" to have a quality item. Above, I have included some examples of great bags that are all under $500.
Pick something you really like. Most likely you will wear this bag every day so don't look at it as something just utlitarian. You should be excited to bring it out with you everyday.
Keep it structured. Structured bags don't change their shape according to the contents and they are usually more long lasting than slouchy ones. They convey an overall idea of order, control and power, and hence are perceived as more professional than hobo bags and make more of a statement.
Choose leather. Unless you are against wearing leather, it should be your privileged material. Vinyl, leatherette, nylon or canvas just don't communicate the same quality. They also age quite badly. Whether you want to the finishing of it to be plain, hammered, embossed, woven it's up to you. Just try to investigate how it's going to age so that you can get the best out of it.
Choose a color you like. If you wear many colors you might want to keep it neutral (black, brown, navy, dark green), if you mostly wear neutrals, you can have the chance of a pop of color with jewel tones. Just keep in mind that some colors show dirt more than others, and you want to keep your bag clean all the time. Choose a color of hardware that harmonizes with the color metal of the jewelry you usually wear.
Say NO to logos. This is the bag you wear for business, YOU are the business. Don't let a logo define how others perceive you.
Say NO to chunky hardware. Choose a bag with minimal hardware and have fun with jewelry instead!
Make it personal. Monogram it, hang a charm on it, knot a silk scarf around the handle. Why not? it's YOUR bag, and it can become a conversation starter.
HOW TO WEAR YOUR BAG LIKE A PROFESSIONAL
It doesn't need to fit your whole house. I know there has been a trend for big bags, but it doesn't mean they are the best choice. Consider what you have to carry in your bag (laptop, folders, make up..), and pick a bag that fits everything but it is also proportionate to your body scale. Huge bags filled with a million things jumbled together can convey a sense of insecurity and chaos.
Don't put it on the floor. In many cultures putting your bag on the floor is considered bad luck (In my native Italy, they say that your money will grow legs and run away!), and it generally gives an idea of not taking good care of your things. Also if you avoid putting your bag on the floor, the edges of your bag will last much longer. So if your bag doesn't have a strap to go around the back of your chair and you are at a meeting, find another chair to put your bag on it or bring of one of these guys with you.
If you carry shoes in your purse, put them in a shoe bag. It's not uncommon for many women to change shoes during the course of their day, but that doesn't mean that the whole world needs to know about it. Shoes peeking out of your bag can project insecurity, or a frumpy and messy manner. Also, in some contexts it is just plain rude to have others see the bottoms of your shoes. If you must carry those extra shoes, a shoe bag is a discreet solution that also protects your shoes from scuffs, and keeps your soles from contaminating other items in your bag.
Last but not least...
The power of not wearing a bag. Are you being photographed for a blog feature? Are you going to a meeting close to your office? Nothing says confidence more than not wearing a bag at all. It says "I have everything I need: myself", "I don't need to hold on to anything". It might be impractical for a long day out, but if you have a quick meeting I would say just try it. Just put the bare necessary in the pockets of your coat (don't carry them in your hands, it reads "assistant on lunchbreak"), and go! It is quite liberating and empowering. And if you need to bring a laptop or tablet, just hold it as a clutch. A quality laptop or tablet sleeve adds a nice touch here.
Strategic Wear is a periodic post written with entrepreneurs and creative professionals in mind. In each post I pick an element of dress and I decode it, explaining how it can be used as an alley to build strong personal branding for pitches, interviews and public appearances.