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Sometimes it's the little things that make heading out the door for another day of work feel enjoyable. Maybe it's the promise of a fancy latte from the local coffee shop or grabbing lunch at your favorite salad spot. Perhaps it's an outfit that makes you feel unstoppable. Another thing that can help you feel confident as you go from your commute to your desk job? A great work bag. The perfect work bag is that hard-to-find combination of comfort, style, and flawless organization and storage.
Byrdie Researched & Approved
We picked Cuyana as our top brand for buying a work bag because it offers timeless pieces from high-quality materials, with the finest craftsmanship. Design-wise, the label prioritizes sleekness and functionality—features that can be seen best in the System Tote, the only style with snap-in, add-on accessories. If you prefer suede over leather, you can get a similar look and construction from Brandon Blackwood's Mandeville Tote.
When it comes to the perfect work bag, fashion and function should be in perfect harmony. It should be a bag that you don't feel embarrassed to be carrying and one that holds everything from a laptop to a giant water bottle to fun extras like gym clothes, a lunchbox, and more. Because there is such a demand for excellent work bags, there is also a lot of variety on the market. From backpacks to messenger bags to vegan leather options, there are work bags of every shape, size, and color. We tapped handbag designer Sherrill Mosee to help make the decision process run a bit smoother.
Find Byrdie's edit of the best work bags to buy online, along with some tips for what to look for when shopping, ahead.
Best Overall: Cuyana System Tote
Who else recommends it? Elle also picked the Cuyana System Tote.
You can't have a conversation about work bags without talking about Cuyana. Their offerings are so sleek, functional, and, therefore, easy to justify. This style is made out of luxurious Italian pebbled leather but still offers design-forward structure, as it is, in fact, an organizational dream. Plus, with 13- and 16-inch size options, it can hold all your stuff, no matter how big your laptop is. For more personalization, there's an option to monogram it.
Material: Leather | Colors: Black, Caramel, Cappuccino, Dark Olive, Light Stone | Dimensions: 10 x 17.25 x 5 inches (13-inch); 11 x 19 x 5.5 inches (16-inch)
Best Large: Kate Spade Essential Large Work Tote
The Kate Spade Essential Large Work Tote is another classic bag with a lot of room. It boasts six interior slip pockets, an interior zippered sleeve, and more. According to the brand's website, it fits a large wallet, an iPad, an A4 binder, and a 15-inch laptop, among other things.
Materials: Leather | Colors: Black, Morning Sky, Bungalow, Mineral Grey
Best Value: BÉIS The Work Tote
This bag was designed for all the true boss ladies out there, or the aspiring boss ladies, according to Shay Mitchell's brand BÉIS. It offers room for a 13-inch laptop, keys, a water bottle, and much more. Other features include a removable zippered pouch and a suitcase sleeve for easy traveling.
Material: Vegan leather and polyester | Colors: Black Croc, Cognac Croc +more | Dimensions: 16.75 x 13.5 x 7 inches
Best Designer: Bottega Veneta Tote Bag
Looking for a designer bag that can withstand everyday use and commutes? This Bottega Veneta tote would be a great option. It offers all of the essentials, such as pockets for organization and a zippered top for security, and it's crafted from rubber instead of the label's signature leather, so you can count on durability.
Material: Rubber and cotton/polyester | Colors: Black | Dimensions: 16 x 6 x 16 inches
Best for Laptops: Calpak Kaya Laptop Backpack
The Kaya Laptop Backpack is perfect for digital nomads who find themselves heading on a plane for work with their laptop and a few essentials. It's equipped with a 15-inch laptop compartment, as well as several other interior pockets. Beyond that, the luggage sleeve and adjustable straps make it incredibly comfortable to bring to work—no matter how long or short your commute may be.
Material: Faux leather and polyester | Colors: Caramel, Blush, Navy, Gunmetal Black, Black +more | Dimensions: 15.5 x 11.5 x 4.5 inches
Best Budget: A New Day Reversible Tote Handbag
This tote is a great size for holding all of the day's necessities but also offers a bonus of being reversible. This means you essentially get two bags for the price of one—and that price is pretty reasonable to begin with.
Material: Polyurethane | Colors: Black/Brown, Olive Green/Gold, Brown/Gold | Dimensions: 14.5 x 14 x 7.75 inches
Best Structured: Cuyana Leather Triple Zipper Overnight
This bag is for anyone who finds themselves going on frequent work trips—or really just needs a ton of extra room in their bag, for something like after-work gym attire or a stack of books for a graduate school class. The leather is the top-quality, something Cuyana is known for, and the multiple pockets and zipper compartments make it easy for you to stay organized (and look chic while doing it).
