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Types of Bags for Every Occasion [A to Z Guide for the Bags YOU need]

We love bags – not just because they are so useful but for their aesthetic beauty! What would we do without our overnight bag for that quick weekend away, the book bag, the divine little clutch for a ritzy evening, the grocery tote to get the shopping done, or the beach bag? I could go on forever.

China was the leading exporter of travel goods and handbags in 2021 with an export value of around 28 billion US dollars, and France ranked second with an export market of 10.52 billion US. But whose bags do people covet – an exquisitely finished designer bag from the likes of Chanel, Dior, Hermes, Longchamp, Louis Vuitton or Lancaster, or a knockoff from China? And whose bags last longer – the quality ones of course. In the interests of saving the planet we want quality bags that will last and not have fake leather flaking off after a season, or the handles snapping when you load a tote. Whether you are buying a bag or making your own (here’s a extensive list of bag sewing patterns), go for the best quality sustainably sourced materials and findings.

We have compiled a list of all the types of bag styles (in alphabetical order), to help you decide on the bags you may want to make or buy.

Back pack

From school bags, carry-on-luggage, to trail bags, and even fashion bags the back pack is one of the most useful bags because it leaves you hands free, with plenty of pockets and zips to store your essentials where you can find them without having to rummage through a large interior. Of course the interior of the back pack is large enough for a sweater or light jackets should the weather change too. Many backpack patterns now come with a laptop compartment and some even have wheels and a pull up handle to make is easier when going through endless airport corridors. Smaller fashion backpacks are made in quality leather for shopping sprees.

Baguette bag

No it is not for carrying baguettes! The bag seems to have got its name from the way the French carry their daily bread in a tote with adjustable handles so the baguette kind of pokes out from behind the shoulder. But there the similarity ends. Thе modern baguette handbag was made to sit comfortably under the arm, with its small adjustable shoulder strap, so you could venture out with a neat, classy, and upmarket little handbag for your essentials. Baguettes will definitely not fit in this classy little number.

Barrel Bag

These bags are quite roomy and as the name implies are a barrel shape with circular ends. They have two short handles for carrying, or can come with an added longer sling strap for carrying over the shoulder. The barrel bag is quite structured and more rigid than a duffel bag which can be stuffed with all sorts of clothing and sports equipment. It is favoured as an overnight bag.

Basket bag

basket bag

It’s not the shape, but the basket weave that gives this bag its name. Whether made from raffia or straw they are a summertime staple. The bag usually doesn’t come with a gusset but is roomy enough and has short handles that can be slung over the shoulder – ideal to take on a picnic,  a summer shopping spree or around the craft markets.

Beach Bag

diy transformable picnic bag

Usually made from canvas with sturdy rope handles and a couple of inner pockets to secure important items like a cell phone, cash, keys and sunscreen, the beach bag has plenty of room for towels and a bikini cover-up for after the beach when you want to enjoy a long cold drink at a beach bar. And if you’re a mum, have a bag large enough to cart back those toys the kids insist on taking but are too tired to carry back from the beach! Just look at this 2 in one picnic or beach bag – isn’t it lovely?

Book bag

Some book bags have handles that are attached but the design I like best is where the handles comes right into the bottom of the panels for the front and back of the bag in one continuous piece of material.  This ensures that if you’re carrying a few heavy books the handle can’t break off because it’s an integral part of the bag. College students can’t exist without their book bags, and young mums need them for toting those kiddies books to and from the library. Actually, whenever you need a notebook, artist’s sketch book and pencils or anything to do with paperwork carried around the book bag is your go-to bag.

Bowling Bag

Not just for bowlers, the bowling bag with its iconic shape has been reinvented by fashion houses to suit modern needs. With its classic flat bottom and semi-circular shape, with short top handles it comes with enough zips and inside pockets to hold your essentials in an organized way. Dior, Prada and Louis Vuitton are among the top brands who are producing these fashionable bags.

Bucket bag

From the side the bag look a bit like a bucket – it has a flat bottom and the sides angle outwards from the base. The smaller ones are cute for evenings out and the larger ones make great workbags as you can fit in a laptop and all your work essentials. The straps enable you to carry the bucket bag either it over the arm or slung over the shoulder. Kate Spade bucket bags are very covetable.

Carpet bag

Carpet bags were popular in the 19th century for travellers. Often made from oriental carpets they had a strong upper frame and short sturdy handles. If you have watched the Mary Poppins movie you will have seen her carpet bag. They were used for travelling and weekends away.

Cell-phone bag

diy cell phone purse

We can’t go anywhere without our phones – so the leather purse that just fits your phone and the various cards you need is ideal for a quick hop into the shops unencumbered with any other bag. some cell phone bags come with straps that enable you to hang them around your neck, or long enough to be worn cross-body. Personally I prefer the clutch type leather cell-phone bags.

How to make a crossbody cell-phone bag


DIY clutch purse

The clutch is elegance personified, and just what you need for a dinner date or a trip to the movies. Small evening clutch bags like this Easy DIY clutch purse are often made in quality fabrics like satin and are often sequinned and bedazzled. Just big enough for a cell-phone, a credit card and a touch up lipstick, they hold the essentials. Here’s another quick and easy one you can DIY

Dingle bag

This convertible bag looks like a square satchel that can be carried by the short handle at the top or it can be converted to a slimline backpack that leaves you hands free once the straps are in place. It’s a useful type of bag if you need to carry stuff for work but also need to drop off the kids at day care first, when you need both hands free to escort them across traffic and give them a hug before heading off for the office.

