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Know Your Bags: Silhouettes 101

This was a post I did for Tongue in Chic and I thought I'd share this how-to guide with you too! :)

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Very often, many of us like a particular bag shape or type, but aren’t able to fish out its common denominator and describe it when asked. This instalment of Know Your Bag covers just that – here are all the key silhouettes you need to know.




 Clockwise from Left to Right: Fendi and Chanel WOCs, and interior detail view of WOC
 Clockwise from Left to Right: Fendi and Chanel WOCs, and interior detail view of WOC




 Popularised by Chanel, the wallet on chain (a.k.a WOC) has straps long enough to wear it cross-body style, and may or may not be detachable. Apart from the usual bill and card slots, there’s usually also a middle section or a buttoned compartment for valuables such as your keys, phone and lipstick for on-the-go touch-ups. These days, many other designer brands have WOCs, but on a seasonal basis instead of all year round, like Chanel.



Clockwise from Left: Rebecca Minkoff Mini MAC, Mulberry Mini Flower Bag and Gucci Soho Disco Bag
Clockwise from Left: Rebecca Minkoff Mini MAC, Mulberry Mini Flower Bag and Gucci Soho Disco Bag 


This teeny-tiny genre is called the camera bag, though it might not carry that specific function! Basically, they’re named as such because you can’t put much else in them, except maybe for some loose change and a phone (but not the larger-sized smartphones though!) – here, the term “camera” is just used as a size reference in this case.



Louis Vuitton Sofia Coppola Bag, and side view of Speedy
Louis Vuitton Sofia Coppola Bag, and side view of Speedy 




 The Boston bag is a silhouette commonly mistaken for an actual model from certain luxury brands. Instead, the Boston is simply a slightly elongated bag with double handles, in a dome-shaped side. Whenever anyone mentions Boston bag, just think the iconic shape of a Louis Vuitton Speedy.



 Proenza Schouler PS11 Clutch, Balenciaga Envelope Clutch and Anya Hindmarch Georgiana Zip-Top Clutch
 Proenza Schouler PS11 Clutch, Balenciaga Envelope Clutch and Anya Hindmarch Georgiana Zip-Top Clutch 



 The clutch is simply a bag that you hold in your palm. Previously only intended for evening and cocktail events, the clutch has, with the introduction of oversized versions since the late-2000s, become a bag that’s also suitable for daytime use as well. The clutch is now available in numerous versions: envelope, flap-top, zip-top, hard case box types with a kiss-lock closure, and even gusseted.



Minaudières by Judith Leiber
Minaudières by Judith Leiber


A close cousin to the clutch, the minaudière is another bag meant for evening use. The difference between this and the clutch is that the minaudière is more like a statement one-of-a kind jewellery piece that’s usually hard-cased, and intricately embellished with jewels, crystals or rhinestones.



 Marc Jacobs Venetia and Christian Louboutin’s Studded Pannetone
 Marc Jacobs Venetia and Christian Louboutin’s Studded Pannetone 


Bowler bags are usually wider at the base, tapering towards the top. The top part of the bag can either form an arc, dome, or is slightly more squarish in shape.


 Alexander Wang Rockie Duffel and Tumi
 Alexander Wang Rockie Duffel and Tumi 


A duffel bag began as an oversized cylindrical canvas bag for the gym. Though still in use for that purpose today, it has a version scaled down in size (but no less cylindrical in shape) that has been adopted by the fashion world. Now no longer necessarily made of canvas, it is usually sported slung in one’s arm, and is no longer associated with sweat and the locker room.


 Alexander Wang Diego and Louis Vuitton Petit Bucket
 Alexander Wang Diego and Louis Vuitton Petit Bucket 


Its circular or oval base has given the bucket bag its name. Due to this base shape, bucket bags are usually semi-structured, and most often (but not all), come with a drawstring closure.


 Michael Michael Kors Jet-Set Tote, Loeffler Randall and Anya Hindmarch "Earl Bottom Pinch" Tote/Shopper
 Michael Michael Kors Jet-Set Tote, Loeffler Randall and Anya Hindmarch "Earl Bottom Pinch" Tote/Shopper 



 Probably the most familiar to all of us, the tote is usually rectangular or square in shape and depending on its size, is worn either on the arm or on the shoulder. Oversized totes that are carried on the shoulder, however, are referred to as a shopper, simply because it’s roomy enough to accommodate all your items (and others you might acquire as the day wears on).


 Bottega Veneta’s Veneta Hobo and Chloe’s Marcie Hobo
 Bottega Veneta’s Veneta Hobo and Chloe’s Marcie Hobo 

The hobo is a slouchy shoulder bag that many have referred to as a crescent shape. Its appeal lies in the fact that it gets weighed down and draped accordingly by the amount of stuff you have in your bag.



 Clockwise from Left: Proenza Schouler PS1 Satchel, Mulberry Alexa and The Cambridge Satchel
 Clockwise from Left: Proenza Schouler PS1 Satchel, Mulberry Alexa and The Cambridge Satchel 

Back in the day, the satchel was considered a structured school bag with leather strips that are fastened with a buckle, and slung either backpack-style or cross-body. It later became a seasonal silhouette – after the Mulberry Alexa and Proenza Schouler PS1 bags were introduced, it became a classic shape we have seen every season since.


Miu Miu Accordion Bag, with detail view from the top
Miu Miu Accordion Bag, with detail view from the top 


From its side profile, the accordion looks as if many compartments have been sewn together into one bag, sort of like one of those expandable folders where you can see many folds from the side view. But more precisely, it resembles the musical instrument from which it takes its name.



 Hermès Jypsiere and Marc by Marc Jacobs Werdy Wavie Top Handle Messenger
 Hermès Jypsiere and Marc by Marc Jacobs Werdy Wavie Top Handle Messenger 

Oft nicknamed the ‘postman bag’, the messenger bag is a popular silhouette that’s mostly spotted around campus on both sexes because it’s big enough to carry a laptop, iPad and even some of your textbooks. These days, however, luxury brands have capitalised on its popularity and have created more fashionable versions. However, this type of bag always prioritises practicality, and therefore can only be worn cross-body so that the weight of the contents in your bag is evenly distributed.


The Row Backpack and Prada’s iconic Nylon Backpacks
The Row Backpack and Prada’s iconic Nylon Backpacks 


 Commonly used for school and outdoor activities, the purpose of the backpack was to serve our practical needs. In short, it wasn’t supposed to be fashionable … until Prada created the nylon version in the ’80s and made it so. Today, backpacks (I’m speaking of the fashionable ones and not the ones still used for the great outdoors) aren’t really all that common anymore, and have become super seasonal silhouettes.


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Image credit: Courtesy of Hermès, Prada, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Mulberry, Bottega Veneta, Michael Kors, Balenciaga, Gucci, Miu Miu, Shopbop, Saks Fifth Avenue, Proenza Schouler, Alexander Wang, Judith Leiber, Polyvore, Christian Louboutin, and Tumi