The 12 Best Shoulder Bags You’ll Want In Your Closet ASAP

Because functional should be stylish, too.

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Best Shoulder Bags

InStyle / Marcus Millan

Some claim diamonds are a girl’s best friend. But if you ask us, we believe shoes and purses make better companions. We simply can never have too many of them, and with so many cute options on the market, why should we limit ourselves?. Recently, we’ve been stocking up on small shoulder bags that are trending. Though we 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 us to purchase, we went out to find the best shoulder bags by interviewing editors, stylists, and influencers. We even tested a few ourselves. Then, we collected our findings into the handy little listicle. Whether you’re looking for a classic baguette bag, or need a little something to bring on a date, we found the best shoulder bags for you, here.

Best Overall

Dagne Dover Rider Shoulder Bag


Dagne Dover

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.

We kindly received a sample from the brand, and it officially replaced our large beach bag this summer. Seriously, we can fit our wallets, 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 keys, lip balm, tampons, and other small, losable things. Thanks to the durable material we never 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.

Price at time of publish: $99

Materials: Repreve | Colors: 9 | Size: Medium

Best Splurge

Ralph Lauren Polo ID Calfskin Mini Shoulder Bag

Ralph Lauren Polo ID Calfskin Mini Shoulder Bag

Ralph Lauren

What We Love
  • The sleek exterior and suede interior feel substantial. 

What We Don't Love
  • It’s very small and slim, and therefore can only hold the essentials.

It was love at first sight for writer Bianca Kratky, when she first came across this calfskin leather shoulder bag from Ralph Lauren. And it was quickly followed by an almost immediate heartbreak when she saw the price tag. While it may be out of budget for some, it would be rude to gatekeep such an expertly crafted, beautiful, quiet luxury piece. The slim purse is just as pictured, as Kratky found out when she visited their store on Madison Avenue. A sleek exterior, suede interior, and tasteful gold detailings grace this bag. It is quite slim on the other hand, with just enough space for a phone, small wallet, keys, and lipstick. Anything more might require to be stored in your jeans pockets. 

Price at time of publish: $498

Materials: Calfskin leather | Colors: 2 | Size: Small

Best Designer

Fendi Baguette Jacquard FF Fabric Bag

Fendi Baguette Jacquard FF Fabric Bag


What We Love
  • It’s an iconic style that will remain relevant for years to come.

What We Don't Love
  • There aren’t many compartments for you to organize your things in.

There are few things as iconic as Fendi’s baguette bag — the look is so important to fashion that it even received its own episode on Sex and the City. It’s only right, therefore, that we highlight the shoulder bag here as well. Embossed with the FF logo motif on a neutral brown, it’s easy to incorporate this bag into almost any outfit. There’s a top handle as well as a shoulder strap, giving you some options on how to style it. The mini version comes with a chain strap instead of the FF motif strap, if that’s more your style. There aren’t many compartments inside the bag, however, if you’re someone who likes to keep things well organized in their purse.

Price at time of publish: $3,750

Materials: Not listed | Colors: 1 | Size: Medium 

Best Sustainable

Hyer Goods Luxe Buckle Bag

Hyer Goods Luxe Buckle Bag

Hyer Goods

What We Love
  • It’s made using leather scraps from luxury goods. 

What We Don't Love
  • The slim fit makes it difficult to carry a lot of things.

Ethically made using the leftover scraps from luxury goods, Hyer Goods gives fine leather goods a second chance at fashion. The sustainable brand upcycles “trash”, which not only reduces the amount of waste being sent to landfills, but it also eliminates the carbon footprint needed to cultivate land, livestock, and more. Looking at the beautifully designed bag, you could never tell that it carries a story in its materials already. The minimalist look makes it appealing to a wide range of people, and it can easily be incorporated into any outfit. That being said, the slim fit might not hold a lot of items. 

Price at time of publish: $225

Materials: Leather scraps | Colors: 6 | Size: Small

Best Leather

Polène Numéro Dix

Polène Numéro Dix


What We Love
  • The leather is not unlike some more high-end designer pieces.

What We Don't Love
  • You need to search around a little to find the other colors.

