NEW YORK - It can hold your iPad, wallet, makeup and umbrella - maybe a sweater, too. The tote bag is the clown car of the bag world, fitting everything you need and more.
Glamour, however, had seemed immune to this two-handled bucket bag's charm, but that is changing, too, with trendsetting labels offering versions with just a tweak or two to the classic canvas version.
Proenza Schouler designers Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCullough teamed with beauty guru (and tote carrier) Frederic Fekkai for a slightly longer, leaner version, while other top designer labels have moved toward more luxe materials, including leather and exotic skins.
"A tote is the quintessential thing of casual chic," Fekkai said. "It's practical because you can put your personal belongings and business files in it at the same time, and still look chic and stylish. I think it gives you an accessory that defines very well your attitude that you can do it all."
Glamour magazine accessories director Gretchen Gunlocke Fenton says she likes it because you can carry your life in one bag. It's "the best way to consolidate and stop wearing two or even three smaller bags, like you see women doing so often," she said. "Most of us are on the go from morning until night, so having a bag that is roomy enough to hold your daily must-haves is essential."
The modern tote roots are humble: L.L. Bean introduced its basic off-white Ice Carrier Bag in 1944, then reintroduced it in the 1960s as the Boat and Tote Bag.
Fekkai wishes the cornflower blue leather-trimmed canvas bag now being sold in his salons was just a touch more masculine. The wheelie computer case he uses when he travels for business is OK, he said, but it won't take him from work to the weekend in one bag.
"Women are luckier than men because they're expected to always carry a handbag, but even men need a bag now for their iPad, iPhone, iPod. A tote is a solution that's not overwhelming."
His guess at what those lucky women fill their bag with: cosmetics - definitely, a bottle of water, ballerina flats and maybe two pairs of glasses?
Fenton's has the shoes and her gym clothes. And, she adds, now that it's getting warmer, she'll stash her key weekend getaway items in it, too.
A swimsuit can't take up too much room, right?