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Nothing is more frustrating than getting ready for work and realizing you can’t fit everything in your bag. Or perhaps you can, but it’ll feel like you are carrying a thousand bricks on your shoulders. When space is this precious, every little item counts, so it’s between taking your water bottle or lunch box at this point.

Instead of taking whatever fits the most stuff regardless of looks, we found plenty of designs that don’t force you to sacrifice fashion for function. We spoke with stylists and our very own fashion editors to bring you a list of tried and true work bags. Leather bags that promise durability, backpacks that free up your hands, and tote bags where it’s compartment-galore on the inside are some of the best bags used by the staff here at InStyle and then some.

Best Overall

Caraa Studio Large Leather Tote

Caraa Studio Large Leather Tote


What We Love: With the option to switch between a tote or backpack, you get the best of both worlds.

What We Don’t Love: We wish it came in more colors than just black.

The ideal work bag should hold everything without feeling too heavy or becoming disorganized. The Caraa Studio Tote can do just that. “The Caraa tote is the best bag I’ve ever used for commuting. It fits everything I need — extra pair of shoes, lunch, water bottle — and if it gets too heavy, I convert it to a backpack,” says Shannon Bauer, Senior Commerce Editor at InStyle. “It’s also my go-to bag for travel when I need to bring my laptop along too.” Bauer chose a medium size, which can hold a 15-inch laptop. She notes that bulky lunch containers take extra finagling because the bag is on the narrow side. Luckily, there’s a larger size, which fits a 17-inch laptop. Both have seven different pockets and compartments to organize your belongings.

InStyle‘s former Senior Commerce Editor Chloe Anello recommends this bag, too. (Note: it was gifted to her a few years ago.) “I have a two-hour commute coming into the city, so I need something that can stand up to a lot of abuse on public transit. I’ve never used a more durable bag — I have yet to notice a major flaw after three years of constant use,” she says. She owns the nylon fabric bag, as does Bauer because it’s lightweight, waterproof, and easy to clean, but the bag comes in high-quality leather, too. You can even choose between gold or black hardware. We appreciate how wide the removable, leather backpack straps are. The wider the straps, the better they distribute weight, so they’re less likely to dig into your shoulders, according to Los Angeles-based stylist Joanna Angeles.

Material: Nylon or leather | Dimensions: 12″ H x 7.5″ W x 17.5″ L (medium) | Colors: 1

Best Leather

Madewell Transport Tote

Madewell The Zip-Top Medium Transport Tote


What We Love: Made from beautiful leather, this tote is surprisingly durable.

What We Don’t Love: Due to its soft construction, the bag won’t stand on its own.

For those who prefer leather, you can’t go wrong with Madewell’s Transport Tote. It’s made from pebbled leather, which better fends off scuffs and scratches than smooth leather, according to New York City-based stylist Beverly Osemwenkhae. A number of our editors have used this tote throughout college and can confirm it withstands lots of wear and tear from lugging my books around. While it may not be the largest tote out there, it’s still roomy enough to hold a 13-inch laptop, textbook, and other essentials. The compact size lends itself to more versatility — we’ve worn it off-duty, and it felt just like a regular purse.

The interior pocket keeps your keys and wallet secure while the slip pocket on the outside gives easy access to essential items, like a phone. The zipper at the top adds extra reassurance that nothing will fall out during a commute, and there are long shoulder straps for crossbody effect. Most importantly, however, we love the classic leather design — the black and mahogany shades also look luxe — and we’ve been pleasantly surprised with how functional the bag is, too.

Material: Leather | Dimensions: 12.75″ H x 5″ W x 11″ L | Colors: 5

Best Lightweight

MZ Wallace Deluxe Tote

MZ Wallace Medium Metro Deluxe Tote


What We Love: You can stuff this quilted bag to the brim without feeling weighed down.

What We Don’t Love: There’s no special compartment for your laptop.

