Why is it so hard to find bags that are not all crapped up?

apc bag

The less a bag has going on in the hardware, zipper, and extra pockets department, the happier I am, and it would appear I’m not alone. Last week, after I described a bag from Boden as delightfully unadorned, I received a request from a commenter named Ann asking for more of the same. The pleasure is all mine, Ann, though it wasn’t so easy to track a whole lot of them down, as designers are forever adding unnecessary and distracting frippery to their purses, and who even knows why. I did manage to locate a handful, though, like this nice-sized chic navy drawstring option from APC.

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Madewell’s Transport Tote is so damn classic, and I feel like this particular choice would look fantastic once broken in.

vere verto

A gorgeous, perfect-for-the-office backpack that has all the elegance of a straight-up handbag.

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A well-priced, not-too-small crossbody bag.

baggu bag

Baggu’s original bag in leather is very Margiela.

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Another good bucket bag.

suede bag

I dig the army green hue of this crossbody bag, and feel like it would work really well as a neutral.

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This looks so much more expensive than it is.

mansur bag

From Mansur Gavriel: a very structured take on the hobo.

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OK, this one has some adornment—that excellent patterned strap. But the rest is so clean-lined that I’m including it.

baggu1

Another straightforward bag from Baggu, this one big enough for all the essentials, but not a whole lot more.

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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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Comments

47 Thoughts on Why is it so hard to find bags that are not all crapped up?
    Helga
    8 May 2018
    7:49am

    After seeing the first one

    The first one is perfection. Kind of spoiled the others for me.

    the others don’t

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    Helga
    8 May 2018
    7:50am

    compare. Too early to type I guess.

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    Alix
    8 May 2018
    8:17am

    I applaud any and all use of the word “frippery”.

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    Caroline
    8 May 2018
    8:25am

    Ha! Mind reader!
    I’ve been seriously coveting that very backpack for a while now.
    Also I have both the baggu’s shown and use all the time. But my fave is the madewell transport tote in brown that I’ve had for at least three years and it has worn beautifully!
    Weathered in all the right places!! Like me. Lol!!
    Kidding, actually the bags better;-).

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    c.w.
    8 May 2018
    9:06am

    My go-to black bag that just holds all the essentials is starting to show its age so I think that baggu will be following me home.

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    Dana D
    8 May 2018
    9:06am

    Love all of these, you nailed it again.

    I’ll add that another “thing” of being a certain age is that I now only carry un-frippered bags in black or a neutral (NOT white).

    Just me maybe, and that APC bag is the bomb, but color in a bag just isn’t, anymore.

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      Mamavalveeta03
      9 May 2018
      11:46am

      I see navy as a neutral, Dana. That way, it works with everything…almost. 😉

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    Tammy
    8 May 2018
    9:18am

    Great post, per usual! What are your thoughts on obvious designer bags, like the Louis Vuitton Speedy but in the damier ebene print (not monogram). Too much? Too showy? I’ve been wanting it and it would be my only “designer” bag. Very interested in your thoughts. Thanks!

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      KimFrance
      8 May 2018
      9:25am

      I am not a big fan of designer bags, but do have a soft spot for Vuittons, Tammy. I think they look best dressed down, like with jeans.

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    Tammy
    8 May 2018
    9:21am

    Also curious on your thoughts on the Loewe puzzle bag. I know it’s pricey but I have a discount and was thinking about the medium in tan as my everyday bag.

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      KimFrance
      8 May 2018
      9:26am

      I like the shape of the puzzle bag a lot, and the fact that it does not look too obviously designer-y.

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    C C
    8 May 2018
    9:35am

    Greatest post title ever, man. I love most of these, and that in the comments, I see I can carry my secondhand Louis Vuitton bag with a little bit of GOACA approval!

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      Alix
      8 May 2018
      5:01pm

      Bags crapped up with frippery!!!

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    Pia
    8 May 2018
    9:50am

    I agree 100%. The less bling the better.

    If on a budge I find Hobo and Fossil actually have a few options that are great quality.

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      Mamavalveeta03
      9 May 2018
      11:47am

      Especially for no crap, Hobo!

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    Janet
    8 May 2018
    9:53am

    Love your headline! It made me snort. I feel the same way about good, sensible work shoes. As in, what is this awful cheap silver buckle doing on a perfectly good leather loafer? I just want pretty, flat, solid colored leather shoes that aren’t all crapped up!

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      Also Jennifer
      8 May 2018
      10:07am

      Same here. With the exception of a few very top tier shoes the metal bits and pieces never add anything in my opinion. Cheap shoes are one thing (I own plenty of them) but they don’t have to be so obvious about it!

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      Viajera
      8 May 2018
      10:50am

      I have long suspected that designers do this to try to get you to buy a new one every season, since the frippery dates the bag or shoe. In like ten minutes.

      It is annoying but I do think it works on some people. Some people like to get new stuff just because it’s new.

      For the rest of us, it is just hard to find anything.

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    Also Jennifer
    8 May 2018
    10:08am

    I’m also becoming more of a minimalist as I get older, so I appreciate this list. I now desperately want the Madewell bucket bag even though my practical side is whispering “but you can’t put folders in it!” Sigh.

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    Mary Alice
    8 May 2018
    10:41am

    Love all of them! I hate logos, buckles, and all the other crap they throw on bags these days.
    One caveat: Those Madewell bags are great looking, but they are not well constructed . My daughters and I have had two that fell apart.

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    Debra
    8 May 2018
    10:46am

    Different strokes for different folks. While I’m not a fan of a bunch of adornment that is not useful (hardware, tassels, etc.), I am a fan of pockets in and on bags. Pockets are extremely useful. They keep me from having to paw the infinitesimal void. I hate pawing the infinitesimal void.

