The 11 Best Shoulder Bags You’ll Want In Your Closet ASAP

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Dagne Dover Rider Shoulder Bag carries your life in an elegant package.

<p>Anine Bing / Madewell</p>

Anine Bing / Madewell

I can’t stop buying purses. Every time I go to a flea market or a vintage store, I find a bag that I must have. Recently, I’ve been stocking up on small shoulder bags that are trending. Though I still love oversized totes and hobos, there’s something so good about a smaller bag that holds exactly what you need and nothing more.

“The small shoulder bag is a direct result of the pandemic when, during lockdown, we stopped needing bags,” says Alexandra Shulman, Chiefs Trends Officer at Atterley, an online retailer for independent fashion labels, and former editor-in-chief of British Vogue. “Now as the world has re-opened we have become used to carrying less around with us. Also, our reliance on the smartphone means that so much of what we previously needed to carry is contained in this one gadget.”

Once a bag has passed the phone test, i.e. it can fit a smartphone, it still needs to be durable, lightweight, and functional enough to hold other essentials. Because there are so many purses out there tempting me to purchase, I went out to find the best shoulder bags by interviewing editors, stylists, influencers, and testing a few myself. Dagne Dover Rider Shoulder Bag quickly became my pick for Best Overall thanks to its ability to hold a ton while remaining organized, and the very current crescent shape makes it cool enough to complete almost any outfit.

Even if you aren’t constantly on the hunt for another new purse to add to your collection, you could probably stand one more reliable shoulder bag in your rotation. These are the best you’ll find right now.

Dagne Dover Rider Shoulder Bag

Best Overall

What We Like: This stylish bag holds a ton and withstands the elements.

What We Don’t Like: The strap isn’t adjustable.

Whether you need to hold a lot or a little, this shoulder bag has got you. Made from recycled water bottles, it’s super lightweight and expandable, so you can stuff it if needed. And the organizational pockets on the inside keep your items from getting lost in an abyss. Though it doesn’t have an adjustable strap, we find the 12 inch handle drop fits comfortably under our arm.

I kindly received a sample from the brand, and it officially replaced my large beach bag this summer. Yep, I can fit my wallet, sunscreen, packable blanket, bucket hat, and even a book without it becoming heavy or too bulky. There is a detachable pouch that comes in clutch for holding onto my keys, lip balm, tampons, and other small, losable things. Thanks to the durable material that’s made out of recycled water bottles, I don’t have to worry about the bag getting wet or a little sandy — it’s easy to shake out and wipe off. The puffy, crescent shape is adorable and fits in at dinner as much as it does on the beach.

Materials: Repreve | Colors: 4 | Size: Medium

YSL Kate Small Shoulder Bag

Best Splurge

What We Like: This classic bag will last for years and suits any occasion.

What We Don’t Like: The front flap can be a bit cumbersome to open.

“If you want to buy a keeper bag, you can’t go wrong with this one from YSL,” says Shulman. “Yves Saint Laurent remains at the pinnacle of understated, timeless Parisian chic.” This shoulder bag is just that. The pebble leather is completely bare save for the logo hardware in front. Fashion vlogger Natalie Camila says the foldover magnetic clasp is so strong, it can be a little difficult to open, yet she appreciates the security. Despite the small size, the bag manages to hold her iPhone 13 and other knick knacks. “One thing that I really love about this bag is that you can adjust the chain strap,” she says. “You can wear it as a crossbody, shoulder bag, or even a clutch.” While this bag does come with a hefty price tag, you practically get three bags in one with this versatile style.

Materials: Leather | Colors: 5 | Size: Small

Peta + Jain Moto

Best Budget

What We Like: It’s a dupe for this year’s most popular designer bag.

What We Don’t Like: The shoulder strap is a little thin.

