What Your Handbag Says About You

Woman carrying a large leather handbag
What does your handbag say?

What does your handbag say about you? Every woman, from girls to grandmas, wants to look great and feel great about her handbag. After all, women lug their lives around in their bags -- they're almost an extension of us.

LoveToKnow Handbags turned to fashion expert and B*Tween Productions Creative Director Pam Esty to get some great advice and tips on choosing handbags that show off just who you are.

Meet Pam Esty

LoveToKnow (LTK): Dear Pam, please tell us a bit about your background. What inspired you to want to work in fashion and creative design fields?

Pam Esty (PE):I grew up around fashion and art. My parents are both very creative people and had a fashion business when I was young. I spent a lot of time growing up painting, drawing and making some of my own clothes and restyling a lot of clothes. I really liked experimenting with different styles and tried to give the items I bought a different look. I also spent a lot of time melting crayons in order to use the wax to paint on fabric. My creations were very bright, but rather stiff! I worked as a painter when I lived in Europe for 15 years.

Upon returning to the US, I studied design and worked in the high tech industry for many years until the last tech bust in 2000. The former marketing director (Risa Edelstein) of icast.com and I started a business called Vintage Fresh. We designed handbags and pillows using a mix of vintage fabrics and unique hardware.

LTK: Let's talk about your current position as Creative Director for B*Tween Productions, in which you oversee all the creative direction and style. The company develops and markets handbags and backpacks, books, and accessories for young or "tween" girls.What types of handbags, purses, and backpacks are tween girls drawn too? What styles are appropriate for tweens?

PE: Tween girls are drawn to a few very specific things. They look to older girls to see what's in. They like to customize and make bags their own, by adding pins, key chains, etc. They LOVE, LOVE, LOVE pink, purple, sparkly, soft, and texture. Since they spend the majority of their time going to school, participating in sports and going to sleepovers, they are definitely drawn to bags that can hold all their stuff. (backpacks, overnight bags, toiletry kits, etc.)

They also look for bags that fit not only their needs, but their size. Adjustable straps are really important!

What Does Your Handbag Say About You?

LTK: Your style expertise and experience inhandbag design has given you an edge on understanding women's fashion and handbags as well as the tween style market. Many women see a handbag they like, buy it, and wear it, but don't realize what image their handbag choices present.

In your experience, how much would you say a woman's handbag affects her appearance? How much does her handbag say about her?

PE: I think handbags say more about us than clothing at times. Remember, a bag is where we keep all of our important/personal/private stuff. I also think that it's impossible to find the perfect bag for all of our needs, and that's why we're on a constant search for the bag of all bags and we end up buying so many of them!

Knowing that each woman is unique, LoveToKnow asked Pam her expert advice on the question "what does your handbag say about you?". Pam offers great suggestions on different types of bags and the statements they make.

I'm a strong, smart, non-nonsense professional woman

Pam suggests a classic tote, like this one from Kate Spade; a Burberry leather bag.

I'm a woman with a personable, friendly, open demeanor

Pam suggests a casual but classy look, like the Chloe Gina evening bag in nude washed leather.

I'm a woman with a fun and flirty spirit

To show off your fun side, Pam would choose something bold, cute, or colorful, like the Juicy Couture velour dreamer tote in pink and chocolate, or the Paul Smith Polka Dot Clutch.

I'm a woman who is prepared for anything

Pam's advice here is go to with a sleek, stylish bag with plenty of pockets and spaces to organize your essentials -- like the Gucci Brit Medium Shoulderbag in black suede, a large slouchy Marc Jacobs Shoulderbag, or Brynne Corseted bag (large, by Kooba).

I'm in tune to the latest fashion trends

Pam suggests a large, urban-inspired bag like the Tokidoki Zucca Handbag.

I'm a woman with a sense of classic style

Pam's picks for this category incorporate classic handbags looks with details like embossed leather and silver accents that make the bag, like Anya Hindmarch's Carker Patent Leather Tote or the Sydney braided leather bag.

I'm a woman who prides myself on her creativity

Pam advises a bag like the Fendi printed large Palazzo bag with double shoulder straps, that adds interests and flair without overwhelming.

I'm a woman who is known for her ability to work well under pressure

To show off your clear, cool, head, Pam suggests looks that offer practical function as well as stylishness, such as the DKNY Quilted Nylon Messenger in black, or the Marc Jacobs Quilted Cord Maggie with chain handle.

What Handbag Size Conveys

PE: Size matters. Some women carry a uniquely small purse which probably contains little more than a lipstick and credit card. This type of bag, dainty, under the arm says "I a am jet-setter. When I travel I don't need anything more than my credit card."

However, today's hottest bags are enormous, Hummer-like, with loads of embellishments, grommets and rings. Very rock and roll. A tribute to Jane Birken who always carried her life in her bag. As you probably know, Hermes created a bag specifically for her and that bag's revival was THE bag last year. This kind of large bag borrows the rock and rock attitude and says "I can take care of myself".

The Color of Your Handbag

LTK: Let's talk about color. Bright color handbags and accessories are often designed for young girls, but many women love color as well. Do you have any advice on handbag color choices? Is there anything particular a handbag color reflects about the woman carrying it?

PE: If you love color, go with color … but definitely think about what the color does for you. If you don't look great in olive, but you love the color and are crazy about an olive green bag - go for it, but choose a handbag with a small strap, so you're not wearing the color next to your skin. A colorful bag can make an outfit, but too much can be too much. Follow the makeup rule - do the eyes or the lips, but doing both can cheapen the effect.

Personal Favorites

fashion expert pam etsy headshot
Pamela Esty

LTK: What is your personal favorite handbag?

PE: My personal favorites in my own collection are:

  • A vintage Bobbie Jerome - pink patent leather handbag with gold interior clasp, satin lined and faux tortoise bakelite handles.
  • An argyle Vivienne Westwood briefcase.
  • A blue woven tote made by women in Guatemala made from stripped telephone wire with an "Our Lady of Guadalupe" sequined patch.

Handbags Today in a Techno-Digital World

PE: Lastly, I am very interested in seeing what designers will do with the true integration of technology. With everything that's going on in technology today, I am surprised that there isn't more of an intersection. We're seeing clothing making the transition (for example, a shirt that supplies solar-power to an iPod or a coat that incorporates speakers or a dress that changes color in the heat --check out Angel Chang's fashions.Unfortunately, seems to be little beyond a cell phone pocket or a pouch to hold your MP3 player in the world of handbags.

Pam Esty has had a full and varied career. With a degree in Art History from Wellesley College, and a degree in Graphic Design from Regis, she was well equipped with the skills to take on position in creative direction. Her past employment venues include: ''

  • Creative Director for David Blaine Frozen in Time webcast and website
  • icast.com, zinezone.com, password.com
  • Houghton Mifflin Interactive
  • Custom software design for David Copperfield, Tom Peters, Peter Lynch and Standard & Poor's
  • New Jersey Children's Museum, D.C. Heath

Pam has also been an educator for preschool and Kindergarten classes. She is the mother of 3 children and 2 step-children, and currently resides on Chestnut Hill Farm in Southborough with her husband.

by Kalee

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What Your Handbag Says About You