While a sturdy, structured bag has its place, sometimes you need a design that is lightweight and packable — cue the MZ Wallace Metro Tote. This has been a bag we’ve been seeing all around the commuter trains in New York City. We asked around to see what all the fuss was about. Former InStyle writer Caitlyn Martyn describes the easy-to-clean nylon bag as Mary Poppins’ never-ending bag. “I really like how flexible the bag is. I’ve been able to stuff not only work items [into the bag] but a change of clothes and a makeup bag, glasses, sunglasses, water bottle, etc. too, and it somehow always fits,” Martyn says. Considering that it has five exterior pockets and six interior pockets, its capacity isn’t that surprising. It doesn’t have a dedicated space for your laptop, but a 13-inch laptop fits perfectly in the center. To prevent back pain, the nylon straps on this tote are padded on top of being wider than most. There’s also a detachable crossbody strap.

Material: REC Oxford | Dimensions: 12.7″ H x 9.4″ W x 11.6″ L | Colors: 18

Best Budget

Ecosusi Tote Bag

Ecosusi Laptop Tote Bag


What We Love: Despite the low price, this tote is sturdy, protects your electronics, and looks stylish.

What We Don’t Love: It doesn’t have any pockets on the outside.

After seeing a blogger Martina Damico post about this bag, we assumed for how expensive it looked, it would go way over budget. Turns out, you can buy it on Amazon for less than $60. The faux leather material, minimalistic design, and neutral shades look elegant. On the inside, you’ll find a padded sleeve in the center to keep a 15.6-inch laptop with additional pockets to hold your phone, keys, and other knick knacks usually rolling around in the bottom of your purse. And to prevent anything from spilling out, a magnetic clasp on the top keeps everything safe.

Reviewers appreciate that the tote stands up on its own thanks to the sturdy construction and flat bottom, which coincidentally makes it great for flights, too, because it can easily slide under the seat without falling over onto your feet. If you’ve ever had a bag with a dark or black interior, you’ll know that makes things harder to find, especially when digging around mid-flight, so thankfully this design has light-colored fabric on the inside. And as notorious over-packers ourselves, we know from experience that when our bag is especially stuffed, it’s uncomfortable to wear right under the armpit. With adjustable shoulder straps, you can simply increase the length for a more comfortable fit.

Material: Faux leather | Dimensions: 11.8″ H x 5.1″ W x 16.5″ L | Colors: 5

Best Splurge

Polène Cyme Bag

Polène Cyme Bag


What We Love: It comes with a removable small leather pouch.

What We Don’t Love: There are no slits or side pockets in the interior.

InStyle writer Bianca Kratky adores this tote bag like no other. Ever since the Polène team generously gifted it to her, she has been using it for work and travel and even as an extension of her outfit. The smooth leather, expertly crafted into an aesthetic basket-shaped tote, simply looks elegant no matter what it’s paired with — be it leggings and a hoodie for a flight or pantsuits and a blouse to the office. 

There aren’t any side pockets or slits in the interior of the bag, but it does come with a removable small leather pouch. Regardless, there is ample space inside, with the ability to fit a laptop, numerous notebooks, a cardigan, a makeup pouch, and other essentials. Two magnets sewn onto the sides of the bag also clip together, allowing you to invert the ends to create a different shape in the bag, if you tire the basket look — consider it a two-in-one bag. The two strap lengths allow you to throw it over your shoulder or hold it in your hands as well, again, making this a rather diverse work bag. 

Material: Calf leather | Dimensions: 12.6″ H x 20.5″ W x 4.1″ L | Colors: 8

Best Designer

Coach Rae Tote in Colorblock

Coach Rae Tote in Colorblock


What We Love: The suede interior not only feels luxurious, but protects your valuables from getting scratched.

What We Don’t Love: It’s a little heavy.

When Kratky visited the Coach store, this Rae tote stood out to us the most. It’s a luxurious bag made of glove-tanned leather with a smooth exterior and a suede interior. Every little detail, from the stitchings to the two leather straps to the removable pouch, oozed superior craftsmanship. The leather itself felt thick and sturdy, making us feel confident that it could hold a good amount of weight without combusting. While this does mean the bag itself is also slightly heavy, it’s nothing that would deter us from using it as a work bag. We’re certain that the stylish piece will remain a favorite for decades to come.

