Some of my favorite and not-so-favorite handbags and wallets.
Might as well be a bindle
I'd coveted this Hobo International wallet for a long, long time before I nerved myself up to spend $100 on one, but I was seduced by the golden-orange color (it's actually called "yam") and all the delightful pockets!
There is a clasp pouch on either side - one has card slots and the other has a zip pocket - and the clutch itself is secured by a magnetic fastener. When you open that, it doubles in size and there is a large zippered compartment in the center, plus a clear plastic card pocket and two more card slots. I was thrilled by the idea of grabbing it out of my purse and taking just this wallet for evenings out.
Well, it didn't quite work that way. First, this wallet is HUGE - 8 1/2" wide x 5" high - so you need a big bag to accommodate it. The side hinges don't swing out fully, so you'll be forcing your fingers in there to pluck out the cards from the lower pockets. When it's full of cards, it gets quite fat, and it's HEAVY! This wallet alone adds at least a pound to my bag and I don't even have that much in it - it's just the heavy leather and metal frame.
It's a beautiful wallet, with fun orange paisley lining fabric, and seems like it will only get prettier with time as it gets that "vintage" patina, but I'm not sure it will last as my main wallet for that long - it's just too bulky and heavy. And as for taking it along as a clutch? Haven't done that once.
When they say lifetime, they mean it
I'm actually shopping for one of these right now myself - not because my old one wore out, but because it DIDN'T wear out! Yes, I still have the trusty Jansport backpack that I bought in college, and it refuses to die so I can get a cuter, more trendy color (which is my only complaint). The bag is spacious and sturdy, with plenty of room for an armload of books and binders. A large front pocket holds pens, keys, and smaller items; mine doesn't have pen loops, but it looks like newer models have a divider or pen loops inside this front pouch. The bottom is made of durable yet soft leather that takes a beating. And Jansport really stands by their products - my boyfriend's backpack recently developed a stuck zipper, so he contacted them about repairs. They said zipper damage was inevitable eventually (and therefore not a manufacturer's defect), but what the heck, mail it back to them and they'd fix it for free! They now come in a wide variety of solid colors and yarn-dyed patterns, including the Copper Brown one that I want. Sure, you can get a backpack for cheaper, but this one is excellent quality and will last for years and years.
Shopping for a shopper
I don't own this particular bag (though I have a very similar cross-body one), but I've been thinking hard about it. ELLE bags are well-made (and vegan, since they're faux leather), with spacious compartments and interesting hardware accents. I really like the pleated/ruffled detail, which my bag also has and which gets tons of compliments! The padded handles are soft and sturdy, and the material has a soft, almost suede-y finish that makes it look more like leather. They come in great seasonal colors, too. You can't go wrong with an ELLE bag!
Here's another ELLE bag that I just recently tried out in the store. I like its larger, squared-off shape, which is big enough to serve as an airplane carry-on for your essentials, snacks, and reading material. I have tiny shoulders, but these straps have a grippy finish that keeps the bag from sliding off my shoulder as I walk. And the color! Who can resist that great sassy orange? The interior does have more dividers and zippered pouches than I personally like - I prefer a big sack to dump all my junk in - but who knows, it might even make me more organized.
Fun colors, adorable designs
Espe wallets have a distinctive style that I kept picking up in store after store, until I finally realized they were all from the same brand! These vegan-friendly vinyl wallets have adorable designs with animals, flowers, and abstract patterns. Cute embellished details add whimsical appeal (like the one with a cat, where the wrap-around snap strap is the cat's tail!). Plus, the inside has TONS of credit card storage space and billfold dividers for cash and receipts - so practical. The only bummer about these wallets is they're a bit hard to find, but you can order them online through Espe's website.
A tiny lifesaver
I love this bag so much! I bought mine a few years ago, when the reusable-tote thing was just getting started, and wasn't sure how much I'd really use it. Well, I used it dozens of times within the first few months, and it has served me faithfully ever since. This tiny keychain zip pouch folds out into a plastic-shopping-bag-sized bag, made of durable ripstop polyester with two strong handles. The seams are well-sewn and it holds an impressive amount of stuff! Folding it down is something you have to get the knack of, but it's not hard - you tuck the straps into the bag, fold it vertically in thirds, and roll it up like a sleeping bag into the pouch. Zip it shut, and you're done. It's machine-washable and wipes clean for minor spills, so you could easily use it as a shoe bag or for containing messy/liquid stuff.
Mine is royal blue, just like this one, but they come in a variety of solid colors and now patterns too, so there are lots of choices. Kiva also makes pouches that fold out into backpacks and duffels, which would be great for travel! I can't say enough good things about these bags - they're so handy, so convenient, and such a great value for the price. Buy a bunch for everyone you know!
Lookin' like a fool with your bag on the ground
I want to like Envirosax, I really do. I think it's great that they make chic, oversized totes in cleverly designed sets that encourage people to reuse and recycle, and I see these totes being carried as handbags or work totes on their own, too. I just don't love mine, though, and it's no replacement for the Kiva.
My bag is from the Animal Planet series shown here - it's the cat head one in the lower row. The designs are bold and graphic (although the cat one was disappointingly beige and blah), but you don't really see it when you're carrying it scrunched in your hand. The material is a strong polyester fabric and they really are very large, so they hold more than the standard reusable tote, which is nice. But the straps are so long! I'm 5'7", and the bag skims the ground when I hold it by the straps, which is gross, because you have to touch that part to fold it back up. It feels awkward to grab the straps halfway up like a garbage bag, but that's the only way to keep it off the ground. (I think it may have been designed more to be a shoulder bag, and it's definitely a good strap length for that - but then why a set of five? How many shoulders does a person have?) The folding method is a little tricky - you tuck the straps in, fold the bag vertically into thirds, and then roll it down like a sleeping bag, and at the bottom is a wrap-around snap strap like an umbrella. But the snap strap isn't quite where it should be, and because it just holds the roll loosely, the insides can telescope out, and... meh.
These are good as a beach bag or large shoulder tote, and because they don't have a flat bottom, they're also pretty good for carrying things like baking dishes - as long as you balance it properly, the bag can accommodate a 9x13x2 pan and gives you carry handles. But they're quite expensive - about $35-40 for a set of five, compared to the 99-cent jobs at your local grocery store that, frankly, work better. I want to love Envirosax, but I'm just not convinced they're the best choice in reusable totes.
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