Polène’s knows leather. That’s why the Italian calfskin leather they use — handled by artisans in Ubrique, Spain — looks and feels a whole lot like some of the best designer bags. Kratky would know, as she owns several of their bags already, including this one, thanks to the team at Polène. She’s continuously impressed by the craftsmanship, luxury feel, and structure of the bag. The textured exterior keeps scratches from showing up, and the interior fits a surprising number of things, including a wallet, phone, keys, compact mirror, and chapstick. The bag is offered in several different colors, including black and forest green, but you have to surf through the site a little to find them.  

Price at time of publish: $460

Materials: Calf leather | Colors: 9 | Size: Medium

Best Beaded

Staud Tommy Beaded Bag



What We Love
  • Your outfit will never be boring with these hand-beaded designs. 

What We Don’t Love
  • 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 brand's 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.” 

Price at time of publish: $250

Materials: Leather, beads | Colors: 6 | Size: Small

Best Crystal

Kara Crystal Mesh Armpit Bag



What We Love
  • It adds some sparkle to both casual and formal outfits.

What We Don't Love
  • 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.”

Price at time of publish: $425

Materials: Crystal, satin | Colors: 1 | Size: Medium

Best Croc

JW Pei Ruby Shoulder Bag

JW Pei Ruby Shoulder Bag


What We Love
  • It’s made of vegan leather. 

What We Don't Love
  • The uneven bottom makes it impossible to stand upright.

Trendy, affordable, and stylish, JW Pei knows what consumers want. This croc bag was on every influencer’s shoulder for some time, thanks to its sleek yet eye-catching design. And the best part is that no animals were harmed in the process, as it’s made of vegan leather. The bottom curves slightly, which makes it impossible to stand upright should you ever want to let it rest next to you. At least it’s lightweight enough that you can keep it on your shoulder at all times. 

Price at time of publish: $99

Materials: Vegan leather | Colors: 7 | Size: Small

Best for Commuting

Radley London Cuba Street Bag



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

What We Don't Love
  • 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: Writer Emily Cieslak needed to run directly from a work meeting to a workout class, so she stuffed her biker shorts and sports bra and still had room for her wallet, phone, and keys in this bag. From the outside, she looked put together and polished even though she was ready to break a sweat. 

Made from vegetable-tanned leather, the bag is so soft and looks way more expensive than it is. 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. There is also a detachable key leash that can even be used for a work badge. Every minute counts during your morning commute, right?

Price at time of publish: $325

Materials: Leather | Colors: 5 | Size: Medium

Best Houndstooth

Anine Bing Nico Bag


Anine Bing

What We Love
  • The knit fabric and classic patterns are sure to turn heads. 

What We Don’t Love
  • 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.

Price at time of publish: $350

Materials: Wool, acrylic, polyester | Colors: 3 | Size: Medium

Best Woven

Naghedi Nomad Hobo

Naghedi Nomad Hobo


What We Love
  • The design adds some beachy-texture year round. 

What We Don’t Love
  • 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.

Price at time of publish: $275

Materials: Neoprene | Colors: 3 | Size: Large

Best Customizable

Island to East Side Medium Structured Clutch


Island to East Side

What We Love
  • This personalized beaded bag is a gift no one will forget.

What We Don’t Love
  • 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. Cieslak was given the opportunity to design her own and the online process was fun and seamless. After you choose your shape and size, you then select the font, the phrase, colors, and the type of chain. We recommend looking at the different examples on the website to get a better idea of how the color and font combinations will turn out. Cieslak went with gold text on a turquoise background and it looked even better than she 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. The medium flap cover easily holds a phone and other 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.

Price at time of publish: $198

Materials: Beads, velvet | Colors: Custom | Size: Small

What to Keep in Mind


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 Luxe Buckle 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. 


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 Polène Numéro Dix, as well as detachable crossbody steps to give you the option to go hands-free.


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 we’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

Bianca Kratky is a commerce writer at InStyle, with over two years of experience covering the best fashion and beauty finds. Emily Cieslak is an assistant commerce editor at InStyle and a self-proclaimed purse junkie. Together, they pulled together a list of the best shoulder bags to shop right now. While Ciselak has 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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