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Handbags Glossary

Think east-west and north-south are just directions your boy gives you to make driving difficult? Don’t get the difference between a satchel and a tote? Need a clutch on what all the fuss about hobos is?

Explore the the definition of these words and more in our glossary of common purse and handbag terminology!

Accordion: used to describe the structure of a handbag’s interior when its compartments fold open like the bellows of an accordion.
Appliqué: a decorative element composed of beads, embroidery, metal, painted fabric or leather that is applied to a handbag’s surface.

Antiquated: a type of surface treatment that has a rubbed-off, worn appearance and texture.
Baguette: a small handbag with a narrow shape, resembling a loaf of French bread.

Backpack: a bag held to the back by two symmetrical shoulder straps attached at the top and bottom of the bag’s outer edges.
Belt bag: a purse that fastens around the waist, as a belt. The bag of the belt bag is sometimes removable. Also called ‘fanny pack’ od ‘bum bag’. Designed to carry small items and daily essentials especially during travel, running sports, and hiking. Wear it tight at the waist, in the most conventional way, across the body or over the shoulder, for a different and original touch. the important thing is to wear it in a personal and ironic way! Here, Mrs Claudia Schiffer wearing a stunning Chanel bum bag from the 1992 Fall/Winter collection.
Box bag: a handbag with a hard, box-like exterior and shape.

Bowler: a round, medium to large handbag with a shape that resembles a bowling ball.
Bracelet handle: a handbag handle shaped like a closed circle. For example, the popular “Nile” Bag by Chloé has a round bracelet handle.
Bucket: a large, bucket-shaped bag; typically longer in height than width. The bottom is typically round. Usaully bucket bags closes with a drawstring, a string that closes the bag at its top, laced through holes or eyelets.
Clutch: a small and thin hand-held bag, usually lacking a shoulder strap, that is to say that it have to be held in the hand or tucked under the arm. Clutches are usually small evening bags, and they were very popular during the 1950s.
Convertible bag: a bag that can be converted from one function or shape to another. For example, some belt bags have detachable shoulder strap, so you van wear the the bag as a clutch.
Doctor’s Bags: a handbag with a stiff frame lining the interiors of its wide top closure. This construction provide easy access to its contents.
Duffel (or Duffle) Bags: a roomy, rectangular bag with a zipper closure and two top handles. Duffle bags are typically used to carry atheletic equipment or as casual luggage.
Louis Vuitton’s Keepall and Sac Souple are the quintessential duffle models.
East-West (or E/W): describes a handbag that is longer in width than in height. See also Nort-South
Embossed: a designed imprinted into leather or synthetic leather most, often simulating an animal skin.
Exotic leather: is an all inclusive term that really means any leather made from rare animal species that are rarely processed into leather. The most common exotic leathers are snake, alligator and crocodile, ostrich and stingray, for example. Some exotic leathers are protected by the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora).

Exotic leather, due to its nature, is a bit pricier than most leathers.
Feet: knobs applied to the bottom of a handbag so that it may stand on its own when not being carried. These function to protect the contents of the handbag or piece of luggage from moisture on the ground thus preserving wear and tear on the bag’s bottom.
Hobo: a medium to large sized bag with a slouchy, crescent shape, usually featuring a scooped center, zipper top closure and a shoulder strap.
Messenger :a unisex shoulder bag with a long, adjustable strap, designed to wear it across the shoulders to allow you be hands-free while on the go and to have the functionality of a backpack. Named after those bags originally carried by mail couriers.
Minaudiere: a hard-cased clutch or evening bag, often covered in crystals or beads.
Nappa Leather: Soft, full grain leather made from unsplit animal skin – often sheep or lamb. Prada and Miu Miu often use this type of skin for their creations.
North-South (or N/S): A term to describe a bag that is taller than it is wide. See also East-West.
Oversized: describes a handbag that is particularly large in size, or larger in size than the norm.
Patent leather: A glossy finished leather.
Portfolio: a leather or fabric case for carrying paper, documents or notebooks.
Quilted: a surface texture comprised of a diamond or square-shaped topstitch pattern, thus resembling a quilt. The quilted pattern is an intergral part of Chanel‘s history. In fact, when conceiving the quilted (or matelassé) effect, Coco Chanel took inspiration from the equestrian world, from the jackets worn by stable boys around racecourses. When stitched, the pattern give volume and solidity to more supple materials such as jersey, lambskin and silk, and it became the landmark of the Chanel aesthetic such as, for example, the case of the iconic 2.55 bag.
Raffia: a finely woven fiber derived from palms.
Satchel: a medium to large handbag that closes at the top and features a top carrying handle. The satchel was inspired by the shape and utility of luggage and comes in a wide variety of sizes.
Shopper: a bag designed as a carryall for shopping. Shoppers are usually rectangular.
Suede: Leather treated to produce a velvet-like finish.
Studs: a decorative metal button attached to a piece of fabric or leather via pointed shanks on its back. These shanks are pushed through the material and hammered or bent so that the stud adheres to the material’s surface.
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. See also shopper.
Wristlet: a small handbag (see clutch) with a short strap so that the bag may be carried hanging on the wrist.

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