Looking like the cousin of this year's It bag, this version from Peta + Jain is more subdued and way more affordable. I usually prefer real leather when it comes to purses, but I’m pleasantly surprised by the softness and realistic look of this brand’s vegan leather. Owning anything white gives me anxiety, but I decided to get a sample of the white pebble because the textured design hides scuffs and scratches, and the faux material is easy to clean. Despite the slender shape, the bag has ample room to hold my phone, keys, cards, and a few lip glosses. There are also a couple of inner pockets for extra organization.

Yet my favorite part is the adjustable strap, which gives me the option to wear the bag right under my shoulder or as a crossbody. The strap is a little thin, so it’s not the best at distributing weight, but it’s not like this small bag will get too heavy anyway. I’m saving up for the Balenciaga Le Cagole, but for now, this one will do.

Materials: Vegan Leather | Colors: Black, White, Pink | Size: Small

Hyer Goods Mini Shoulder Bag

Best Sustainable

What We Like: You get the vintage look and sustainability factor without all the work of thrifting.

What We Don’t Like: There is limited stock in each color.

If you want real leather without the environmental impact, the obvious answer is to thrift. But finding a bag in good condition and at a good price takes a lot of luck. Rather than gambling with the fashion gods, you can simply shop Hyer Goods’ collection that is made from upcycled leather. Fashion blogger Valerie Salazar is always looking for sustainable pieces, and this mini shoulder bag stood out to her thanks to its classic ‘90s baguette silhouette and fun colors — she has the pink croc. The shape and shade still work with an array of different outfits; just check out her Instagram to see all the ways she’s styled it. “I wore it to a wedding and it was the perfect accessory,” says Salazar. “Even though it’s little, it still holds a ton.” Because it comes from a slow fashion shop, there’s limited stock in each color, so grab your favorite asap.

Materials: Upcycled Leather | Colors: 7 | Size: Small

Staud Tommy Beaded Bag

Best Beaded

What We Like: Your outfit will never be boring with these hand-beaded designs.

What We Don’t Like: Because it’s beaded, you need to be careful about wear and tear.

You might want to lock up these beaded bags because they seriously look like works of art. Whenever you need to add a little oomph to your ensemble, Staud seems to have this answer, and the brands adorable Tommy bags are no different. The beaded style comes in more than 10 different designs, ranging from zebra print to a lobster. “I love that the beaded bag can be a statement piece with a simple outfit or it can complement a fully colorful outfit,” says fashion blogger Abby Bible. We love that the beading covers the entire bag from the straps to the flap cover. While it may look purely for fashion, it’s also functional. “The straps are a comfortable width and length,” says Bible. “The shape fits all that I need with an inside pocket to keep my valuables secure.”

Materials: Leather | Colors: 14 | Size: Small

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Kara Crystal Mesh Armpit Bag

Best Crystal

What We Like: It adds some sparkle to both casual and formal outfits.

What We Don’t Like: With only a magnetic closure, it’s less secure.

As party-girl chic starts to take off, you’ll need a sparkly bag like this one. According to Klarna, sales of rhinestone shoulder bags increased significantly over the last year. Because rhinestones can easily fall off, fashion writer Dynasty prefers this crystal design for its sturdier construction. “The design speaks to both my glam and punk mood,” says Dynasty. The generous strap and slouchy fit is large enough to fit all your items, including your phone. Though it only has a magnetic clasp, it nestles right under your underarm for extra security. And the smaller size adds just the right amount of bling. “I wear it with a strappy dress for going out or white button down for the day,” says Dynasty. “It makes a classic like the button down look more fun and glam.”

Materials: Crystal, Satin | Colors: 4 | Size: Small

Longchamp Roseau Mini Shoulder Bag

Best Croc

What We Like: This high quality croc embossed purse is timeless and holds a good amount.

What We Don’t Like: The bamboo clasp is a little bulky to open and close.

