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Seattle-based Anna Learns Things makes the beaded handbags of our dreams.

Image: AJ Ragasa

The term "accessory" feels like an understatement for the workhorse that is the handbag. Could a pair of earrings keep your phone dry? Could a scarf hold your credit cards?

And yet, we understand the impulse to lump purses in with jewelry and other ornamentation: They're as useful for zhuzhing it up as they are for holding it down. Here are 14 of our favorites.

House of Want Newbie Baguette, September Local

$78

Image: September

The baguette (the Fendi kind, not the French one) got its start on Sex and the City in the late '90s, where Sarah Jessica Parker carried the petite, short-strap style into the annals of fashion history. Always-trendy House of Want updates the now-classic with a clever strap that's half tortoise shell chain, keeping lemon-yellow vegan leather gingham sharper than it is sweet.

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Nude Half Tote, Ampersand as Apostrophe

$462

Ampersand as Apostrophe may be based in Manhattan's Garment District, but Seattle (and Seattle Met) can still lay some claim to the line of sophisticated, soft leather totes: "The [now former] fashion editor at Seattle Metropolitan magazine, Laura Cassidy, stopped me on the street and begged me to make one for her," designer Sarah Park wrote for Time in 2017. "Four hours later I decided to start the brand."

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Everyday Cubelet, Tom Bihn Local

$48

Image: Tom Bihn

For the utilitarian who moonlights as an aesthete, this perfectly tiny Industrial District–sewn crossbody secures your bare essentials in either ballistic nylon or Tom Bihn's ultra-tough proprietary halcyon material—depending which of 23 colorways you go with. Use it as an inner organizing compartment on days that call for a bigger pack. 

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Matt and Nat Vintage Bucket Bag, Nordstrom Rack Local

$65 $125

Turn to Nordstrom Rack for a low-key way—both visually and financially—to buy into the bucket bag trend. Montreal-based Matt and Nat brings traditional leather quality to its vegan, recycled plastic version of the material (a departure from fast fashion's vegan leather bags, which are far worse for the planet than their plant-based modifier implies). A drawstring closure keeps your belongings safe and avoids an overly literal take on the style.

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$310

Image: A Mano

Coated linen provides an elegant alternative to leather that refuses to pretend to be something it's not. In a shimmering lilac that just barely hearkens back to Jack Gomme's origins in 1980s France, accented by contrastingly earthy tanned vegetable leather, this roomy tote treads the line between ritz and glitz.

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Staud Leather Moon Bag, Nordstrom Local

$295

Image: Nordstrom

The aptly named moon bag broke the internet when it launched in 2019, and in the ensuing years—with all their ups and downs—it proved to be one of our only pre-pandemic habits with staying power. Moon-shaped is still hot in 2022, with Anthropologie and Kate Spade making solid showings. But nothing beats the original.

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Electric Lime Please Recycle Tote Bag, Girlfriend Collective Local

$58

All the bags in the world, and sometimes all you really need is a classic tote to get the job done. This converted-water-bottle pack from Seattle athleisure company Girlfriend Collective adds structure and convenient compartments (including one for your water bottle—surely reusable, yes?), while the straps subliminally encourage onlookers to please recycle. Girlfriend's no hypocrite: Send your well-loved tote their way for store credit once you're through.

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Il Cigno Nero Double Bag, Clementines Local

$250

Image: Clementines

Don't reinvent the wheel. Do reinvent the handbag: This two-tone leather number from Portland-based designer Monica Caon offers the utility and style of two purses in one, with two adjacent compartments, two double-sided handles (plus an included metal crossbody chain), and double takes aplenty.

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Bottega Veneta Padded Cassette Bag, Nordstrom Local

$3,500

Image: Nordstrom

We'd be remiss not to include a truly luxury handbag on our list of the greatest. The 56-year-old Italian fashion house flouts the aggressive labeling tendencies of its lesser counterparts and focuses on impeccable craftsmanship, quality leather, and modern silhouettes and colorways—this puffy quilted version feels distinctly 2022, but was built to last forever.

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Jemma in Chocolate Croc-Embossed Leather, Nuciano Local

$320

Image: Nuciano

If this Seattle-based, Black-owned handbag label doesn't boost your hometown pride, we don't know what will. Nuciano's unique designs—like the impressively roomy, suede-lined Jemma—push the envelope with the best of them (without annihilating your wallet with the best of them, too).

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The A Scacchi, Alohas

$362

Image: Alohas

Love checker print, but leery of sinking $300+ into what could turn out to be a fad? Alohas's structured leather crossbody in low-contrast tan and cream offers a subtle, timeless take. Because we're playing chess, not...well, you know.

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Teal Sweet and Simple Bag, Anna Learns Things Local

$175

Recent University of Washington graduate Anna Dong's search for a pandemic hobby—urged along by her search for an affordable beaded purse—turned her blog of occasional crafts into a beloved local brand that provides peach earrings and chili pepper keychains to the color-starved Seattle masses. Seven-and-a-half by five-inch, candy-hued handbags are the pièce de résistance.

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Primecut Black Leather Bum Bag, Prism Local

$198

Image: Prism

Music festivals are back in full swing. It's time to find a purse that won't be. Bum bags, so named despite the current proclivity toward strapping them diagonally around the chest, keep stuff secure so you can live it up. With a high-quality leather outer and a strap that's long enough to convert it to a crossbody for less raucous affairs, Primecut's devised a bag versatile enough to withstand whatever this "return to normal" actually looks like.

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