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      Jeanne
      8 May 2018
      11:53am

      While I like a clean, simple exterior, I am also a big fan of multiple pockets in the interior. I like to be organized so I don’t find myself rummaging around a black hole trying to find some lipbalm or a pen.

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      Lisa
      8 May 2018
      4:02pm

      I am with you. I am at heart a minimalist and like classic lines, but I also travel for a living and need a huge bag. At least one exterior pocket is mandatory or I will lose my mind always looking for my cell phone and keys.

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      Nicole
      9 May 2018
      9:52am

      I am a big fan of putting zippered pouches in my infinitesimal void of a tote, for this reason.

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      Viajera
      9 May 2018
      10:54am

      If desperate, one might also replace the lining with a lighter color to make it easier to find things. I don’t like deep bags for the same reason.

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    Kit
    8 May 2018
    11:07am

    Love this! I have this Swedish Hasbeens bag in black and natural, both have aged great. They are very basic, but I love them.

    https://www.swedishhasbeens.com/shop_online/bags/bag-for-life-nature-nature

    Also love the little baggu. It’s been a great little bag for me.

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      Mamavalveeta03
      9 May 2018
      11:57am

      I didn’t know they had bags! Those are great!

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    Elisabeth
    8 May 2018
    11:07am

    Cuyana is my general go-to for bags that haven’t been destroyed by embellishment. Love their Le Sud Leather Day Bag in black (waiting for a camel or something similar). Also excited to see the canvas options dropping this month.
    https://www.cuyana.com/le-sud-leather-day-bag.html

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    Holly
    8 May 2018
    11:33am

    I always wonder this, I totally agree that the simpler the better! I have been a fan of the most simple bucket bags for a long time and have been on the hunt for a black one. That baggu one is like a mini version of the bag of my dreams – the hunt continues! That one from Madewell is stunning too. Thanks so much for sharing!

    Holly from The Art of Being Holly xo

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    Kate
    8 May 2018
    1:09pm

    This wins for best blog post title ever.

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    joannawnyc
    8 May 2018
    1:20pm

    I have a Kara Small Dry Bag (convertible bucket–I don’t think they make it any more) that fulfills this need for me.

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    Jules
    8 May 2018
    1:53pm

    This post came at the perfect time. My mom needs a purse but hates all the hardware that comes with them. That Madewell will make the perfect Mother’s Day gift and I think I need one for myself too!

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    Darcy
    8 May 2018
    2:01pm

    I have no patience for superfluous hardware and janky add-ons, and I love things that look more expensive than they are.

    That’s why I love Matt + Nat’s. Plus, they hold up for-ev-er.

    https://mattandnat.com/

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      Darcy
      8 May 2018
      2:12pm

      Oh! Just saw Matt and Nat’s has no-hardware shoes too. Totally stylish and free of unwanted shoe jewelry.

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    Trish
    8 May 2018
    2:38pm

    Dagne Dover has a nice selection as well.

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    Carolyn
    8 May 2018
    3:14pm

    Have you ever looked at the bags from Fount? Gorgeous, age well, and no frippery included save for the delightful tassel if you want it.

    https://fountleather.com/handbags

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    DeDe
    8 May 2018
    4:04pm

    This btw is why I mostly just stick to canvas totes, at least when it’s warm. My shit’s eternally falling out of ‘em so I have to be vigilant, but they’re not fussy and if they get dirty I can just toss them in the wash. Plus, then I have an excuse to buy all the leetle pouches (and who doesn’t love a leetle pouch?!).

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    Jane
    8 May 2018
    4:36pm

    Check out the clean & streamlined bags at Shinola. Made in good ol’ Detroit, Michigan.

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      Sharona
      8 May 2018
      8:22pm

      Shinola (the store at the Grove in LA) fat shamed me–about a watchband. I was a size 12 at the time.

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        Jane
        9 May 2018
        10:59am

        That’s horrible! I’m so sorry!

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        Viajera
        9 May 2018
        11:01am

        Sharona!! That’s awful. I live in LA too so this really bothers me.

        Meanwhile, for men there is probably no issue. That’s just egregious.

        I hope you went on yelp. Sometimes that is warranted.

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    Edith
    8 May 2018
    7:36pm

    Love your blog. Would you be able to do a post about some pants for work that are both fashionable and comfortable? They’re hard to find!

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    Mamavalveeta03
    9 May 2018
    11:43am

    These are all something I would buy – they fit my minimalist/tomboy (Yeah, I know they don’t go together, but I’m a GOACA. So, that.)
    I forgot that I have the Baggu “Shopper” bag. Gonna go pull that out right now!

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    MARGARET
    9 May 2018
    7:50pm

    I found my perfect unadorned bag at Roots.com (the drawstring hobo tribe). It’s a great size, great color (black, but it comes in brown and gray, too), and can be worn on the shoulder or crossbody. I looked for years for a bag that works like this (and have spent thousands on the wrong ones) but this is it. I’m finally in love.

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    Katrina
    10 May 2018
    6:54am

    The first Baggu and the APC are beautiful but how would you carry them? Just by the hand? There’s no shoulder option? Because in that case, they’re not very practical, no?

    I know they are likely beyond the GOACA price limit, but Celine does make quite lovely unadorned bags. Their Trio is one of my favorite bags that I own. The bag above with the patterned strap is very much like their Sangle. They also make well-constructed totes, both east-west and north-south ones, with hardy leather and a suede lining.

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    Emily
    11 May 2018
    6:22pm

    Everlane is my go to. Simple, clean bags that hold up incredibly well to daily abuse.

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