Whenever I wear this purse, I feel like I’m out of a scene from Mad Men. Everything from the croc-embossed leather to the bamboo clasp to the stitching feels super high quality, like a vintage leather good. The inside is simple with only a slip pocket that’s perfect for stashing your keys or card. Still the structured shape of the bag makes it easy to organize your items and it can hold a lot without feeling too heavy. I got a sample in emerald green and it’s the perfect accent shade when I want to add a pop of color to my outfit. While I love the look of the bamboo clasp, I have to say it does take some time to open and close it. Maybe this bag won’t be your companion when you are running errands, but when you need a conversation starter at dinner or drinks, it’s game.

Materials: Leather | Colors: Black, Orange, Green | Size: Small

Radley London Cuba Street Bag

Best for Commuting

What We Like: It’s the perfect size when you need a little more space without the bulk.

What We Don’t Like: The straps could be wider.

While everyone needs a good work tote, sometimes you want a smaller bag that can take you from meetings to happy hour without feeling like you have your entire desk on your shoulder. This medium hobo bag isn’t large enough for a laptop but it offers enough space to stow away a notebook, water bottle, and all your other essentials. Case in point: I needed to run directly from a work meeting to a workout class, so I stuffed my biker shorts and sports bra and still had room for my wallet, phone, and keys. From the outside I looked put together and polished even though I was ready to break a sweat.

Made from vegetable tanned leather, the bag is so soft and looks way more expensive than it is. I'm a fan of red accessories, so I opted for the fiery shade, which looks gorgeous with the gold hardware. The tubular handle comfortably sits on your shoulder or in the crook of your arm. If you want to go hands free, simply attach the adjustable crossbody strap. As someone who is always digging around in my purse for my keys, I love that there is a detachable key leash that I can even use for a work badge. Every minute counts during your morning commute, right?

Materials: Leather | Colors: 5 | Size: Medium

Anine Bing Nico Bag

Best Houndstooth

What We Like: The knit fabric and classic patterns are sure to turn heads.

What We Don’t Like: The knit material can be harder to keep clean.

If you want to add some instant class to your outfit, just top it off with a checkered accessory. With this ’90s-inspired baguette bag, you can choose between houndstooth, plaid, or a classic check. The fabrics amplify an already preppy outfit or add contrast to something more edgy. “This one is the perfect statement bag for fall,” says Chloe Anello, senior commerce editor at InStyle. “I brought it to an Alvin Ailey performance and so many strangers stopped me just to compliment me on it.” Little touches like the gold turnlock and the tubular handle that’s also covered in the fuzzy fabric make it look extra luxe. Inside you’ll find a zippered pocket and just the right amount of space for your essentials. “ It holds just enough for a night out — phone, wallet, lipstick, and hand sanitizer — so you won't be stuck carrying too much extra stuff with you,” says Anello.

Materials: Knit | Colors: Houndstooth, Plaid, Check | Size: Small

Naghedi Nomad Hobo

Best Woven

What We Like: The design adds some beachy texture year-round.

What We Don’t Like: It doesn’t have inner pockets.

Sara Naghedi started her eponymous line with the mission to reduce fashion waste by creating bags that are seasonless. The Nomad hobo is like your favorite straw bag that you can wear all year round. Unlike straw, the woven neoprene is more durable and will never scratch or poke. Anello fell in love with the hand woven texture and found the design quite practical as well. “It doesn't have inside pockets, but to keep everything from being thrown straight to the bottom, it comes with a matching pouch that you can fit your wallet and smaller items, like chapstick, in,” says Anello. “It only comes in neutral shades (mine is navy), so it matches everything.” Besides the material and color, the bag’s size is ideal for everyday wear. It’s large enough to fit a laptop without overwhelming your frame like some beach bags do. Consider it the goldilocks of hobos.

Materials: Neoprene | Colors: 7 | Size: Large

Island to East Side Medium Structured Clutch

Best Customizable

What We Like: This personalized beaded bag is a gift no one will forget.

What We Don’t Like: It takes up to a month to get your bag, and all sales are final.

