July 15, 2024


The Fashion Inside

The Best Top-Handle Bags Will Become Your Staple Accessory

5 min read

Indeed there is merit to a hands-free bag like a crossbody silhouette or fanny pack. But despite the chatter surrounding this utilitarian accessory detail, there’s something to be said about a good old-fashioned handbag carried with—drumroll—your hands. The best top-handle bags span several categories, from petite party purses and charming bucket pails to structured shapes and elegant satchels. The common thread of an upright handle makes the art of carrying your handbag feel intentional and perhaps a bit more fun?

This season, you can expect some standout options in the category. On the summery side of the spectrum, there are woven straw bags crafted with top handles from the likes of Dragon Diffusion and Bembien (the latter being inspired by coastal France). There’s also a crop of artisanal design details making their way forward, with beading, ruching, and macramé, like the crafty pieces spotted on Chloé’s spring 2022 runway. You’ll also have your pick of refreshed classics that check off the “polished style” box quite nicely. Ahead, 48 options to kick start your search.

Table of Contents

The Envelope

A structured envelope purse is the bedrock of polished, professional style. Head back into the office with a top-handle bag designed with this elegant closure—bonus points if it has a hint of sleek hardware.

Valextra Iside medium bag in powder

Mark Cross Madeline Lady bag

Gucci Ophidia small top-handle bag with web

Saint Laurent Cassandra mini croc-effect leather tote

Is there anything better suited for the summer picnic than a bucket bag designed in a round lunch-pail shape? With its built-in top handle, a stroll through the park—arms swinging—feels in order.

Cesta Collective full breton lunchpail

Chloé Louela blanket-stitched leather bucket bag

Longchamp Épure bucket bag

Salvatore Ferragamo leather cage bucket bag

The Croc Effect

The clever ingenuity of croc-embossed leather translates to the top-handle silhouette with some of the season’s most charming handbag releases. Reach for brightly-hued versions for a fête-ready staple, or pick a neutral for a pared-back look.

Balenciaga Hourglass XS croc-embossed top-handle bag

Anima Iris mini Zaria croc embossed metallic leather handbag

By Far croc-effect top-handle tote

JW Pei women’s Fae top-handle crossbody

The Pastel

Bold brights can be a good time, but there’s something intrinsically romantic about a powdery pastel. Test drive these desaturated hues with a whimsical handbag crafted in the top-handle silhouette.

Acne Studios large Alexandria leather top-handle bag

Marge Sherwood green Bami top-handle bag

Boyy Karl 19 mini buckled leather tote

The Asymmetric

An asymmetric handbag is the accessory equivalent of a contemporary sculpture. With its artful lines and unique design, this top-handle bag is the kind of piece that tends to start a conversation.

Little Liffner croc-effect leather tote

Acne Studios Algol Distortion leather top-handle bag

Destree Albert small quilted yellow bag

When it comes to the chain bag, a dainty top-handle detail can balance the boldness of chunky hardware. Go for this option if your wardrobe could use more texture.

Manu Atelier mini Kesme soft leather shoulder bag

Stand Studio Diya leather cross-body bag

JW Anderson chain mini leather tote bag

The Woven

Straw bags are the perfect gateway to warmer weather, and because this woven texture works so beautifully with a petite top-handle shape, you’ll be spoilt for choice with the category.

Miu Miu Midollino leather-trimmed shoulder bag

Dragon Diffusion Grace small woven-leather basket bag

The Bamboo

Bamboo handles give off a resort vibe even if you’re not in proximity to a beach, which is reason enough to invest in a top-handle bag with this tropical material. Carry with a linen suit or a floral midi dress; it’s a versatile pick.

Caterina Bertini natural bamboo handle bag

Jil Sander bamboo-handle leather handbag

Loewe bamboo bucket bag in calfskin

Gucci bamboo 1947 small top-handle bag

The Arts & Crafts

Beading, crochet, and other crafty materials are an easy way to add some personality to your accessory collection. Reach for a top-handle bag with an artisanal, handcrafted quality this season.

La Milanesa crochet floral-pattern tote

Chloé Edith small striped recycled-cashmere handbag

Merlette Lune mini braided bag in azure

The Scrunchie

Ruched fabrics that resemble the beloved scrunchie feel like fodder for the nostalgic type. Hint at early aughts fashion with a top-handle bag that embraces this design detail.

Cecilie Bahnsen green Fallulah top-handle bag

Alexander Wang scrunchie small bag

Frame Le Scrunch mini ruched top-handle bag

JW Pei Cora top-handle bag

The Suede

Suede cut in a ’70s-inspired color palette of camel and burnt orange is the perfect accompaniment to other trends of the season, like prairie dresses and crochet separates.

Brandon Maxwell the Maxwell suede bag

Khaite Beatrice small knotted suede tote

Coperni swipe baguette suede top-handle bag

Jacquemus Le Chiquito suede leather top-handle bag

While the backpack is traditionally worn on—you guessed it—your back, some designers have also incorporated a top handle to give this modern staple a versatile update.

Prada Re-Nylon and leather backpack

Mansur Gavriel Soft Lady bag

Salvatore Ferragamo monogram-logo backpack

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