Performance Review: The Hunt for the Perfect Work Bag

Although I work from home now, I started my career working at a non-profit. One thing that I quickly learned to appreciate was the importance of a good quality work bag. Even though the trendy crossbody purses are adorable, they’re not practical for a setting that requires you to carry folders or a laptop to and from your car everyday.

This is a topic I’ve discussed with my friends and I’ve found that women definitely struggle with finding a work bag that both meets our needs and looks cute at the same time. In an attempt to help you out, I decided to conduct a little experiment. I found four bags in my closet and compared them to see which was the best option for a woman looking for something to use in an office environment.

(ps – I’m aware my backdrop needs to be steamed. It’s actually a spare shower curtain that I use as a background when photographing items to use online. Unfortunately the solid gray one I planned on using needs to be replaced… so I dragged this out of the closet in a rush. Bear with me, it’s a work-in-progress…)

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Tory Burch Ella Tote (link)

(please note: my Ella tote was purchased in an outlet over a year ago. The ones I’ve seen on display at Nordstrom lately do seem to be a little more structured – I’m not sure if this is a change in the design or the fact mine is “well-loved” & has been stored on a small shelf. I just wanted to mention this so you could consider it if you’re interested in purchasing)

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Louis Vuitton Neverfull MM (link)

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Longchamp Le Pliage (link)

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Marc by Marc Jacobs Nylon Pretty Eliza Baby Shoulder Bag (link)

Honorable Mention: I would have included my Michael Kors Hamilton tote in this test, but my mom has had her eyes on it for a while now and is borrowing it at the moment.

I asked my best friend for ideas on what these bags needed to hold. We came up with: a laptop (a MacBook Pro), a binder, a water bottle, a wallet, a pair of flats and a small cosmetic bag (the last one just being an extra item that can be substituted for anything else).

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The test was simple: put these items in the bag and see what held them the best. I also wanted to make sure to carry the bags with the items inside them to see which was the most “comfortable.”

Test #1: Louis Vuitton


Up first was the Neverfull. I wasn’t too concerned about it fitting everything in – this is one of my “work horse” bags that has been heavily used. Everything fit in here without any issues, even the MacBook. I couldn’t close the bag with the full contents inside but I don’t think that would be an issue.

In terms of comfort, I would not recommend this bag. The two straps really dig into your shoulder if the bag is full. There’s no way I would be able to wear this bag with a laptop and binder inside if I had to walk from my car to an office building – I would probably end up taking something out to carry. That being said, it is probably the most stylish option and uses the highest quality materials. The Damier Ebene canvas is one that is relatively low-maintenance so there’s no need to stress if you’re carrying it outside in bad weather.

Test #2: Marc by Marc Jacobs

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The Marc by Marc Jacobs tote was next and I knew this one would be fine as well. I’ve used this bag primarily for travel – it’s a good carry-on size for airplanes. The long side strap is awesome to drape over your luggage (or to throw over your shoulder as you’re literally running through LaGuardia….). This tote fits everything in with room to spare – so if you do need to carry a lot for work, it might be a good option. The fact that it’s nylon is a big plus – rain will not be an issue!

That being said, it’s huge. Seriously, it looks like you fit a small child in here (I considered trying to see if my Chihuahua would let me put him in for a photo but Boomer was freaked out by the sound of the nylon material). I’m not someone that packs lightly and there’s a reason I grab this bag if I’m traveling somewhere for a long weekend.

In normal circumstances, I would say find this bag in store and try it on to see if you like the size. But because the Marc by Marc Jacobs line is discontinued, you don’t really have that luxury. It is available – and likely discounted – on a variety of online merchants so if you can find one with a good return policy, order it and give it a shot. Even if you don’t use it for work, I strongly recommend it as a travel bag.

Test #3: Longchamp

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This particular bag is actually my second Longchamp. My beloved black Longchamp tote got me through the last two years of college and is now tucked away in my closet – unfortunately, it’s definitely seen better days after being used as much as it was. I figured my orange one was a better option to utilize for this post since it’s in better condition.

I totally thought that the Longchamp would be able to hold everything. I know I managed to stuff that exact same laptop into it during college, along with a notebook and any supplies for class (though this may have contributed to the bag’s current condition…). So I was pretty shocked when I tried to put everything in and it did not fit. At all. It wasn’t even that I couldn’t zip the bag closed – there was no way I would be able to carry it without something falling out.

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When I removed the binder, shoes and makeup bag, it was more tolerable. I still wouldn’t say this was comfortable – it’s the same issue as with the Neverfull, the straps tend to dig into your shoulder. I think if you did not carry a laptop to work, you may love this bag – it’s definitely the most affordable option and comes in a huge variety of colors (including some limited edition prints).

Test #4: Tory Burch


Tory Burch absolutely crushed the competition. I knew this was a spacious bag but unlike the Marc Jacobs one, it didn’t look like I was carrying an extra tent around. It has snaps on the sides that can adjust the dimensions (for the laptop, I had to leave them unsnapped). The material is a sturdy, though lightweight, nylon and while it does have a logo on the front, it’s not too flashy so it would probably be appropriate for most office environments.

The best part of the Ella tote though is the handles. They’re long enough that I can throw this onto my shoulder and – wait for it – they’re comfortable!!! I think because they are thicker, you’re not going to run into the “death by shoulder straps slicing into my skin” problem like the other brands.

Of the four bags I tested, the Tory Burch Ella tote is my personal recommendation for a work bag. It’s going to carry everything you need for your job and still look fashionable in the process. There are quite a few different color/print options out there so make sure you look around (personally I love the basic black but I have seen some fun ones!).

What do you use for a work bag? Let me know in the comments!

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Freelance writer. Equestrian. Fueled by coffee. Lover of luxury fashion, college football and used bookstores.

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