Is there anything that screams main character energy more than a purse with your name on it? Whether you are creating one for yourself or a loved one, this customizable bag is an incredible gift. I was given the opportunity to design my own and the online process was so fun and seamless. After you choose your shape and size, you then select the font, the phrase, colors, and the type of chain. I recommend looking at the different examples on the website to get a better idea of how the color and font combinations will turn out. I went with gold text on a turquoise background and it looks even better than I imagined. The beading is extremely high quality and sturdy, with every inch covered and no loose strands. A velvet interior adds an extra touch of glam and a card slot lets you ditch your wallet. I went with the medium flap cover, and it easily holds my phone and essentials. Because every bag is custom made, it takes about a month to get your order and all sales are final, so you want to give yourself enough time to proofread and order your design. Carrie Bradshaw may have her signature necklace, but I think this bag is even better.

Materials: Beads, Velvet | Colors: Endless | Size: Small

What to Keep in Mind

Size

Nothing is worse than packing your bag, and realizing your phone won’t fit. So before dishing on a new purse, double check that it can fit your phone while carrying other items. Then consider what you will use it for and how much space you need. Small bags, like Hyer Goods Mini Shoulder Bag, are great for nights out where you don’t want to be bogged down with too much stuff. A medium or large shoulder bag, like Radley London Cuba Street Bag, gives you enough space for traveling and/or commuting.

Straps

Even in smaller bags, you want to make sure the straps are durable and comfortable. Joanna Angeles, head stylist at Tobi, recommends going for wide straps for better weight distribution and double checking if the stitching looks secure. You also want to make sure that the strap is the right length for your body. “I also look at the strap length because as a plus woman it can be hard to find shoulder bags that comfortably fit on my shoulder,” says Bible.

For the best fit, look for bags with adjustable shoulder straps, like the Peta + Jain Moto, as well as detachable crossbody steps to give you the option to go hands-free.

Materials

Leather — both real and faux — is a go-to material because it looks elevated while offering longevity to wear it for years to come. For extra durability, stylist Beverly Osemwenkhae recommends pebbled leather since the textured fabric doesn’t show scuffs and scratches as easily. Angeles says nylon is another great option since it’s lightweight, durable, and easy to clean, as I’ve found with the Dagne Dover Rider Shoulder Bag. You can also experiment with woven textures like with the Naghedi Nomad Hobo.

“There is a big trend for more handicraft led bags — woven, raffia, macramé,” says Shulman. “They are light and attractive for hot weather, and they also tap into the desire to have things that appear more unique and home-made.”

Your Questions, Answered

How do I pair a bag with my outfit?

To match or not to match? According to our experts, there really aren’t any rules for either matching your bag to your outfit or going for contrast.

“Whereas matching accessories used to be deeply uncool that has changed and there is more of a trend towards that kind of coordination, especially with the bright pops of color in bags and shoes,” says Shulman.

While matching your bag to your shoes is always a safe bet, adding a bag in an opposite color can brighten an entire ensemble.

“Personally there are few color combos that I hate, so I can be very experimental with my colors,” says Bible. “I think the key when trying new color combos is looking at the temperature of the colors. Pairing warm with warm or cool with cool is a pretty foolproof method.”

How do I store my bags?

Repeat after me: Don’t hang your bags! Sure this can save space in your closet, but it will ultimately wear down the straps overtime. Instead, place it on a shelf in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. If your purse came with a dustbag and stuffing — reuse it. This will help keep your bag dust free and maintain its shape.

Why Shop With Us

Emily Cieslak is an assistant commerce editor at InStyle and a self-proclaimed purse junkie. While she’s scored her fair share of designer purses at thrift stores, she turned to the experts for their advice on how to shop and style shoulder bags. She spoke to Alexandra Shulman, Chiefs Trends Officer at Atterley and former editor in chief of British Vogue, stylist Beverly Osemwenkhae, and Joanna Angeles, head stylist at Tobi. She also interviewed influencers Valerie Salazar, Dynasty, and Abby Bible for their top product picks. With their advice, she rounded up five promising designs to test and review.

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