Material: Leather | Dimensions: 11.5″ H x 5.5″ W x 13.5″ L | Colors: 1

Best Professional

Cuyana System Tote

Cuyana System Tote


What We Love: You can customize this bag by adding pouches, laptop sleeves, and more.

What We Don’t Love: Each customization costs extra.

In need of a sleek, no-nonsense work bag? This Cuyana system tote offers a professional and elegant bag, ideal for the office. While the unassuming and minimalist bag looks nice from the outside, it truly stands out with its customization capabilities on the inside. The snaps on the interior allow you to add and remove accessories as needed, like pouches, straps, flap bags, laptop sleeves, and more. You can even add a monogram to the tote. Whatever your office and personal needs are, this tote will meet you with the corresponding accessory (for an additional fee, that is).

Material: Leather | Dimensions: 10″ H x 17.25″ W x 5″ L | Colors: 9

Best Briefcase

Bostanten Leather Briefcase

Bostanten Mizuki Modern-style Leather Briefcase


What We Love: There’s tons of organizational pockets in the interior and exterior.

What We Don’t Love: Laptops that are 15 inches and larger won’t fit.

If you’re crazy about compartments, then this Mizuki briefcase is going to sweep you off your feet. With two pockets on the exterior (big enough for an iPad) and pen slips, slip pockets, a laptop sleeve, and a zipped pocket on the interior, you can keep all your work items neatly organized in this bag. However, it should be noted that if you have a laptop larger than 15 inches, you might struggle to fit it in. Standard 13-inch laptops will find lots of comfort in the soft lining of the interior. The well-constructed bag is not just handy, but aesthetic as well, with a sleek leather material gracing the exterior. While traditional briefcases look to solely mean business, this one adds a touch of femininity to it.

Material: Leather | Dimensions: 11.42″ H x 5.12″ W x 16.14″ L | Colors: 6

Best Backpack

Dagne Dover Dakota Backpack

Dagne Dover Dakota Backpack

Saks Fifth Avenue

What We Love: You get all the functionality of a compact, durable backpack in a grown-up design.

What We Don’t Love: The fabric does show stains, but you can wash it.

We all know that backpacks are better for our shoulders, but we often can’t look past the bulkiness or childlike style. However, Dagne Dover has converted us with its Neoprene Backpack. Hawaii-based writer Nicol Natale swore off backpacks after college until she saw her aunt wearing the Dakota and decided to give it a chance. The neoprene fabric, which comes in stylish colors immediately impressed her because it cushions the straps and back, so it never feels too heavy. It’s also easy to clean — just wash it with warm water and detergent and it’ll look as good as new. Best of all, the neoprene is water-resistant. “I live on an island where we get a ton of rain,” says Natale. “Whether I’m caught on a hike or out running errands, the exterior absorbs the rain and my belongings stay dry inside.”

Despite its compact size, the Dakota holds all of Natale’s essentials she uses as a reiki and yoga instructor. There’s a laptop sleeve, shoe bag, and smaller pockets on the outside to hold your phone, headphones, and keys. “This is an adult backpack that compliments my outfits while still holding my things and feeling so comfortable to carry around. I use it every day and would buy it again and again,” adds Natale.

Material: Neoprene and air mesh, recycled repreve lining | Dimensions: 17″ H x 5″ W x 11.5″ L | Colors: 7

Best for Business Trips

Baggallini Weekender

Baggallini Fifth Avenue Weekender


What We Love: The luggage sleeve, pockets, and duffle shape make this your perfect plane companion.

What We Don’t Love: More functional than fashionable, this isn’t the sleekest bag out there.

