Shoulder Bags

Image of a burnt sienna leather shoulder bag
Burnt sienna leather shoulderbag.

Shoulder bags are an essential for every woman's handbag wardrobe. No matter what your style is, there is sure to be plenty that fit the bill with the ever-expanding handbag market.

Shoulder Bags Guide

Even for women who prefer handheld bags, there is almost always a time when an on-shoulder bag will come in handy. Whether it's for a long shopping trip, hauling kids back and forth to appointments and practices, or just climbing the stairs to your apartment after work, a bag that's worn on the shoulder frees up your hands to carry and handle other items more easily.

So, when it comes to shoulder bags, what should a woman look for?


Although style is a big concern when it comes to choosing your bag, don't forget about the comfort factor. The shoulder strap of your bag should be comfortable to wear, not digging into your shoulder blade or under your arm. If you have a tendency to carry heavy items in your bag, look for wider shoulder straps to help carry the weight of your bag more comfortably.

Adjustable Straps

 Pink suede shoulder bag with adjustable straps
Pink suede bag with adjustable straps

A majority of today's shoulder bags offer adjustable straps. Since women come in many shape sand sizes, it's also important to have your bag strap at the length that's comfortable for you. Some women like their bags under their arm; some like them to dangle a bit. If you fall in love with a bag that does not have an adjustable strap, try it on to ensure the bag falls in a comfortable range.


Celebrity image consultant Sam Saboura suggests that women's bags should harmonize with their size. If you are petite, for example, a small simple bag will work best. Alternately, for full-figured or more curvaceous women, a bag with some volume will look more proportionate. Sam suggests that soft, deconstructed shoulder bags work well with most women's body types.


Most of today's bags are equipped with organizational features such as interior and exterior pockets and dividers or section separators. You can also find bags with built in wallets or coin purses, cell phone or PDA pockets, elastic loops, pen slots, slip pockets, and more. Think of the items you frequently keep in your purse, and look for shoulder bags that can accommodate and organize them.


Whether you're after shoulder bags on the fun and funky side or those that are a bit more sleek and subtle, there's a style for you. From colorful patterns and print to classic black, the color and style variations on the market today are tremendous. Here are a few basic silhouettes of shoulder bags to get you started:

  • Hobo Style: A crescent-shaped, usually unstructured bag.
  • Flat Bag: A thin style bag typically square in shape, often with dual shoulder straps.
  • Totes: Roomy, usually rectangular bags with single or double straps.
  • Slings: A popular cousin of backpack style bags, a sling is a casual bag with one shoulder strap.
  • Shoulder Satchels: Typically small to mid-sized zip-top bags whose length capacity is larger than the bag's width. There are both structured and unstructured satchel styles.
  • Barrel Bag: Like the name suggests, a cylindrical bag that resembles a barrel turned on its side, often with a long, thin shoulder strap.
  • Flap-Enclosure: Flap style shoulder bags have a flap enclosure that folds over, typically about midway down the front of the bag, with a clasp, turn-key, snap, or other fastener.
  • The Pouch: A pouch is a smaller style bag, usually with a slight dip, zip-top, and thin shoulder straps.

Prices and Shopping

Prices for shoulder bags vary widely. If you're going for a designer bag, your cost will range from several hundred to several thousand dollars depending on the name. Department store and discount bags can be found at much lower prices, many of them starting at ten to fifteen dollars.

Online accessories and bag retailers offer a wide variety, and many of today's trusted department stores have online shopping departments as well. Well-known shoulder bags e-tailers include:

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Shoulder Bags