16 everyday bags with a minimum of hardware

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In my estimation, too much hardware on a bag makes it look cheap no matter how expensive it is, and conversely, bags with no hardware often look fancier than they are. This messenger bag from Clare V is big enough to fit your life—it’s even big enough for a laptop—and it’s so excellently slouchy.

I dig the contrast between the leather and the webbed strap on this Madewell saddlebag.

This Isabel Marant bag is so perfectly, wonderfully retroish—it looks like a fantastic vintage score.

True, this Coach bag has a turn lock, which counts as hardware, but I like it anyway; it hearkens back to Bonnie Cashin Coach bags from the 60s.

I love the hits of color on this great woven leather bag.

This two-compartment bag is perfect for right now: one compartment for hand sanitizer, your mask, and and other Covid supplies, and the second compartment for the rest of your stuff.

This woven leather bag looks like it could be Bottega Veneta, but it’s from Madewell.

A really streamlined bag for all of you minimalists out there.

Isn’t this puffy number kind of fun?

Here is the bag that’s at the top of my list at the moment: Clare V’s Gosee Clutch in such a good army green.

And I really like the indigo hue here.

The knotted strap on this one is kind of a sweet, feminine touch.

This nylon bag from Herschel comes in a few other colors, and has a certain anti-status-bag appeal.

This saddlebag looks like it’s fancy and French and maybe from A.P.C., but it’s really from J. Crew; here it is in leather.

And speaking of A.P.C., this one from the French brand is pretty great, and perfect for spring.

This camera bag is so nifty, and just big enough for the essentials; here’s something similar but cheaper.

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30 Thoughts on 16 everyday bags with a minimum of hardware
    Candy
    1 Apr 2021
    11:37am

    I’m a big fan of the streamlined Nordstrom bag, which I recently purchased in my search for something lighter and less bulky. Using Etsy to find a small, thin wallet just for credit cards and ID and a padded cloth case for my glasses also helped. No more shoulder pain.

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    Tahe Z
    1 Apr 2021
    11:33am

    I love all the Clare V bags you posted, but the top one looks to me more like a hobo than a messenger. It’s funny that they call it a messenger, not that it’s THAT big of a deal. Anyway, it looks like a hobo my mom got back in the 60’s that is one of my prized possessions. I also still have my Made in USA Dooney and Burke cross body saddle bag that I had in high school (1992). I’m so glad I kept it.

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    Caroline
    1 Apr 2021
    11:14am

    I have a coach bag that I inherited from my mother that is a similar size, however it has an old fashioned strap I can’t get into..
    I’d love a good strap suggestion to spruce it up. I really want to carry it because it brings back good memories. She loved her coach bags and changed them according to the seasons.

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      Tahe Z
      1 Apr 2021
      11:29am

      Hi Caroline- Clare V has some great straps that might work for your bag. They’re a bit pricy but they are made in LA. :^)

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    Caryn Wickens
    1 Apr 2021
    10:38am

    I too, am a fan of Madewell bags and own several. The navy number you highlighted is sold out on the Nordstrom link, but is still available on the Madewell site!

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    Jen
    1 Apr 2021
    10:43am

    I would love if you would show some bags that are made of lightweight materials rather then leather, for those of us who need less weight on our shoulders. Every time I get a leather bag that I love I end up putting it away in favor of something made from fabric that is lighter, even though I don’t necessarily find it attractive.

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      cw
      1 Apr 2021
      10:56am

      Kim recommended a Carhart cross body bag maybe a year ago? It’s small, but it holds all I need and is made of a treated canvas and is excellent. Worth taking a look––I believe it’s called their “essentials” bag. Also, I have a Herschel bag (again recommended by Kim!) that you can wear as a cross body or belly bag and it is also dang fabulous. Also canvas.

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      Jax
      1 Apr 2021
      7:47pm

      I have a similar requirement (after carrying a beautiful 2-pounder hobo bag similar to the Clare V messenger at the top — it had really thick, durable leather *and* heavy hardware — for a year), but have found that not all leather bags are heavy.

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      Kay Erikson
      1 Apr 2021
      10:13pm

      I am curious about these bags made of paper. Anyone have one? Saw them at a store in Point Ryes last weekend and was very tempted. Can’t stop thinking about it ever since.

      https://uashmama.com/us/en

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        Jenny
        2 Apr 2021
        10:54am

        I have a bag made of paper from another company. I quite like it. I used it constantly when I was on vacation, and intermittently when I returned home. I say go for it. I’m going to bookmark that site myself.

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      Mouse
      2 Apr 2021
      6:16am

      Look at Rough and Tumble canvas bags. Not cheap but well-made and excellent value.
      https://roughandtumbledesign.com/

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    Sharona
    1 Apr 2021
    10:04am

    That Madewell saddle bag reminds me of a 70s era Coach. Love it.

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    Pia
    1 Apr 2021
    10:16am

    I agree about your hardware comment 100%. I recently laid out all my bags on my bed to assess if a purge was needed (it wasn’t, thankfully) and realized I have a type. Minimal hardware, luscious leather, mostly crossbody.

    Some less expensive options: Hobo International, Fossil (you have to sort through some of the trendy stuff) and, as you mentioned, Madewell.

