I’m a Writer in Paris, and These Are the 12 Bag Styles that French Girls Are Carrying Into Summer — From $19

I’m a Writer in Paris, and These Are the 12 Bag Styles that French Girls Are Carrying Into Summer — From $19

In Paris, as weekends are planned around cafe terrasses and parks where we can soak up the most sun, French fashion is also shifting with the season. We’re slowly packing away puffer coats and wool winter jackets in favor of lightweight denim and linen blazers, with silk scarves tied expertly in place. Besides being able to wear dresses without tights, in spring I also love people-watching and seeing signs of what’s to come for summer — especially when it comes to bags. 

While catching up with friends for coffee at one of my go-tos like Partisan near Le Marais, I’ve noticed that even though temperatures are still in the 50s, everyone is dressing for the weather we want. Girls are wearing matching shorts-and-blazer sets with camel-colored crossbody purses or canvas bucket bags that could double as a beach tote (but for now carry a book to read in Parc des Buttes-Chaumont). In a city like Paris, where fashion and functionality so effortlessly come together, choosing a bag is similar to figuring out footwear for the day.

This summer, Parisians are trading out totes and fanny packs in favor of sleek slings, vintage-inspired shoulder bags, and crossbody phone purses that are pickpocket-proof yet still look chic. From splurge-worthy leather bags at Madewell to vibrant top-handle clutches at Amazon for less than $20, these 12 styles are all you need to get into the spirit of summer in France, whether you’re visiting Paris during the Olympics or plan to bask at beach clubs on the Riviera. 

Everlane The Studio Bag

Everlane


Similar to New York, Paris is a city where you often spend the entire day running around and don’t have the chance to make it back to your Airbnb or hotel to freshen up before the next meal or museum visit. Cotton tote bags (especially these illustrated ones from legendary bookshop Shakespeare and Company) have become as essential as an umbrella or sunglasses. A more structured alternative that will hold everything you need for the day yet still looks elegant for a nice dinner, Everlane’s The Studio Bag is the ideal compromise. 

Roomy enough for a 13-inch laptop, the cognac-colored leather purse snaps closed and has an adjustable shoulder strap, so it can fit snugly by your side. “I’ve been carrying this bag every day for a few weeks. It is a great size — holds everything without looking giant,” raves one shopper. “The quality of the leather is excellent, and, so far, I haven’t seen any sign of it breaking down. The strap is wide enough that it never digs into my shoulder, despite carrying multiple books and a laptop.” I couldn’t imagine higher praise for a purse.

Bostanten Vegan Leather Crossbody Phone Bag

Amazon


A super savvy take on a phone purse, this compact crossbody conveniently holds everything you’ll need on a trip to Paris in its cleverly designed pockets. The front phone space is disguised under the magnetic snap and can fit larger models like the iPhone Pro, while the main double pockets zip shut and one side has four built-in card slots. 

Great for cycling around town and practically pickpocket-proof for the train or métro, this is one affordable crossbody that looks chic (you can hardly tell it’s vegan leather!) yet is one of the most practical travel purses I’ve seen in a while. More than 5,000 reviewers are also fans: “I purchased this for a Caribbean cruise vacation, and I fit three passports, credit cards, a driver’s license, hotel keycard, car keys, a ship sea pass, and still had room for lipstick, a folded excursion map, receipts, and other essentials,” raved one shopper. “It can be used as a crossbody bag or on the shoulder, or you could also remove the strap and use it as a clutch. I might buy another in a different color.”

Madewell The Sling Crossbody

Madewell


For a while, sling bags were replaced by fanny packs that are easier to adjust and pin across your chest while cycling or strolling through town. However, Bottega Veneta’s slouchy woven handbags reintroduced the look in a more stylish fashion, and this more functional version from Madewell allows the sling to shift from a shoulder bag to a crossbody. 

The adjustable strap offers more than enough support when worn across your body for a day of sightseeing or biking through vineyards in Provence. Plus, the woven straw material is the ideal look for a summer bag. “I’ve already gotten many compliments and I’ve only had this bag a week,” says one shopper. “Also, if you’re like me and don’t read descriptions, surprise — there’s an outside zippered pocket that’s perfect for a phone!” 

Telena Small Leather Sling Bag

Amazon


As someone who has never gotten on board with a backpack (as a student at the University of Florida, I remained loyal to my Longchamp Le Pliage tote), I’ve always favored a fanny pack or sling as a hands-free option for traveling or music festivals. One of 35 different styles from Telena, this boho-chic crossbody sling is compact yet has room for nearly everything you need thanks to multiple organized pockets. An anti-theft pocket on the side can store money and IDs, while the front pouch opens to reveal five card slots, so you can leave bulky wallets at home. 

Even better, the design is reversible, so you can wear it comfortably on either side, depending on your preference. “I didn’t think I would like a front sling purse, but I do!” raves one shopper. “It’s the perfect size, feels like good quality, sits comfortably on me, and is great for everyday or travel — definitely recommend.”

Madewell The Essential Mini Bucket Tote

Madewell


In the summer, I tend to go for the most lightweight option possible when it comes to a bag. When I came across this mini bucket tote at Madewell, I knew I found my new city bag. With a magnetic closure and interior pocket, this pint-sized version of the classic staple purse is spacious enough to carry everything I need (phone, keys, wallet, Glossier lip balm, portable charger), yet it’s still slim and streamlined. 

The shape is structured and sophisticated, and the cream color paired with gold hardware gives it that quiet luxury look everyone is embracing at the moment (thank you Succession!). As one shopper said, “ I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the magnet closure that snaps in place so that my belongings don’t spill out. GET IT NOW if you’re looking for a quality everyday bag that goes with everything.” 