We have the semi-problematic habit of overpacking and stuffing odd objects like a curling iron or an extra pair of heels into a second travel bag. We’ve found, however, that switching to this Fifth Avenue Weekend Bag (which was kindly provided by the brand) eliminated such tendencies thanks to its roomy compartments. On a recent business trip, we rolled in sets of business and cocktail-hour clothes and also fit in our 13-inch laptop, two bags of toiletries, a magazine, a book, chargers, and other random essentials, like hand cream and chapsticks. Flying with a laptop makes us nervous that one bout of turbulence could break it, so having a padded compartment for the device eased our worries.

The four pockets on the outside made it easy to store things we wanted on hand, like AirPods and a wallet. But not all the outer pockets have zippers, making it easy to slip phones in and out as we waded through the airport. There’s even a grommeted cord opening, so you can either plug your phone into the wall while it’s still in the bag or hide a portable charger in the pocket and charge your iPhone in its case on the outside. When filled to the brim, it of course did not feel weightless, but it sat securely on our suitcase using the luggage sleeve — it spent more time sitting on our carry-on than on our shoulders. When it came time to board, the duffle shape easily fit under the seat, standing upright, so nothing moved around.

On top of being great for the travel portions of a business trip, we’ve since worn the bag to the office, too, and not only fit a jacket inside but also stored an extra pair of shoes in the built-in compartment. In addition to the shoulder straps, there’s a detachable crossbody strap for when you want to be hands-free. While nylon looks a little utilitarian, it’s waterproof, lightweight, and durable. It doesn’t scuff or tear easily and you can wipe it clean with a damp cloth.

Material: Nylon | Dimensions: 12″ H x 6.5″ W x 17″ L | Colors: 3

Best Minimalist

Everlane Luxe Italian Leather Tote

 Everlane Luxe Italian Leather Tote


What We Love: It looks and feels luxurious without any gaudy branding.

What We Don’t Love: It doesn’t have a zipper on top to close and secure the bag.

We’ve seen the queen of quiet luxury and sleek fashion, Meghan Markle, carry around this bag through her travels, promptly convincing us to get one as well. Sure enough, ever since we got our hands on it we’ve been using it for work, business trips, and everyday outings all the same. The minimalist exterior makes it easy to style with absolutely any outfit, but we think it pairs extra well with business attire. That’s because the leather looks smooth and luxurious, complementing the business pants and button-downs as if they were made to go together. We didn’t find a whole lot of compartments in the interior, but the bag is spacious enough to carry our laptops, notebooks, and a few pens. Our wallets and an extra cardigan fit in seamlessly as well. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a zipper closure on top, which does make it feel less secure. However, considering we’re mostly just bringing it to and fro the office, it doesn’t bother us too much.

Material: Leather | Dimensions: 12.8″ H x 20.8″ W x 7″ L | Colors: 3

Best for Parents

Dagne Dover Indi Diaper Backpack

Dagne Dover Indi Neoprene Diaper Backpack


What We Love: This handy backpack doubles as a diaper bag and work bag.

What We Don’t Love: Some customers complain the side pockets aren’t large enough to hold a water bottle.

Whether you have a little one or not, a modern diaper bag like this design from Dagne Dover makes one incredible work bag. In fact, plus-size model and actress Kelsie Nick swears by the Indie Backpack. “I know a diaper bag isn’t the first thought when working or traveling, but it is so comfy and can fit anywhere,” says Nick. “All the compartments make it so easy to organize my things, from shoes to make-up brushes. My favorite part is the clip for a pacifier. I use it for my car keys.”

New parents love how you can clip the backpack to a stroller and that it comes with a mini changing mat. But when playtime is over and you need to head to work, the laptop sleeve keeps your 15-inch device safe. Made from the brand’s signature neoprene fabric, the material is water-resistant and easy to clean. Parenthood is expensive and time-consuming enough, so if there’s a backpack that can multitask between the office and playdates, we’re here for it.

Material: Neoprene and air mesh, recycled REPREVE lining | Dimensions: 13.75″ H x 6″ W x 12.25″ L | Colors: 6

Best Vegan Leather

Freja New York Paloma Tote

Freja New York Paloma Tote

Freja New York

What We Love: There are ample amounts of compartments and pockets for the organizers.

