Can we talk stylish backpacks?

Hi Ladies,

I know some of you have bought upscale backpacks and I wondered how they were working for you.

I have liked the idea of them for a while but tend to be a slow adopter.

For me, I could potentially see one working for casual, holidays, and when I do casual work in our Day Centre (I haven't mentioned but I do fill in work some weeks, it's quite different from my regular role) - on those days we are on outings and I need a bag but need to be hands free. I also think a nice one could be carried on a regular work day and offset a minimal work outfit.

How are you using yours?

Do you wear it as a back pack? i.e. on your back?

Do you ever sling it over one shoulder?

Do you carry it by it's handle (if it has one) handbag style?

How versatile is it?

This is the one I have bought but weighing up the pros and cons before I make a decision on keeping. For your info, it's a nice size, is leather and I like the silver hardware.

Really appreciate your thoughts. If you would like to post a pic of yours, I would love to see.


This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.


  • Maneera replied 8 years ago

    Hey Deb

    I do have a nice black canvas backpack with a very stylish but sturdy design and that goes with me wherever I travel.

    I have added a more upscale and prettier one recently. I have used it once too. It's a backpack cum bucket bag. You can sling it by just one shoulder, wear it on both shoulders, or you can reattach the strap to use it as a bag only. The one time I used it, it was used as a bucket bag. That's mostly for security reasons though----pickpockets are way too common in India and wearing it as a backpack just isn't safe. I do intend to take this bag on my international travels and sling it over one shoulder or even and when required.

    Adding pics.

  • Maneera replied 8 years ago

    Oh I love your bag! It's extremely stylish and polished!

    I can't see it worn on both shoulders because it's rather boxy. But it'll look great if you sling it over just one shoulder, or as a regular shoulder bag/satchel if you can attach the straps that way. I'd wear it as a backpack for casual work days too.

  • Lyn D. replied 8 years ago

    I like this Deborah, but have trouble picturing you wearing it on your back, with your polished style.
    Cross-body bags have replaced my backpacks, they are hands-free and generally smaller and lighter to carry.

  • CocoLion replied 8 years ago

    I got one two years ago, after searching and trying a couple of different ones out.  Mostly they felt too big for my frame so it was important to me to find one that didn't overwhelm me.  I used it quite a bit at first, but then not so much.  I recently pulled it out again after at least a one year hiatus, as I needed something for a baseball game (it was perfect for that).  I carry it all ways, but most often just on one shoulder.

    Looking at this picture, from october 2013, I realize how much churn goes on in my wardrobe.  Everything here is gone except for the shoes and the bag.

    ETA the bag is from Aimee Kestenberg, I think Janet has one in cobalt.

  • Deborah replied 8 years ago

    Yours is gorgeous Maneera..  it has a very classic lady like vibe but with modernity.  I really like this for you.    Thanks for the info:)

  • Cerinda replied 8 years ago

    Ooooh, that's a really sharp bag!  

    My wine backpack really suits my casual lifestyle.  I WAH mostly, and generally live in jeans.  I'm not sure I expect it to be particularly versatile, just practical.  

    Most of the time, it's slung over one shoulder; it's on my back only when I walk a long distance or need my hands. I find I carry it by the handle more than I thought I would -- in and out of cars, on and off busses, etc.

    Mine's an absolute bottomless pit, though.  Yours doesn't look like that at all:  clever Deborah!  

  • Deborah replied 8 years ago

    Thanks Denise, I really like yours.    And cannot believe that white top has departed our wardrobe, it's gorgeous and looks fab on you.  So do you think the backpack will be one of those things you keep and use from time to time.  Sounds quite functional.

  • Deborah replied 8 years ago

    Most helpful Cerinda!  Yours is gorgeous too. Love the colour and it has a nice amount of slouch.  I think because a lot of what I wear has drape, I like the idea of a more structured version as a contrast.

  • Maneera replied 8 years ago

    Thanks Deb. Yes, I think it'll be a good addition, especially if you can also wear it cross-body. Does it come with adjustable straps?

    Great for shopping, traveling, school games, volunteering activities. They're really great for traveling when you want just one bag that could be a backpack for flights (my hands are busy lugging strollers and suitcases), cross body bag for city walking and shoulder bag for fancier restaurants.

    The classic, crisp and timeless design on you bag makes it a great piece. But - make sure it suits your body frame. I used to have one exactly like yours but smaller that looked just too small when I did sling it from my shoulders - so it is now used only as a cross-body bag.

    Wear it on your shoulder, get a picture of your back. You'll have a fair idea of how well it works then.

  • Staysfit replied 8 years ago

    I have one. I find I use it most when I travel because it's slightly larger than my purses and easy to carry. One thing I don't like is it is harder for me to find things inside the bag because it is so deep. It has several pockets but they are small and too shallow. I thought they were large enough when I purchased the bag but the outside pocket in the back is tight for my cell phone.

  • Deborah replied 8 years ago

    Staysfit, I wondered about that.  Mine has a nice deep pouch but no dividers or pockets in the bag.    Something to consider.  ETA  :  Oooh yours is lovely.

