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Handbag Glossary & Guide

Backpack: A handbag designed to be carried on the back. This type of handbag is a standard handbag size and made to carry the necessities most women require. Backpack styles are constructed of any of the traditional materials other handbags are commonly made of. (Also called a “knapsack.”)

Baguette: A small handbag with a long narrow shape like the French bread loaf – baguette.

Barrel: A handbag with a long cylinder shape that resembles a barrel.

Beaded: A handbag that is decorated with beads and/or sequins. Both casual handbags and evening bags can be decorated beadwork. Commonly, the beads are round and tiny, and are made of plastic or glass made to look metallic, or like pearls. Evening bags are often decorated with beads throughout the whole exterior surface.

Belt bag: A purse that hangs around your waist, like a belt. The bag of a belt bag may or may not be detachable. (Also called a “fanny pack” or “convertible.”)

Box Bag: A small to medium size handbag with hard sides with a box like shape.

Bracelet Handle: A handle made in the shape of a closed circle, like the circular shape of a bracelet.

Briefcase: A small case with hard sides that is carried by hand that holds papers, books, or other materials for business or school.

Bucket: A type of soft-sided handbag shaped like a bucket with a round bottom, and is longer in height than width.

Clutch: A handbag without straps or handles that and is carried in the hand or tucked under the arm.

Computer bag: A purse – usually a tote or shoulder bag – specially designed to carry a laptop and its accessories. (Also called a “shoulder bag” or “tote.”)

Convertible: A bag that can be converted from one function or shape to another. For example, some belt bags have detachable bags, so that the bag may be carried alone as a clutch. (Also called a “belt bag.”)

Cosmetic: A small piece of luggage, designed to carry cosmetics when traveling.

Demi: A small handbag with a carrying handle at the top which is designed to be carried in the hand or on the shoulder.

Drawstring: A thin strip of fabric, leather, cord, or string that is woven through eyelets and when pulled it gathers together the top of a handbag or compartment in order to close it.

Duffel: A large bag with a cylindrical shape. Duffle bags are typically used to carry athletic equipment or as casual luggage.

Dust Cover: Cloth bags with a drawstring made to store and protect a handbag when not in use. Many high fashion handbags come with dust cover when purchased and have the designer’s name or logo printed on the outside of the bag.

East West: This term describes a handbag shape which is longer in width than in height. (Also called “North-west”)

Envelope: Flat, square, or rectangular bag with a top flap. It may be any size and may be a clutch, a shoulder bag, or a bag with short handles.

Evening: A bag designed to be carried during the evening to formal dress events.

Fanny Pack: A bag for carrying small items with a strap that fastens around the waist. (Also called a “belt bag” or “convertible.”)

Flap Bag: A handbag that has a fold-over flap as its main feature. (Also called a “fold over flap.”)

Frame: A handbag with strong, inflexible structure. Frame handbags were popular during the 1950’s.

Garment Bag: A type of luggage designed to store and carry on a hanger garments such as business suits or other types of clothing that are not meant to be folded, and can be immediately hung in a closet when the traveler arrives to their destination.

Half Moon Bag: Any bag shaped like a half moon with or without a handle; may be any size.

Hobo: A slouchy, crescent-shaped bag. Hobos are usually also shoulder bags.

Messenger bag: A unisex shoulder bag designed to be worn across the shoulders. Messenger bags are usually made of cloth and, while a now a fashion accessory, designed to have the functionality of a back-pack.

Minaudiere: An evening clutch purse with a hard case. Minaudieres are usually covered in Swarovski crystals. See also “clutch” and “evening.”

Muff: A handbag designed to keep hands warm. Muffs are usually cylinder in shape and covered in fur. (Also called “cylinder.”)

Muff: Winter bag, usually made of fur, wool or velvet that has zippered compartments inside the opening for hands.

North/South: A bag that is taller than it is wide.

Pouchette: A small handbag with oval shape.

Pouch: Gathered or straight bag with a top closure usually a frame. It may be large, small, clutch, shoulder, short handled, sporty or dressy.

Purse: A small bag for carrying money and/or other small necessities.

Safari: Soft leather bag with curved shape, a top zipper, two top strap handles and two outside pockets with flaps and buckles.

Satchel: A bag with a wide, flat bottom, zippered or clasped top, two handles or straps.

Shopper: A bag designed as a carryall for shopping.

Shoulder: A bag designed to be worn hanging from your shoulders.

Sling: A soft sided shoulder bag that has one end of the shoulder strap attached to the top of the bag, and the other end attached to the bottom of the bag.

Top handle: A handle that is attached to the top of a bag and designed to be carried in your hands.

Top zip: A bag with a top opening that can be zipped closed.

Tote: A bag designed as a carryall. Totes are usually sturdy and rectangular in shape, with shoulder straps and a wide top opening. Totes are similar to shoppers.

Valise: A medium handbag that closes at the top, has two top carrying handles, and has a triangular or oval side profile.

Wristlet: A clutch with a bracelet-like strap so that the bag can be carried hanging from your wrist.

Zipper Top: A handbag, a compartment, or a side pocket, that closes at the top with a zipper.

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