When it comes to handbags, most women know what they want. Some reach for a bag that’s purely functional. Others prefer one that screams fashion. Many women mix the two. Perhaps the most important element when shopping for a bag is one that gets overlooked the most: a bag that flatters a woman’s body type. Like clothes, some handbags are more figure-flattering than others. The right size and shape can actually make a woman look taller if she’s short, and thinner if she’s heavy. Who among us doesn’t want that? The wrong bag can visually draw attention to what you don’t want accentuated. A short-handled shoulder bag can bring attention to an already large bust. Generally, the shape of a bag should contrast your body type. If you’re tall and thin, opt for a bag that’s slouchy or more rounded. Size matters, too — both yours and the bag. The size of the bag should be in proportion to your size. A woman who is 6 feet tall and a size 14 should pass on a tiny bag and reach for one with more substance. "Similar to a pair of shoes, a handbag can really bring together an outfit and flatter your overall physique,” said Kathy Cronin, vice president and merchandise manager at dressbarn. "You wouldn’t wear a dress that was too big for your frame, so why grab an oversized slouchy bag if you’re petite? And similar to knowing the best clothing styles to flatter your figure, it helps to be mindful of the best bag shapes for your body type to really bring your look together.” Lee Ann Looman, owner of The Webb in Norman, said the comment she hears most often is, "I’m not tall enough to carry a big bag.” While proportion is important, she doesn’t think it’s a rule that can’t be bent. "A big bag on a short girl can be darling,” she said. "I think it’s more about the shape. You don’t want the bag to look like it’s carrying you.” Instead of a supersize tote that would hold a week’s worth of clothes, a shorter woman might consider a larger, but elongated bag to give her more height. Time was when women just checked out a bag’s compartments and weighed two straps versus one. It’s important to take the stuffing out, put your own contents in and give any bag a test drive around the store or handbag department, Looman said. "A bag can look great on display but not on your arm.” And for every woman who has complained about all the oversize, supersize and suitcase-worthy handbags that have been hanging around for years, change is coming. Bags are getting smaller. Not tiny, but maybe a bit more manageable. So, how important is size when selecting a handbag? "You have to look at this question two ways: size in relation to your body proportions and size in relation to your needs,” Cronin said. "Put your needs first; this is very important. If you need a larger bag to serve as a workbag, for example, then absolutely go larger. You can then opt for designs and structures that best complement your figure. Think about the purpose of the bag you are looking to purchase and imagine the items you are going to fill it with. Think about things such as organizational features and if you need a secure closer at top.” While shape and size are important, don’t drive yourself too crazy. "Sometimes you just need a big bag,” Cronin said.
I think it’s more about the shape. You don’t want the bag to look like it’s carrying you.”
Lee Ann Looman
owner of The Webb
owner of The Webb