How To: Pick the Perfect Summer Tote

How To: Pick the Perfect Summer Tote

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After the warm reception and enthusiastic comments about the How to Pick a Handbag post in May, I realized I couldn’t stop at just the everyday bag. In fact, I may have to create a series of posts for the wht readers. Which leads to the big question…What bag do we explore next?

I decided since summer is pretty much here and the days keep getting warmer, I should talk about the perfect summer tote. With three months of sunshine ahead, you’ll want something to take to the beach, lake or pool, on picnics, to the farmer’s market and for casual overnight trips.

When I’m looking for a tote bag, there are three key items I keep in mind:

The tote must be cute, colorful and stylish, while matching my style. (You’ll be getting a lot of use from this bag and carrying it with many different outfits, so don’t stray too far from your norm.)

The perfect tote will have lots and lots of room inside – enough to carry all of summer’s necessities. Bonus points can be awarded for a roomy pocket or two (interior or exterior – I’m not picky).

The tote must be durable, and preferably washable (if the bag is super cute and can clean up nicely with a damp cloth, it’s still a maybe). Nothing drives me crazier than a bag that still has sand in the bottom of it in November or gets dingy looking before the 4th of July. I need something that will wear well and still look chic whether I’m on the beach or on the go.

Ready to see a few of my picks for the Perfect Summer Tote?

If you’re a traditionalist, I always suggest the Land’s End Canvas Tote Bag (top image, at left), this bag is like the original gangster of tote bags. Every tote on the market today owes a debt of gratitude to this classic.

Known by its archetypal boxy canvas shape and contrasting straps, the Land’s End tote comes in a variety of sizes (medium size starts at $32.50) and colors. I was given one as a gift years ago and have loved how sturdy and durable the canvas is. I suggest going with the extra-large (and monogramming, if that’s your thing) and you’ll have a bag that can carry it all.

Right this very moment, if I was in the market for a new summer bag I would pick up a shopping tote bag like the one at left from Fabric and Handle.

I think the adjustable straps on these shopping totes are perfection – because don’t you hate when you’re short and the handles are too long? Or sometimes you want a short handled bag to carry in your hands and at other times you want to toss it over your shoulder.

Plus, I love the range of fabrics these bags come in. The variety means I can find something to fit my personality and I love to have options. My choice would be a cotton fabric bag (the removeable straps means it’s machine washable!) in a deep purple print called the Valiant Tote ($39). What’s your favorite?

If you are fashionista, might I suggest the Thursday Friday Together (right) tote bag? I gave my best friend one of these bags for Christmas and she has carried it everywhere she goes. Seriously, everywhere. And she get tons of compliments along her way!

This one is a chic update on the traditional canvas tote, while it pokes a little fun at a certain “it” bag that no one can get their hands on (or afford). Ironically, the Thursday Friday Together Tote has become so popular that it even has a waiting list! Which makes me regret not buying one for myself when I ordered my girlfriend’s bag last December.

But if you order now, you can get your hands on your very own when Thursday Friday begins shipping in July! That’s over half the summer to carry this fun tote everywhere you go. The Together Totes ($45) are available in three “bag” colors – Red, Blue or Camel.

Finally, Stef and Tyna just had to chime in with two tote suggestions of their own, the Saltbox Plaid Gazebo Bag (top image, right) in Magnolia ($55) as spied at eBags (stay tuned for more Saltbox goodness this week!) and for the eco-chic, the Partially Recycled Canvas Tote Bag from Get Hip Get Green ($29.95).

So that’s what I think about when looking for a traditional summer tote bag, something to take me from the beach to brunch and still keep me looking good. What do you carry for your summer tote?

DWJ is an accessories and beauty blogger for The Art of Accessories and is also sharing her love of cooking on Crumbs & Creativity.

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8 thoughts on “How To: Pick the Perfect Summer Tote”

  1. The waiting list for the oh-so-slightly hermesesque tote IS ironic, funny! It seems you’re stuck with a waiting list either way.

    Great article, as usual, I liked the Fabric And Handel tote the most- versatile. Btw, my perfect tote is a Marc Jacobs little tie-dye tote I picked up last year…. for $20. Yeah, $20! In some of his stores there’s a line of cheap stuff that’s like $3-$20, called Jacobs By Marc By Marc Jacobs, lol. I donno if they still have those cheap little items at the stores or not, but they were great.

    1. I agree @sosoniki – the Fabric and Handel tote is my fav too! They’ve got it in a black denim fabric that is REALLY tempting me right now.

      Although, my Land’s End tote probably gets used more that any tote in my collections. @dwj1 – you got it right, they are the original G! Mine’s canvas with pink trim, extra large. Love it.

      But I gotta differ on the Thursday Friday Together bag. That’s one wagon I”m not getting on. I’m holding out for my first million and a real Birkin!

  2. Ha! I love it….I think that needs to be Land’s End new tagline: “Land’s End – The OG of Totes.”

    I’m also loving these picks, especially the Saltbox one, thanks @dwj1!

    I’d also like to chime in with a tip; don’t look for just “totes” when checking out a store or website. A lot of designers have amazing diaper bags that don’t look at ALL like they’re for baby. And they can’t be beat for durability and clean-up most of the time.
    I have a favorite Kate Spade diaper bag that looks great. And the diaper pad that come with it comes in handy for protecting my mini-laptop or wrapping up a sweaty bottle of water that I don’t feel like carrying.

  3. I am the Girl of 100 Tote Bags. Just when I think I’ve found the perfect one, I find another that is somehow even MORE perfect. But I think your wonderful post is going to help me break this vicious tote bag cycle once and for all, @@dwj1 !

    I read that Hermes was suing over the Thursday Friday Together tote, so I hope they really can ship in July. I want one!

  4. I’m crushing on the Fabric and Handle bag – I would LURVE a bag with adjustable straps! Currently, I’m rocking the tote that I got free at Old Navy when I went for one of their stuff-a-bag sales!

    Also, I think that travel bags should be explored at some point! :-)

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