Material: Leather | Colors: Black, Stone | Dimensions: 12.5 x 15.5 x 5.75 inches
Best Messenger Bag: Cuyana 13-Inch Messenger Bag
Available in both 13- and 16-inch versions, this messenger bag gives you options based on the laptop you have or how much storage you need. Along with a built-in laptop sleeve, it also has a thick, adjustable shoulder strap for maximum comfort while carrying. Though, its best feature is perhaps that it looks nothing like a work bag.
Material: Leather | Colors: Black, Cappuccino, Light Stone, Soft Rose | Dimensions: 9.8 x 13.8 x 3.9 inches (13-inch; 10.4 x 15 x 3.9 inches (16-inch)
Most Durable: Lo & Sons Seville Aire Tote
The nylon body of this tote is built for durability. It also has a huge selection of inner pockets (including a laptop sleeve) to help you stay as organized as possible. To suit as many shoppers as possible, it comes in both 13- and 15-inch versions. The zipper top also means everything stays organized, secure, and tucked away from the elements.
Material: Nylon, polyester jacquard, and leather | Colors: Black, Navy | Dimensions: 18.5 x 5 x 12.5 inches (13-inch), 20 x 5 x 13 inches (15-inch)
Best on Amazon: Nubily Laptop Bag
With thousands of positive reviews on Amazon, this bag is a solid contender for an affordable work bag. It offers a laptop compartment, a shoulder strap, a top zipper closure, and a water-resistant outer material to keep things in place on even the busiest of workdays. Plus, the style is available in a wide range of colors to cater to every taste.
Materials: Polyurethane and polyester | Colors: Black, Beige, Blue, Brown, Dark Green +more | Dimensions: 16.7 x 5.7 x 12.6 inches
Best Sustainable: Dagne Dover Large Neoprene Backpack
With thousands of positive reviews across several e-retailers, this neoprene backpack is a customer favorite, to say the least. It includes a padded laptop compartment to keep your electronics safe, while its eco-friendly neoprene material is lightweight and comfortable to carry throughout the day.
Material: Neoprene and recycled lining made from plastic bottles | Colors: Onyx, Dark Moss, Storm, Dune, Heather Gray +more | Dimensions: 13.25 x 5.25 x 17.5 inches
Best Suede: Brandon Blackwood Large Mandeville Tote
If you prefer suede over any other material, the Large Mandeville Tote is for you. With its luxe brown hue and polished silver hardware, the bag is so simple but stylish and thus easy to wear with so many outfits. In terms of functionality, it features multiple interior compartments, plus a detachable pouch and name tag, to make it easy to stay organized.
Materials: Suede | Colors: Brown | Dimensions: 11 x 14.7 x 8.25
Best Canvas: Dagne Dover Vida Cotton Tote Bag
Sometimes, it's the simple things that surprise you. In this case, it's this 100 percent organic cotton tote that seems rudimentary but is oh, so practical. With multiple inner and outer pockets (including one made for laptops up to 16 inches), it holds a ton of stuff. So, if your job is on the more casual side, this would be a great option.
Materials: 100% organic cotton canvas | Colors: Onyx, Natural +more | Dimensions: 18.5 x 6.25 x 14 inches
Best Work-to-Gym: MinkeeBlue Ella Tote
With a shoe compartment and an insulated lunch compartment, this bag will help you live your most productive life. Not only can you pack your gym clothes and shoes hygienically and conveniently, but you can also make sure your work bag is stocked with healthy snacks and other essentials.
Materials: Nylon, vegan leather, and twill | Colors: Black, Taupe | Dimensions: 16 x 6.5 x 13 inches
Best Vegan: Senreve Maestra Bag
Though this work bag is a bit of an investment, it's worth it if you're looking for a stylish and high-quality vegan leather work bag. The crossbody style also converts to a tote or backpack bag, giving you added value in the form of versatility.
Materials: Vegan leather | Colors: Merlot, Taupe, Black, Forest +more | Dimensions: 12.25 x 10.25 x 6.75 inches
Best Classic: Tory Burch Robinson Tote
With two exterior slip pockets, six interior slip pockets (including a 13-inch laptop sleeve), and an interior zip pocket, this tote gives you no reason to be disorganized. The classic silhouette, which comes from a collection named for the designer's parents, Budy and Reva Robinson, combines quality, convenience, and style.
Materials: Leather | Colors: Black, Bistro Brown | Dimensions: 11.6 x 14.3 x 6 inches
Best Modern: Everlane The Italian Leather Studio Bag
If you're looking for a work bag that holds all the essentials but strays away from the traditional work bag silhouette, this Everlane option would be a great pick for you. The elongated silhouette is large enough to hold an 18-inch laptop, and it also boasts multiple pockets and a comfortable, adjustable strap. Minimalists will appreciate its simple elegance for transit from the office to, well, just about anywhere.
