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The best work-life bags of 2019, for every style and budget

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I recently had lunch with a friend of mine: She’s a professor, the mother of a toddler, and a frequent traveler. She’s spent months looking for a good laptop bag, which needed to meet a couple of seemingly simple requirements: It has to look sleek when she’s on campus, but she wants the option to carry it as a backpack, particularly when she’s traveling or picking up her daughter. But she hasn’t found anything that fits the bill, so she resorts to throwing her laptop into different bags on different days, which means she often forgets important items. The day we met, she was digging through her backpack for her migraine medication, which she had accidentally left in her work bag.

I hear variations of this story all the time. As consumers, our needs are fairly similar when it comes to bags: Everyone is looking for something versatile, functional, and beautiful. Yet it’s nearly impossible to find a bag that accomplishes all of these things. That’s why, every year, I scour the market to find thoughtful brands designing bags for how people actually live their lives. Most of these bags come from startups founded by women who were themselves frustrated with the options on the market.

There are some interesting trends at work this year. Rather than creating large bags with pockets for everything you could possibly need for the day, many brands are focused on creating sleek, compact silhouettes for particular scenarios, like going from the gym to the office. Many are deceptively small, allowing you to carry around the items you need without the bulk. I tested each of these items and give them all my stamp of approval.

I often find packing for short work trips stressful because I have to carefully select my outfits based on how wrinkled they will be by the time I arrive at my destination. As a result, I feel like I’m limited to wearing items made from wrinkle-free material or I’m stuck ironing out the creases on my clothes before the event. Neither situation is ideal.

[Photo: Hook and Albert]Hook & Albert has come up with a brilliant solution in the form of its $640 Garment Weekender bag. On the surface, it looks like a regular duffel bag, but when you unzip the ends, it turns into a garment bag, allowing you to lay items flat. The garment section is large enough to fit a knee-length dress, and easily accommodates silk blouses. When I tested the bag, I found that my clothes were totally crease-free by the time I got to my hotel.

Besides the functionality of laying out garments, the bag is also beautiful and well-made. It is constructed out of pebbled leather, but still manages to be lightweight at about 3.75 lb. It has two exterior pockets, which come in handy at the airport, plus a special compartment for shoes. The inside of the duffel is roomy, with plenty of space for your toiletries and other clothes. You can carry it with handles, or with the shoulder strap. All in all, an excellent bag that allows you to avoid carrying a separate garment bag.

[Photo: MZ Wallace]

For The Studio: MZ Wallace

If you’re the kind of woman who is rushing to the gym or fitness studio when you’re traveling or at work, MZ Wallace made a bag for you. The brand was founded by........

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