What We Don’t Love: The zipped middle compartment doesn’t close all the way.

If you’d prefer something that doesn’t scream “work bag” immediately, we recommend this vegan leather tote from AAPI-owned brand Freja. Considering the fine craftsmanship of this bag, you would never guess that the material is vegan leather — even the interior suede is made of vegan microsuede. The minimalist exterior is water and scratch-resistant, and the impressive interior packs an amplitude of perks. To begin, the tote is quite large in size, fitting a 16-inch laptop in any of the three compartments, one of which can be zipped closed. Although for some reason, you can’t close it all the way, leaving room for things to slip out. Despite the size, you never have to worry about losing your essentials, given the multitudes of pockets for your phone, pens, sunglasses, and more.

Material: Vegan ultrafiber leather | Dimensions: 18″ H x 11.5″ W x 6″ L | Colors: 5

Our Testing Process

To find the best work bags, we tapped style experts and InStyle editors to learn what they’re toting to the office in 2024. We surveyed each person on the brand and style of their favorite bags and had them elaborate on their durability, organizational capabilities, and ease of use. Some bags were submitted more than once, guaranteeing their spots on this list. Others offered unique features, like an extra strap or a removable pouch, which earned it its spot on this list as well.

What to Keep in Mind


Straps are the most important part of a bag, according to Angeles. As a stylist, she always totes around a lot of items, so she knows the importance of comfortable and strong straps. “Check to make sure the stitching of the straps look secure and that [they] don’t pull a lot at the seams holding the weight of the bag,” Angeles advises, adding, “Avoid thin handles and shoulder straps.” And if you still feel too much pressure on your shoulders, Angeles recommends a backpack that distributes weight more evenly. Several options on this list, including the Coach Rae Tote and the Polène Cyme Tote offer at least two straps or ways to carry the bag, be it via a handle or strap. But of course, if you want to skip the straps altogether, you can always opt for the Dagne Dover Dakota Neoprene Backpack.


A bag’s fabric can completely change its form and function. Angeles says nylon, found in the MZ Wallace Metro Deluxe Tote, is one of the most durable and lightweight materials, plus it’s fairly easy to clean. It tends to look more casual than leather, so if you prefer a more elevated bag, Osemwenkhae recommends splurging on a leather bag, like Markle’s favorite Everlane Tote. She suggests opting for pebbled leather, too, since it’s more durable and doesn’t show scuffs or scratches easily.


If you take a laptop or tablet to work, look for a bag with a laptop compartment to keep it secured. (We recommend the Freja Paloma Tote in this case.) Be sure to measure and double-check that your device will actually fit inside, especially while your bag is already filled with other stuff. Pockets on the outside, in addition to the inside, will be helpful for small items like keys, hair ties, and a phone. For an added level of security, seek out a zip-top or button closure to ensure nothing can get in or out when in a crowded space.

Your Questions, Answered

How do I extend the life of my bag?

To make your bag last, first things first: Don’t hang your bags, as it ultimately wears down the straps. Angeles recommends keeping them on a shelf, ideally in a dust bag with some sort of stuffing inside to maintain the shape, in a cool, dry, and dark place to avoid fading.

How do I clean a bag?

Before cleaning your bag, check the label for any specific instructions. Angeles says you can usually clean a nylon or faux leather bag with a warm, damp towel and mild detergent or soap. Follow up with another damp towel to wipe off the soap and be sure you dry the bag completely with a dry towel. Unfortunately, cleaning real leather can be tricky, so Angeles recommends taking it to the professionals.

Why Shop With Us

Commerce writer Bianca Kratky and former InStyle editor Emily Cieslak wrote this roundup. With the help of fashion stylist Joanna Angeles, fashion stylist Beverly Osemwenkhae, blogger Martina Damico, actress Kelsie Nick, and fellow InStyle writers and editors, they pinned down the best work bags to meet your everyday office needs.

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