JW PEI Joy Shoulder Bag

Amazon


Fashion is a series of cycles and we’re reliving those ’90s vibes that back then we couldn’t wait to be rid of. I, for one, am enjoying digging into the depths of my closet (and my older friends’ wardrobes) and reviving some of these gems that look similar to this slim, curved shoulder bag from JW Pei.

In Paris, this purse can go from day to night, matching everything from a floral midi button-down dress to tapered jeans with a white button-down and blazer. In the evenings, pair it with a little navy dress and strappy heeled sandals for a stylish date night ensemble that’ll have you fitting right in on your next trip to the City of Light.

Sézane Claude Bag

Sezane


Sézane is one of those French brands that really can do no wrong. Each collection is as Parisian model-worthy as the next (and yes, they do actually love this brand), yet the pieces aren’t trendy. They’re timeless staples that’ll look just as fashionable in five or 10 years — and they’re known to be durable enough to last that long, too. (What’s more, T+L editors love the brand, too.)

This half-moon shoulder bag is my leather go-to for the summer. Oversized but not clunky, the vintage-inspired periwinkle-blue bag can be worn crossbody or over the shoulder and, in addition to an inside and outside patch pocket, there’s also a zipped one to keep valuables secure. Italian-crafted with an adjustable leather strap and metal clasp with light gold finish, this smooth cowhide-leather purse is sleek but still strong enough to hold books, a notebook, and other items you’ll need for a day out in the city. This model is even customizable and can be monogrammed in gold on the back of the bag — voilà, the perfect gift for that friend who has everything. 

Zara Mesh Bucket Bag

Zara


The French have a way of making even something as simple as a mesh grocery shopping bag look chic. In summer, these bags often double as beach totes, stuffed with Turkish towels and espadrilles. A version that plays on the simple household staple and gives it a major upgrade is this bucket bag from Zara, which is lined with an interior fabric bag and closes shut with a drawstring. Buckles cinch either side of the adjustable shoulder strap making it feel more like a purse than a casual carry-all for the market — although it would be a very stylish way to store produce from the morning marché in Paris. 

If you’re looking for an affordable beach bag that will ship quickly ahead of your next trip, take a look at this $14 mesh tote at Amazon that’s become so popular, more than 3,000 were bought last month. It has more than 6,500 perfect reviews and an impressive 4.7 rating, so you know it’s been properly vetted.

Jiechengjophoo Mini Top-Handle Crossbody

Amazon


Lately, on the métro, I’ve been noticing purses are micro-sized, large enough to hold AirPods, lip gloss, and a few credit cards. This tangerine top handle clutch is a stylish way to store accessories, and — the best part! — you won’t have to dig around to find them. The faux croc makes this glorified coin purse look much more expensive than it is. And, at under $20, it’s an easy purchase that doesn’t require a huge investment but will add that much-welcome pop of color signifying summer is finally here. 

As someone who only recently got on the bandwagon when it comes to colors that aren’t neutral, this shade — which resembles Hermès orange — is one I’ve been gravitating toward lately for everything from dresses to bags. “It’s sooo cute — it’s a perfect ‘leave your purse at home’ date night kinda purse,” says one shopper. Another adds: “I have a Michael Kors orange purse and wallet and this color is a pretty good match! This purse is awesome quality for the price and is sewn really well.” 

J.Crew Berkeley Bucket Bag

J.Crew


A bucket bag is a timeless piece that deserves a place in your purse rotation, but what I love about summer in Europe is how canvas becomes the de facto fabric for the season — and this version is one of the chicest I’ve seen yet. Trimmed with cognac-colored leather with stripes running down either side and a simple tie closure, this bucket bag is structured without being bulky — and has enough space to tote a laptop or books. 

The oar-shaped details at the base of the handles (a nod to the brand’s labels from the ‘80s and ‘90s) gives it a sophisticated, vintage feel, and you can even add a personalized touch with a gold or silver foil monogram stamp. I can’t wait to wear this with a trench coat and sailor jeans in late spring or with patterned Zimmermann shorts and a breezy linen top in summer when I’m down in Nice and Cannes. It’s also a much more affordable alternative to pricey designer counterparts from Saint Laurent and Celine. 

JW PEI Aylin Canvas & Quinn Vegan Leather Cell Phone Crossbody Bag

Amazon


You might’ve noticed a pattern of phone bags and canvas galore, and this polished crossbody, which is loved by Oprah, beautifully combines the two trends. The phone bag is swathed in textured canvas with black leather trim and a black vegan leather back. There are plenty of credit card slots, a pocket for your phone secured by a snap closure, and your keys can be hung from the outside hook.  “This bag is solid and well made,” a shopper wrote. “It’s very practical yet very stylish for on the go.”

In summer, when you want to feel as light as possible, this sleek crossbody won’t weigh you down as you’re cycling along the coast in Brittany or strolling through medieval perched villages in Provence. Plus, you can easily throw it into a larger travel tote so that it’s easier to find your phone and essentials while on a plane. Shop it in a brown version too, which seems to be the color for summer 2024.

Rouje Small Leather Bibi Bag

Rouje


This vintage-inspired style from French-girl cool brand Rouje is a great everyday summer staple that can be worn with breezy dresses and wedges, a bikini and knit coverup, or with a more dressed-up ensemble like wide-leg jeans, a tailored linen blazer, and micro kitten heels. Adjustable so it can be worn over the shoulder or crossbody, this timeless piece is one that I’ll never get tired of — and it’ll be a great travel bag to bring on my trips since it’s compact and structured enough to pack in a carry-on and won’t get crushed.

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