Many plus size women, myself included, turned to makeup and accessories when the fashion industry willfully excluded us. But as anyone who has ever tried a crossbody bag with a strap three inches too short can attest to, not all handbags are designed equally.
There’s prevailing wisdom in NYC that when someone tries to mug you that you should freely and without hesitation give your handbag over to your assailant. I’m pleased to report that in over a decade of living in the city, no one ever tried to mug me, thankfully because I do not subscribe to this belief. I would have eagerly given over my wallet or whatever other valuables they desired, but I would have fought to the death for any handbag in my collection.
My bags aren’t simply designer investments to me or the physical manifestation of an important milestone. They are also carefully acquired pieces that work well my body (size 26/28) and stature (I’m 6’2″). Not to mention that some sizes or colors were limited edition and are no longer available without relinquishing my retirement accounts and a kidney. Sure, we can order interchangeable straps on eBay, but it never has quite the same shine as the items that didn’t need to be modified.
It’s easy to believe that because handbags aren’t sized they should be able to be carried by everyone, but a crossbody style carried as a shoulder bag doesn’t have quite the same flair. When micrototes were au courant, I was afraid to carry one for fear of dwarfing it with my proportions.
The following list is in no way meant to be exhaustive. It’s merely based on my own experiences. If there’s a bag’s fit that surprised you or that you swear by, I’d love to hear about it the comments below.
3.1 Phillip Lim Pashli in Medium
From the moment I saw the fuchsia color of the Phillip Lim Pashli arrive on Shopbop, I knew that it had to be mine. At the time, Shopbop was paying me in gift cards to run a widget in my blog sidebar, so I saved them month after month and patiently waited for a sale, anxious that the color might sell out. Once I had enough banked, I ordered it shipped overnight and immediately tore open the box with my bare hands when it arrived. I was excited, to say the least.
I never anticipated the Pashli to be my most worn bag, but because of its versatility, I find myself reaching for it for both fashion & utility. My Surface Pro fits into it perfectly and the zippers in the front allow it to expand while still maintaining the shape and stability. The leather its crafted from is thick and substantial, so I haven’t had to worry about scratches, dirt, or rain.
Like most designer handbags, the price has increased over the years, but I would still highly recommend the Pashli for anyone who has even a passing interest in owning it after all this time. Fortunately, this color and size are still available from Phillip Lim if you want to be bag twins with me and Miss Whoever You Are.
Cambridge Satchel North South Tote
When I started working on this post, my beloved North South Tote was still on the Cambridge Satchel website, but as I write this, it’s seemingly no longer available. I hate to create any sense of FOMO, but you can still find previously loved versions on Poshmark & Depop.
My love for this bag, particularly because of my height, surprises me sometimes. It is made with Cambridge Satchel’s signature stuff leather, which works extremely well to keep this bag’s inverted wedge shape, even after years of rigorous use. The bottom of the bag is much stiffer than the top, making contents feels secure even though there is nothing to hold the bag closed.
The lack of top closure is one of the main selling points, in my opinion, as it is extremely easy to slide a tablet, notebook, or computer in and out quickly, making it ideal for hectic work days, meetings, and conferences. The crossbody strap is long enough for me to wear with the puffiest of coats, and the shape keeps the bag close to the body, so I never felt exposed to theft on the NYC subway.
That being said, I wouldn’t recommend it for urban travel where you aren’t familiar with your surroundings. It’s fantastic for running errands, work, or road trips.
Chanel Classic Flap Maxi
There’s a lot to discuss when it comes to the practical realities of spending $5,000 on a handbag, most of which I won’t discuss here (and seven years later, this same bag costs much more at retail), but I will say that I have never once regretted purchasing my Chanel Classic Flap in the Maxi size.
Frankly, I struggle to fit the essentials into my Chanel, and that includes a wallet (which could be downsized, but for the purposes of this conversation let’s assume is a full size zip wallet), modest makeup bag, phone, sunglasses, portable charger, and charging cable. Adding any item outside of that becomes a game of Tetris that I frequently lose.
From a proportion perspective, I feel like the Maxi was also the right choice for my height and size. It fits well underneath my arm and on my lap. At the longest length, I can’t wear this bag crossbody, but I never expected to. I usually carry it on the longest length, especially during the colder months, and reserve the shorter double strap for crowded environments.
Dagne Dover Petite Tote
Truthfully, I never thought I would be the mini bag type, even through the height of the trend. It wasn’t until the Dagne Dover team gifted me with a Petite Tote that I not only understood the hype for the bag style, but I finally believed that mini bags could work on someone my size.
Although I was initially disappointed that the longer strap didn’t work crossbody on me, I quickly moved past those feelings. That being said, I think it would be a smart move for Dagne Dover to offer different strap lengths since their designs focus so much on functionality.
Part of what I feel makes the Petite Tote different from other micro bags are the stiff handles that add a bit of height to the overall shape. I can also easily slip my wrist into the handles if I want to carry it more securely, as opposed to on my shoulder with the longer strap.
I have a Dagne Dover Card Case and Key Leash that I use almost exclusively with this bag, allowing me to carry my phone, lip product, mirror, portable charger, and charging cable with ease. This is the bag I typically reach for when I’m going to be in a crowded festival or concert environments because it not only holds everything I need but keeps my wallet very secure.