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What Is a Shoulder Bag?

A shoulder bag.
A leather shoulder bag.
Tote bags are shoulder bags often used to carry groceries or fitness gear.
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  • Written By: S. Gonzales
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 19 October 2014
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A shoulder bag is a handbag or purse with at least one strap attached to it that is long enough to fit over the shoulder. The straps generally are securely reinforced on the bag. The strap is intended to be looped over the shoulder so that the shoulder sustains the bag and the user can carry it hands-free.

What differentiates a shoulder bag from other bags are the straps. These straps can be thin, wide, long or relatively short, and their intended purpose is very evident. The strap is meant to facilitate hands-free transport of the shoulder bag. Straps might exist on other types of bags, but many other bags are designed to be carried by hand, using the inner elbow, on the wrist or through other methods.

There are many types of shoulder bags, and some of the most popular include cross-bodies, hobos, barrels and totes. Cross-body shoulder bags can be carried on the shoulder, or they can — like their name implies — be slung across the body by putting their wearer's head between the straps. An advantage of using a cross-body shoulder bag is that it helps distribute the weight of the bag across the body instead of centralizing it on one shoulder. This is helpful when a bag is full of heavy materials such as books.

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Hobo bags have a trademark slouchy shape to them. Stylish and trendy, they can look as if the opening of the bags are gathered or indented. Barrel-shaped bags resemble their namesake; they look like horizontal barrels attached to straps. Totes are ubiquitous and come in a fabrics ranging from plain canvas to leather. Their square or rectangle shape and sturdy straps are designed to carry a variety of items, such as books or groceries.

Finding an appropriate shoulder bag can be a challenge for the novice shopper. Shoppers should consider how they intend to use the bag as well as their body type in order to pick out a bag that complements them and their lifestyle. Generally, if a shopper is looking for a flattering bag, she should choose a shoulder bag that closely mirrors her body type. Petite women would do well to choose small bags, and larger women might consider bigger bags.

A matching shoulder bag can be the perfect accessory to any woman's wardrobe. While some might prefer to buy shoulder bags of different colors and materials for varying occasions and seasons, others might buy only one multipurpose bag. Multipurpose shoulder bags usually are made out of a sturdy material such as leather and are built for frequent use, making them economical and durable.

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