Style Advice: Spring & Summer Handbags

Last week, I received the following email from lovely reader Fiona:

Hi Lisa,

I'm an avid follower of your blog, and I loved your post How To Shop For A Purse You'll Love! I'm looking to buy a bag that's suitable for spring/summer, so I was wondering if you have any suggestions on styles/colours/materials that would be suitable for the upcoming seasons. I only own 3 black handbags & 1 off-white one, so it'd be nice to have something in a different colour for once, but perhaps something that's versatile enough to use during other seasons. I also can't really afford designer bags, especially if it's for something I might only use for a few months per year. Maybe you could do a blog post on this if you have the time? If not, a simple suggestion would also be appreciated. :)

Thanks a lot!

Handbags are one of those subjects that set my heart aflutter, so of course I was thrilled to oblige Fiona with a blog post! Although they're one of the pricier accessories purchases you can make, it is possible to buy a quality bag that lasts beyond this season for under $200. I still stand by the tips I gave in this post on how to pick out a handbag you'll love, but here are a couple of other things to keep in mind while shopping for a spring/summer handbag. Enjoy!

1. Consider materials other than leather. Leather is a classic handbag choice for good reason: it's durable yet supple, comes in a variety of finishes and colours, and looks better with age. But the downside of leather is that sometimes it can give off a heavy wintery vibe. Lighten up by considering alternative options such as canvas, nylon, and textiles. I'm particularly partial to coated textiles because they're easy to maintain and clean and come in a variety of patterns. Lately I've been drawn to the "surprisingly affordable for a brand name" coated nylon and leather Longchamp 'Le Pliage' tote ($153.30 Cdn). I've met a few happy Longchamp tote owners who attest to its indestructible nature.

2. Consider where and how you'll be using this bag. You should ask yourself how you envision using this bag before you go shopping. Is it going to be for patio parties and late-night movies? Accompanying you to Sunday brunch in the sunshine? Tossed around on a sandy beach? A roomy carry-all you can tote to work with you? The more likely your bag is to encounter dirty situations (like the beach) or take a beating from your daily routine, the less you should spend on it. That doesn't mean you have to settle for a bag that will fall apart in a few months, though. This linen blend tote ($39.50 US) from the Gap is a cute affordable option for carrying loads of work files or for beach time.

3. Consider colour. If you want a colourful accent bag as a fun alternative to the black bags you own, do a mental run-through of your wardrobe first, particularly the coats, jackets, and sweaters you own. Mostly monochromatic wardrobes with lots of gray, beige, white, black, and denim blue might benefit from a bag in a bright yellow, coral, or electric blue hue. Meanwhile, extremely colourful wardrobes may fare better with alterna-neutral bags in gray, cognac, navy blue, burgundy, brown, or blush pink.

4. Consider vintage. It requires some effort on your part, but great deals can be found in local vintage and consignment shops. Alternatively, you could try scouring Etsy for vintage bargains with classic silhouettes, colours, and styles. While researching this post, I found this $50 vintage Coach saddle bag on Etsy which would make many a modern hipster turn green with envy. (Sadly it sold out the last time I checked--you really need to act fast on these!)

5. Consider trends. Finally, have FUN with your handbag purchase! Sometimes it's good to just go with a style you instinctively love instead of a safe and reliable classic. This season, hot handbag trends include:
  • crossbody silhouette
  • stud detailing
  • chain straps
  • blush pink and beige leathers and hues

Fiona, I hope you found this post helpful! To my other readers, are you contemplating a handbag purchase this season? What are you looking for? Any tips or suggestions you'd like to share?


  1. Fab tips, Lisa! I'm not much for handbags myself, but I love this roundup of sound bag-buying advice.

  2. Thanks so much for doing this post, Lisa! I was looking around and fell in love with the Coach Peyton leather drawstring crossbody in melon, but it's kind of pricey for me still so I'm going to look for alternatives. :) I'll keep in mind your tips when I browse around!

  3. Fiona, I just looked up the bag you're describing and it's lovely!

  4. It is a great post and very useful tips! It is time for me to invest into a spring/summer bag, and I will probably go for something from the neutal/nude colour scheme. I know, it is a bit obvious, but hey! :)

  5. I've just begun debating on what I want for a spring bag this year so your post is perfect. However, the "vintage" Coach bag - I totally had that bag when it was a new style and now I just feel old and depressed!

    BTW- congrats on the chicken, mastering a whole bird is always so rewarding.

  6. Lisa: it is, isn't it? :) Do you know how much Coach marks up their prices in Canada from the US prices on their website? I'm very tempted to step in and purchase the bag!

  7. Fiona, Canadian and US Coach stores have priced their stuff at parity for the last 1-2 years because of the strength of the Canadian dollar, so you're not getting a bad deal if you buy the bag. Eee a new bag is always so exciting!

  8. That coach bag is adorable. I need a brown bag ASAP!

  9. great post! i have a straw bag that i love. so beachy!

  10. You are definitely right that leather is a classic choice, you can use the bag forever because leather will never go out of style. I totally regret buying many Coach signature bags because now the logos plastered all over the bag bothers me.

    The Kate Spade bag you wrote about looks like a bag I could totally add to my collection. It would be great to use it on weekend errands.

  11. I definitely suggest checking your local thrift store. Some of my favorite bags in terms of style and durability come from there. Plus, it would be pretty rare to see someone else toting your bag!

  12. Hi Lisa, I'd just like to follow up and tell you that I have purchased my spring/summer handbag! I got the Marc by Marc Jacobs Classic Q Hillier Hobo in Chambray. It's quite a bit more expensive than Coach but I really love the style and have lusted over it for a while, so I took the plunge and decided to go for it. I was worried that the colour might not be versatile enough to wear year-round, but I love the colour so much that I decided I'm just going to make it work. ;) Thank you for your help!

  13. Fiona, thanks for the update! I'm glad you found a bag you like so much. Enjoy it. =D


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