By Bethany Ball, Momstrology Style Editor
As a mom, let’s assume one thing: You are carrying everyone else’s junk. And thus, you need a practical bag—but you still want it to look good.
As a new mom 11 years ago, I was certain some mommy police watched everything I did. If I didn’t carry a real, honest-to-goodness mommy-sanctioned diaper bag, then they would swoop down and, I don’t know what—judge me? At the same time, I wanted to have a little style and just as importantly, for the bag to be comfortable—either cross-body so my hands were free or with a large enough handle that it fit over my arm.
Before kids, my bags-of-choice were big enough to carry a trade paperback novel and later, a lightweight laptop. But with kids, I needed something bigger and more practical (remember: junk). There’s nothing that feels more amateur than running around with kids carrying a small bag, even after you’re done with bottles and diapers. Those women who say they carry Hermes Birkin bags that weigh about the same as a VW Bug? They have drivers.
The diaper bag I coveted when my son was born was the Kate Spade diaper bag. Huge and boxy, it held absolutely everything. It was a little like a suitcase. But if I wanted also to carry a purse, that was totally impractical. Therein lies a dilemma: You buy a nice diaper bag, possibly spend a bundle on it, and then realize you’re stuck carrying the same bag day after day. It is your purse.
Six years later when my daughter was born, I realized I didn’t have to carry a diaper bag at all (Pffft to the mommy police, once I had a second child!). All I needed was a bag big enough to carry the essentials: changing pad, diapers, wipes, bottle, snacks, maybe a light sweater, and whatever paraphernalia my then five-year-old insisted I carry for him. In other words, the bag still needed to be sizeable but it did not to be a bona fide “diaper bag.”
To spare you from going through my Virgo-esque process, here are non-“momcore” bags for every budget, starting off with my current favorite. All of these bags offer function without sacrificing style.
Moms itching to splurge:
The Clare Vivier Overnighter Bag
Capricorn mom Clare Vivier is an American designer who married into her French name. Vivier’s designs are simple, casual and very LA (in other words, elegant but still laid back). She splits her time between LA and Paris (mais bien sur!). Her bags are coveted, but not logoed, and for a fee, you can have your initials embossed. They’re made of lightweight but durable leather, which I love. It’s a real drag when a bag is heavy before it’s even full (I’ve learned my lesson).
The Overnighter’s handle drop allows enough room to wear it on your shoulder, even with a bulky winter coat. You can stuff it full—its generous dimensions mean it is ready to pack up all the traveling detritus with young kids: coats, gadgets, books and water bottles. I bought it in camel to go with everything, but I love it also in navy and red.
I love, too, that the bags are hand-sewn in California and sold in Vivier’s flagship Silver Lake shop, a place I’ve never actually visited, but always hope one day I’ll live. Another store, Clare V, has opened in New York City’s chic NoLiTa nabe.
Moms who want to look good but not blow bank:
Madewell’s Transport Tote
A less expensive but equally fashion-meets-functional option is Madewell’s Transport tote. It’s slightly smaller and heavier than the Vivier bag (and not made in the U.S.) but it is roomy enough for all your mom essentials and more. This tote also can be personalized for an extra fee. Made of leather, it’s built to last from first kid to second…or beyond. It also has a generous handle drop for wearing over the shoulder.
Moms who are fashion-forward but on a budget:
Target’s Limited-Edition Tote
Target has some of the best accessories out there at affordable prices. This limited-edition tote handbag is a nice take on the far more expensive Celine Trapeze bag. Affordable and cute, this lightweight tote is made of faux leather (which means technically, it’s vegan!). It may not last as long as the more expensive bags, but at such a low price, you can feel less guilty about replacing it with next season’s cute bag. It’s only available online.
See our Pinterest board of stylish mom bags for every sign!
Top image via WeHeartIt.