Ask Laia: Help Me Find The Perfect Briefcase

"This bag thing is going to be the death of me!"
Publish date:
August 8, 2011
shoppables, working woman, ask laia, attache, briefcase, professional stuff

The time has come, Laia. I need your fashion help.

I am interviewing for a job in like 2 weeks that I really, really want. This is my first ever potential professional-level gig. I lucked out and got an amazing black Anne Klein pantsuit for cheap; sweet gray blouse from Anne Taylor loft; and the standard moderate-heeled, almond-toed black pump.

Here's the thing - I need a briefcase. I'm going to be traveling by train to the interview, so it needs to be big enough to hold my keys, cosmetics bag, etc. But I'm extremely petite and most of these laptop bags/briefcases totally overwhelm me. I'm looking for something in a sleek profile on a job-hunter's budget (read: not a $300 bag).

Oh, and I'm interviewing for a job in Washington, DC, which I'm told is the single most conservative place on earth, which also means anything except black is out of the question (or so I am told; I would be totally blissed out if you told me I could get a sand, caramel, or gray bag instead of boring-ass black).

So far I love the way my ensemble is coming together but this bag thing is going to be the death of me!

Xoxo,Muffy St. John

Thank you for writing in, Muffy, and congratulations on landing that job interview. I am sure you are going to rock them like a million hurricanes. I have never really had conservative and/or business jobs that required a briefcase, but finding a cool one is really hard. First I have to say that I am super disappointed I had to give up looking for one in the womenswear sections pretty quickly. I guess if I am to believe online retailers women don't need professional-looking bags in which to carry their work documents back and forth. I'm not saying the category doesn't exist, but they look more like purses than bags meant for the boardroom, ESPECIALLY when they all come in baby blue and other feminine colors. What gives, world?

Now that the rant part of this post is over, we can move on to the bags. This was a hard endeavor not only because I was trying to find something on the less expensive side, but also because there are a lot of old-man-looking bags out there. I think if you have to carry a briefcase you should embrace and go all out instead of trying to find one of those "modernized" versions for the "woman on the go." I tried to stick to the most classic styles because I too have heard that D.C. is the most conservative place ever, and you will be better safe than sorry. Plus, I think visually, it would make more of an impact if you show up woth something totally ass-kickingly serious, which is how I feel about the following three bags.

Samsonite Delegate II Attache $89.99, Macy's

This "Attache" case is awesome. The sleek and minimal design tells the world you are a no-nonsense kinda gal who "didn't come here to make friends but came here to win." Also it reminds me of the kind of suitcase a secret agent would be carrying. Are you interviewing for a CIA position? Wait, that's classified information! Don't tell me, but if you are, you know this is the bag for you. And if you aren't too. I'm really, really into this, actually, but unfortunately a sleek "Attache" (I just like saying that word) is not really practical for subway traveling.

McKlein USA V Series Lexington Leather Double Compartment Briefcase $94.95, Amazon

This briefcase is also sleek and minimal, which are really the qualities I was looking for when doing my search. It is definitely not a feminine bag, but it's also not an overtly masculine bag. I love the longer flap and the sort of flat silver buckle. This one will probably fit a bit more stuff than the "Attache," and will probably be easier to maneuver in the train and during the interview. This one comes with shoulder straps, but I think it looks a lot better without. Good thing you can keep them on for traveling, and remove them for the actual interview. I don't know that there's really an anti-strap consortium in the conservative business world, but that's just how I feel about that.

The Batchel about $153, Cambridge Satchel Company

And then of course we have a WILD CARD option. A briefcase is basically a more formal satchel, and satchels are all the rage right now (as you may remember from my previous post). I think you could potentially get away with this because the Cambridge Satchel Company isn't really a "fashion" label so to speak. They make classic leather bags that the Europeans carry to school and to work; they just happen to be really cool and so the fashion world became obsessed with them. You can also get them embossed with your initials for maximum impact. It's a bit pricier than the rest, but it's worth it, especially if you still want to stand out just a little bit amongst the sea of conservatively dressed people.

Good luck on your interview, Muffy. I'm sure our readers will have some excellent briefcase/DC tips for you as well!

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