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      MaryAlice
      1 Apr 2021
      11:38am

      Agree about the Fossil bags – and they are very well made and durable, a great value for the price if you can find a style you like.

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    cw
    1 Apr 2021
    9:28am

    I can attest to the longevity of the Madewell bags––I have one of their circle bags purchased maybe 3-4 years ago and it still looks great. This is a wonderful selection, Kim. Hard to choose just one, right?!

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    Cathy
    1 Apr 2021
    2:06pm

    I just got a sling bag from Abby Alley and it’s great for running errands and such. It has two straps so you can wear it as a belt bag or crossbody. It is fairly small so not great if you like to carry a lot of things but it’s working for me. I, too, am a fan of minimal hardware.

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    Eloise
    1 Apr 2021
    12:19pm

    Perfectly thematically timed – I just opened an email about an UnoEth sample sale and firgured I’d share Just in case anyone is interested. Not that I go anywhere, yet, but I recently bought a Hanna color block tote and a Zuri Circle bag (not samples), each with minimal to no hardware – and love them. https://unoeth.com/collections/sale

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      kimbersam
      1 Apr 2021
      10:11pm

      Thank you Eloise. These bags are terrific! Right up my alley!

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      Mamavalveeta03
      2 Apr 2021
      12:09am

      Love those zip top totes! Great brand!

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    kimbersam
    1 Apr 2021
    12:28pm

    Did a massive bag purge when I moved. I like minimal hardware also. As of late, I’ve found I like bags made for men or as I call them ‘murses.’ or ‘mags.’ If anyone is interested, John Varvatos makes some cool designs.

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      Tahe Z
      3 Apr 2021
      12:05pm

      @kimbersam reminds me of Seinfeld when Kramer and Frank Costanza come up with the “bro” or “Mansierre”. There’s also Jerry’s European Carryall. 😀

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    Donna
    2 Apr 2021
    10:01am

    That Marant bag is too good. Sucks that I’ll never be able to afford it in this economy lol.

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    Dawn
    1 Apr 2021
    2:16pm

    For those with shoulder/ back issues, I bought a retro Jansport black nylon small backpack years ago which is my go to bag for every day. I got compliments on it from the 20something hostess at a hip West Village restaurant lol.

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    Katie
    1 Apr 2021
    5:18pm

    Is anyone else a Cuyana fan? I’ve used their structured tote as my work bag for about three years, and it’s held up beautifully. I’m thinking of getting one of their crossbody bags. https://www.cuyana.com/bags

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      Carrie P
      1 Apr 2021
      5:38pm

      I have the tall tote in black and it is at least 5 years old…. absolutely love it. In fact I gifted one to my sis 🙂

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        themis
        1 Apr 2021
        11:07pm

        I am a huge Cuyana fan, I own – six? – of their bags. My next will be the midsize tote, with insert, because my regular size is perfect for travel but not everyday, so much. I am waiting until they reissue it in a navy. My second favorite of theirs is their circle belt bag, which is the perfect city run-around. They wear better than any other bag I’ve purchased, other than the classic Coaches. I had two of my monograms wear just a tad, and I stopped by the SF store and they restamped and reconditioned them for me for free. Their clothes are perrrfect, too.

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    Ang
    1 Apr 2021
    5:51pm

    May I please recommend Portland Leather Goods as another option for great bags with minimum hardware. I don’t work there or know anyone who does, but when I had been in the market for a great tote, I saw the *perfect* one on another woman at a bar (in the before-times) and I had to ask her where her bag was from. She laughed and said she must’ve sold 4 or 5 from people asking her about her bag.

    https://www.portlandleathergoods.com/

    Also – LOVE that A.P.C. bag. LOVE.

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    Mamavalveeta03
    1 Apr 2021
    11:46pm

    I’m a big fan of Clare V bags, but I’m a little torn on recommending the messenger bag featured. I used mine TO DEATH, and it held up well in spite of abuse, like overstuffing it. I’m not sure about a laptop, but it held my tablet, a book, a magazine and a bottle of water just fine and I was fond of the zip top closure which kept the contents of said bag from spilling under the airplane seat. My issue with it is that there are no pockets inside other than a teeny one, which isn’t very functional, so it’s kind of like looking through “everything but the kitchen sink” when you’re trying to locate an item in your bag. I prefer a more organized bag. And I think my shoulders are telling me to go smaller – the bright, woven one and the GoSee might do nicely.

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      Cola
      2 Apr 2021
      7:11am

      Older ClareV bags used to have a zippered pocket set into the inside chambray lining. I really wish they would bring back that feature. *sigh*

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    MARGARET
    3 Apr 2021
    3:35pm

    I am a huge fan of Neva Opet. It’s a one-woman operation in Atlanta and she makes all of her (very cool, minimal hardware) bags in her own studio there. I have three, count ’em, three of the Rosa Hobo. https://nevaopet.com/collections/best-sellers

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Kim France

I was born in Houston, Texas in 1964 and have lived in New York City since 1988. I had a long career in magazines, working at Sassy, Elle, New York, and Spin, and in 2000, I founded Lucky magazine, which I edited for ten years.

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