  • Maneera replied 8 years ago

    Deb, get a bag organizer. That will solve your problem. Or use a clutch bag for your wallet, phone and keys so you can always find THAT inside the bag. It's what I do....since my bag organizer is rectangular in shape, and doesn't work for this backpack and some other narrower but deep totes.

  • Deborah replied 8 years ago

    LynD you could be right! If I work in day centre I tend to wear a skinny pointe pant, oversized jumper and slip on sneaks does that sound with the backpack?

  • Jules replied 8 years ago

    With a wardrobe heavy on black I think a different coloured bag would look fresh. Navy/ink, cobalt, red? Silver?

  • shiny replied 8 years ago

    I've got the same bag as Staysfit. I take it with me for personal travel -- wore this all over Iceland and London. It's nice to be hands-free when site-seeing. Yes, I sling it over one shoulder but I also put it on my back to evenly distribute the weight.

    I also have a black Kate Spade backpack that's smaller. Found that one at the thrift store ages and ages ago. I guess it was from when the mini-backpacks were all the rage; on mini-me, it's not so mini.  I'd kept it regardless of fashion cycles because it's useful for long walks around the neighborhood. 

  • Elly replied 8 years ago

    I think that it fits your artistic, drapey, polished style--- I'm surprised you don't already have one. I like the black because it makes it a sophisticated addition. Then again, I am thinking about going back to a backpack year-around for commuting because the functionality is high for me. We will have to see about my employers bag policy.

  • ma replied 8 years ago

    I've been oogling them too! My son is potty training and so I started carrying one that was a gift to him just to hold a change of clothes and such...its camo with his name embroidered in Orange☺️ So definitely not fashiony! Lol. But I realized that an upscale one would suit my life style and not end up an expensive orphan. The ones other members have posted are all gorgeous, I'm especially drawn to Staysfit's crisp white one.

  • Janet replied 8 years ago

    Yes, I have the same one as Denise, but in blue, and I absolutely love it. I get compliments on it every time I use it.

    I carry it in all the ways you describe, and I find it very versatile -- I have used it for everything from casual outdoor concerts to art gallery openings and client meetings. The size and weight are perfect for my needs, and it's easy to zip and unzip for access. I find that it works in summer and winter equally well.

    I think one could be great with your style, Deb!

  • Suz replied 8 years ago

    The one you have chosen looks beautiful, Debs. I think it would work well for your day centre shifts, but I agree with Lyn that I can't see you carrying it on your back all that often. 

    One thing to consider about it -- are you bothered by flaps on bags? I personally find them annoying so I looked for a pack without that feature. 

    Mine's simple, from Zara! I had the black originally but gave that to my step-daughter and purchased a blue one for myself instead. I was without one for about 5 months and missed it terribly. It is a godsend for my casual life that includes a lot of travel, and I am considering one in wine or cognac for the fall if I can find one I like. 

    I wanted mine to be lightweight, have a bit of visual interest but not a lot of hardware, have space for my laptop (this one does, barely, with some wriggling), have space for all my other stuff, sub in for a gym bag on days when I want to look a bit more put together before or after the gym (i.e. going straight from the gym to a class or an appointment or meeting). This one will hold my lightweight indoor gym shoes and clothing in a pinch, yet it's not too big. I like that it is narrower up top -- it refines the profile to my eye. 

    I carry mine often over one shoulder, sometimes by its handle, and occasionally as a real backpack (on my back). It can get wet in the rain without problem, and it wipes off easily. It has a pocket for my phone and a small zip pocket inside. I put my keys in that little zip pocket in front. I carry all my other purse items in little bags or containers so nothing gets lost in the depths. 

  • replied 8 years ago

    Oh don't even get me started on this topic. But it's too late :)  I have the same one as Staysfit - the Rebecca Minkoff in pebbled black leather iwht silver hardware and some fringey zipper pull tabs. Beautiful looking bag. 

    But - worst buying decision ever. To answer your questions:
    1. no , I don't wear it on my back, it's not my thing , and this one would look a little funny I think 
    2. yes, I try slinging it over one shoulder, but it doesn't stay on well and I'm constantly pulling it back up 
    3. yes, it has a top handle, and I sometimes carry it that way, but it bangs against my leg when I do that
    4. and - as Staysfit says, the inner section is too deep and things fall into the pit of it never to be found, and the side pockets are too shallow.  I also can't access anything inside it while I'm wearing it, so have to put it down and then open it up - the few times Idid try opening the side pockets while it was over my shoulder, I either forgot to zip it up all the way or at all, and lost a few things (like a nice new tube of hand cream and a lipstick) along the way.  I absolutely regret buying it and it was expensive.

    Lastly - I have a similar flat-bottomed one to Suz's - mine is from Moleskine - that I use for work and travel. I do sling it over one shoulder or carry it by the top handle. It works beautifully, but it's larger and built for more than just a purse substitute.  For example, I wouldn't take it into a restaurant or out shopping.  

  • replied 8 years ago

     fyi - this is the Minkoff , and the Moleskine 

  • Diana replied 8 years ago

    I have a silver leather one that I use sometimes.  I either use it as a backpack or sling it over a shoulder.  I never carry it by the handle but then again I never carry anything by the handle (bad wrists and elbows here). 