Materials: Leather | Colors: Black, Cognac, Moss | Dimensions: 13 x 6.25 x 9.75 inches
Best Waterproof: Maverick & Co. Explorer Light Backpack
Attention, commuters: Here's a style to fit your needs. This backpack-style work bag was designed with lightness in mind and is water- and scratch-resistant for durability. It's also spacious, and it offers several compartments, such as a 16-inch laptop compartment and multiple, easy-to-access outer compartments.
Materials: Nylon and vegan leather | Colors: Black, Navy
Best Convertible: Pond Los Angeles Transform Tote
Whether you want to wear it as a tote, crossbody, or backpack, this bag has enough storage for all your work needs. Its features include a laptop sleeve that fits a 15-inch laptop, side pockets for items as big as drink bottles, and a waterproof and scratch-proof exterior, making for a versatile bag that's built to last.
Materials: Leather | Colors: Stone, Burgundy, Peony, Black | Dimensions: 11.5 x 7 x 13.5 inches
Best Statement: Brandon Blackwood Marcy Ave Tote
Brandon Blackwood's bags are as functional as they are fashionable, making them the perfect choice when you're looking for something more striking than the typical neutral tote bag for work (though he excels in that category as well). Carry this all-leather one in green from its top handles or make use of its adjustable shoulder strap.
Materials: Leather | Colors: Green | Dimensions: 11.8 x 7.8 x 5.1 inches
Best for Moms: Monos Metro Duffel
What sets the Monos Metro Duffel apart from other bags is its modular system, which are interchangeable and easy to swap out based on what you need (or don't need) that day. The attribute makes it an ideal choice for moms who may be shuffling between multiple obligations and settings throughout the day.
Materials: Nylon | Colors: Carbon Black, Oxford Blue, Juniper Green, Dover Grey, Ivory, Saddle Tan, Mahogany | Dimensions: 17.5 × 10.6 × 9.6 inches
Best Backpack: MinkeeBlue Nichet Backpack with Lunch & Shoe Bag
If you're looking for the functionality of MinkeeBlue's aforementioned tote but prefer a backpack style, then you're in luck. Like the Ella Tote, this backpack has a designated place for all of the essentials and so much more. Commuters will love that it features multiple zippered pockets, including one that is designed to safely store a pair of extra shoes. It also has a suitcase sleeve to fit comfortably over the handle of a roller suitcase, as well as a lunch bag for snacks or a light lunch.
Materials: Vegan leather and twill | Colors: Steel Grey, Navy Blue, Black | Dimensions: 13 x 5.5 x 15
Meet the Expert
What to Look for in a Work Bag
When choosing your perfect work bag, Mosee says to first consider what you'll be keeping in the bag from day to day. Need to pack both your lunch and your gym shoes? Then you'll probably want a bag that has separate compartments for both to keep things clean and sanitary. Looking for one that you can take on flights easily? One that slips onto the handle of a rolling suitcase would be the most convenient.
"My bags from my own collection are all vegan leather because I find it's the most durable," Mosee says. "The last thing you want is a bag to fall apart while in use; that's the exact opposite of a handy, helpful handbag."
If you're stuck on choosing a material, think of the most long-lasting, sturdy handbag you already own and try to find a work bag in the same material. Otherwise, make sure to check reviews for longtime customers or notes about general wear and tear.
What should you pack in a work bag?
When packing your bag for work, it's best not to overcomplicate things. The worst work bag is the one that's overly full or causing you pain or discomfort to carry because it's so heavy. Focus first on the essentials: laptop, water bottle, gym clothes, snacks, and other items you'll surely need. Then, add in some extras from there based on how much room you have left.
"Besides obvious personal items when packing your bag for work, I also recommend a journal for any downtime you might have during your day or if you need 5 minutes to de-stress," Mosee suggests.
What is vegan leather?
Vegan leather is popular for a lot of reasons. By definition, it's not animal-based, which many people find compelling based on their values. It's also durable, water-resistant, and generally scratch-proof.
What is it made from? Usually, it's made composed of plastic compounds, such as PVC (polyvinyl chloride or vinyl) or PU (polyurethane). With high-quality vegan leather, though, you won't be able to tell the difference between real leather and the faux version.
Why Trust Byrdie
Olivia Muenter is a fashion commerce contributor for Byrdie, and she has been published in Refinery29, Bustle, Fashionista, Glamour, and Woman's Day, among others. Her search for this piece covered handbag retailers of all types. For criteria, she evaluated customer reviews, storage, versatility, materials, and style.
22 Work Bags That Just Might Cure Your Sunday Scaries. Elle. https://www.elle.com/fashion/shopping/g39970546/best-work-bags-for-women/#product-1324128c-aff5-44ed-a95e-1db03d961d6c-anchor