Drawstring bag

The drawstring bag is a small fashionable one with a circular base and tubular column attached that draws closed with a string inserted through the top seam. They were often used as small evening bags in a bygone era, and made of velvet or satin. They are now used as dice bags (here’s a free pattern) or are upsized and incredibly useful as beach bags, as they are often made in waterproof fabric so after a swim the wet items and snorkelling equipment can be dumped in the drawstring bag and there is no need to worry about the dampness ruining car upholstery or your dry clothing as you tote the drawstring bag, with its longer sling strap over the shoulder. They are also useful for shopping when you have numerous small items to stuff inside.

Duffle bag

duffle bag

The duffle bag (duffel bag if you’re American) is usually made from canvas or nylon, but can also be made in leather. Their soft construction means they can be stuffed with everything and used either as a checked-in travel bag or a carry-on bag (if within the dimensions that airlines impose). They are also good for weekends away as they come with various compartments for storing the valuable stuff you need to get at in a hurry, like your wallet and passport. Originally made with a drawstring closure they now feature a zippered closing that makes is really easy to see what is inside the bag. The bag gets its name from the town of Duffle in Belgium where they were first made in the mid-17th century from a woollen fabric produced in the town. Sailors used the bags to keep their belongings safe on sea voyages.

Envelope bag

This bag was first popular in the 1940s and was made in the shape of an envelope with a triangular flap that closed with a magnetic snap. They were popular in smaller versions as a clutch type bag for evening, or with a long thin chain to wear on the shoulder. The larger versions could handle documents and personal essentials and are great for working girls. Best in neutral colors and in top quality materials the envelope bag is super classy.

Festival/Boho bag

boho bag

Characterized by beads and tassels, and often made in denim with appliques or leather patchwork, festival bags reflect the Bohemian style of the owner.

The boho bags like this one are individual and are often handmade by craftspeople who are tuned in to the festival ethos. Usually quite small for carrying only the essentials the festival bag is a statement piece.

Gym bag

This is usually a barrel type bag that opens up wide to be able to fit in bulkier items like a towel. They usually have a wet compartment for the sweaty clothes after a session, or swimwear after using the pool. They are roomy enough to take your work clothes, have a compartment for your toiletries and space for a change of shoes.

Hobo bag

how to sew hobo bag

Characterized by its soft slouchy shape, the hobo bag is undergoing a style renaissance in quality fabric or leather. The bag is not structured and tends to have something of a banana shape with a zip top closure. Inside you will usually find two (zippered) compartments. Hobo bags expand the more you put in them. Unlike structured bags that retain their shape whether empty or full, the hobo bag takes up little room when it is empty.

Laptop Bag

DIY laptop sleeve or macbook sleeve

As we rely more on our laptops, not just for daily and remote work, we also tend to carry them with us on weekends away and on holiday. The essentials of a laptop bag are that it is padded to protect the laptop, contains space for the charging cord and mouse, USB stick and maybe a flattish pouch for important documents. Laptop bags are usually carried on the shoulder, or cross body, with an adjustable sling strap.HEre’s an easy laptop sleeve you can make

Messenger Bag

Not just for messengers, this bag is popular with both men and women for work or leisure. It has a flap over closing, making it difficult to lose stuff if the bag is not clipped or buckled. With its cross body sling strap it is easy to use when riding a bicycle or sightseeing and is currently very fashionable.

Sling bag

The sling bag is usually quite small and it ideal for taking on public transport as you can wear it cross body leaving your hands free to get onto trams, trains or buses. With its long adjustable strap it can be worn in a carefree way across the shoulder and suits most outfits. They are elegant, and designer sling bags tend to be coveted items.

Shopping type bags

muti pocket canvas tote bag

The shopper bags usually has sturdy handles that come way down the sides of the bag and are double stitched to make sure they don’t come adrift from the main bag when you have a heavy shopping load. Often made of canvas they come with bright prints and can either have a gusset for extra roominess or just be a flat shape. They tend to be fairly large so you can get everything in on a shopping trip.

Some even have multiple pockets where you can fit jars, bread or milk without risking them – like the pictured multi pocket canvas tote bag

Other grocery bags have one large compartment and are relatively lightweight, so you can just fold it and fit in your purse.

Satchel type

The satchel bag can either be carried with the short handle at the top. Like the messenger bag they have a flap over that closes with a buckle, but the flap over doesn’t usually extend as far down the body of the bag as the messenger bag type flap. The satchel bags also come with a long sling strap that can be adjusted to be worn cross body or as a normal sling bag. Satchel bags are structured so you can carry important documents and also have inside compartments for other essentials.

Tote bags

These replace the single use shopping bags – so make sure you have plenty if you are concerned about the amount of plastics we are using. Usually they are made from cotton or and wrap up small. I usually carry one inside my handbag so if I have an unplanned shop for a couple of items I can whip out a tote instead of buying a plastic bag, or a paper bag whose handles usually come adrift from the bag before you have even got home with the groceries! Totes are also designer styled and come in leather and various other materials, often with a zippered closure – the main feature is that they are roomy and will fit in plenty, whether it is groceries, or the loot of  clothing and fashion items from a trip to the mall.

Weekender bag

weekender bag

When you want to go away for a weekend but don’t fancy lugging a proper suitcase along with you the soft weekender bag, whether a barrel or bucket shape is large and roomy enough to accommodate a couple of changes of clothes, toiletries and whatever else you need for the weekend.  The zippered compartments inside keep valuables safe. Because they can get a bit heavy weekender bags often have fleece-lined handles for comfort and are made from a sturdy and waterproof fabric.


I hope you liked this guide to all types of bags. Probably there were a few you’ve never seen and a few you even want to sew for yourself. Tell me which is your favorite type of bag and why!

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