    The pros: hands-free, interesting shape, secure closure, nice change from my normal totes and hoboes, easier on shoulders/back, holds a lot.

    Cons: slightly heavy, it makes my back hot in the summer to wear it as a backpack, can make me feel weirdly bulky and off balance if it's full and on my back (esp on public transit!  don't want to be one of those annoying people who bonks everyone with their backpack), and is something of a bottomless pit because the opening is smallish and on the top (but on the other hand I don't feel at all secure about a backpack with a larger/more accessible opening.)

  • Vix replied 8 years ago

    Hi Deb --

    Not sure how stylish it is, but I have a grey leather one I got a while back (~ $90?) when I strained a rotator cuff and couldn't even pull up my socks without pain!

    I could see a backpack working with your style -- scale will be super-important, though. I have another one I got for work which needed to be big to fit all my crap and I feel like a kid on his or her first day of school.

    I actually still use my leather one quite a lot on the weekends -- mostly over 1 shoulder. It has several exterior pockets, including a zippered, inside-facing exterior pocket (so flush against body) where I keep my wallet for safety/access.

    [When I travel I generally prefer my small handbags -- too easy for someone to cut the strap and go on a back or shoulder bag -- but there are exceptions since I can carry it by the handle.]

    ETA found the bag Le Donne mid-size backpack

  • Laurie replied 8 years ago

    Oh you guys!  This is so timely - I have done a couple of half-hearted searches for bags lately (thanks for modeling the Zara model, Suz, and everyone else for modeling and listing links).   

    When we were on our Seattle-Portland vacation I experienced terrible pain in my replaced hip area while walking around with heavy purses on my left shoulder.  It caused a terrible pulling on the muscles on my right leg.  So, I decided that a leather back pack is an absolute wardrobe essential pronto.

    I will be inclined to wear the bag on one shoulder I'm sure, like I did with my 500 pound book backpacks as a college student, but having the option to center the weight on my back for long stretches of walking is really needed.

    Wow, not only does YLF always come through, now you are all anticipating my every want and need!  

  • Inge replied 8 years ago

    Love all your backpacks!

    I recently bought the lilac one below from Matt & Nat. I'm very happy with a M&N bag I bought years ago, great quality and holding up extremely well. I'd been thinking about getting a backpack for a while now, so when I saw the fun styles they had in their Summer collection, I took the plunge.

    I wear mine as an actual backpack, not slung over one shoulder because that would aggravate my neck and back problems, but also carry it in my hand for shorter periods of time. I picked this style because it has padded shoulder straps, which makes it more comfortable when you wear it all day (and also because it reminds me a bit of old-school camera bags).

    I've worn it for a 3-day trip to an amusement park, where being hands-free was a big plus with 4 kids in tow. We walked over 12 kilometres each day, and I was so glad that I didn't have to schlep around with a bag on my arm. The backpack is lightweight, and getting to everything inside is very easy. Also, all M&N bags are vegan, so I'm not worried about getting it wet (we had a few showers and you just wipe off the water) or dirty.

    I will definitely be using it not only for any future trips, but also for days when I'll be walking a lot here in Antwerp too. Oh, one other reason why I wanted a backpack: I want to practice photography more often, and not having to worry about where to put your bag while taking photos will be a big plus.

  • Angie replied 8 years ago

    You may have missed my recent August outfit post, Debs. I LOVE my white backpack. Only use it in Spring and Summer. Love it with dresses too. Wear it as a backpack most of the time. Sometimes carry it by the top handle. Never sling it onto one shoulder. 

  • Laurie replied 8 years ago

    The Aimee Kestenberg Tamitha backpack in black is on sale at Lord & Taylor for $54.90!  It is not my absolute favorite but was in the top ones I liked, so I grabbed it at this price and will see if I like it.


  • qfbrenda replied 8 years ago

    I recently bought a black vegan backpack and am loving it! I'm a casual MOTG and kept wanting something I could use on both shoulders. I also wanted a bag that:

    *wouldn't overwhelm my petite self
    *would hold a water bottle, planner, essentials, and possibly a book
    *not look like gear

    I love leather but thought a vegan one would be a good way to try a backpack. Not only is it lightweight, but it was also inexpensive. Inexpensive was important to me because I wasn't sure how much I would use it and didn't want to invest a ton of money into a wild card. My backpack has handles on the top which I use occasionally but most of the time I use it on both shoulders.

    Finding the right size was tricky. Most of the bags I found were way too big. I didn't want to look like a gray-haired little girl on her way to school! Ha! But too small wouldn't fit the things I need to carry.

    I can totally see you with a backpack but it would need to be the right one to go with your sophisticated self.

  • Marley replied 8 years ago

    I have TWO (2) and love them both!  One is the black Zara (like Suz's) and then I have a beautiful blue (can't remember the brand/designer off the top of my head.) I carry them aLOT in spring, summer, and fall - and I usually wear them slung over my shoulder or by the handle.  One of the best purchases I made last year to give my style a bit of an update.

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