Fall has always been my favourite time of year because it means cooler temperatures, steaming lattes, new classes and of course, fall fashion. While I love dreaming of chunky knits, tall leather boots and double-breasted coats, one thing that has always been an issue when back-to-school shopping is deciding what sort of bag I should bring to class.
This year, I decided to take my schoolbag shopping a little more seriously and went in search of the perfect companion: a bag that is both fashionable and practical. While I did consider going back to a knapsack, I was swayed away because I find it more practical to carry something a little more chic that could transfer to an after school shopping expedition or to evening drinks.
The men’s section
After being disappointed with stores like Bureau en Gros and Best Buy, where laptop bags were more practical and business-like than fashionable, I headed to my favourite mall staples: Zara, Aldo and H&M. The women’s sections in these stores had a lot of cute bags but the cross-body satchels they were showing were way too small to fit much more than an agenda. However, I did find success in the men’s section where the simple leather messenger bags looked to be another perfect back-to-school bag option. The benefit of men’s styles is that they are more timeless since menswear trends vary less that womenswear from season to season.
The vintage buy
When I exhaust my options at the major chain stores, I often end up turning to my favourite secondhand shops, since most of what’s in style today has been a past trend. Vintage briefcases and satchels can be a very chic and durable alternative.
Etsy.com, an online marketplace, is always my first stop for vintage wear because there are pages upon pages of selections and you can browse for very specific items. The site also gives you the opportunity to search by location so you can support local designers and maybe get lucky enough to avoid the shipping charges.
I instantly fell in love with the supple looking leather and structured shape of the Italian Gianni Conti briefcase ($60) from ChicVintageWear’s store. The best thing about buying vintage bags is that you can assume that if a bag has lasted through 20 years of wear and tear, it can probably handle being dragged around Concordia.
The eco-friendly and stylish
Montreal-based company Matt & Nat makes great simple, androgynous bags from “vegan leather” which are affordable and eco-concious. Vegan leather is a responsible because animal byproducts are not used in any part of the production and there are recycled elements in every bag. I particularly liked the Jorja style, which is decidedly more feminine than the industrial-looking Yorke style.
The Big Investment
If you are looking for something that is a bigger investment, check out the Michael Kors Hamilton tote ($298). It looks like a more modern version of the Hermes Birkin and has a sturdy looking chain and leather strap. I have also always been a fan of the Rebecca Minkoff Morning After Bag ($525) which comes in a variety of colours and is just the right size and shape.
Material, Colour Palette and Practicality
As far as materials go, opt for darker neutrals like slate or taupe, colours that match the sweaters and jackets found in most fall wardrobes. If you want to do something a little more daring, leopard print is a huge trend for fall 2010. A classic skin (real, embossed or imitation) is always in style but even more so with the 1950s and 1960s styles that went down the runways this season.
Considering you might be lugging your bag around for an entire day, one thing that is extremely important is to look for a bag that has a long shoulder strap that you can wear in a cross-body style. Anything that you have to hold in the crook of your arm is going to be very uncomfortable by the end of the day.
So, if you’re dreading heading back to school after a long relaxing summer, at least take comfort in the fact that you can do it in style with a great bag on your arm (or rather over your shoulder).