Handbag Glossary

Can you differentiate the definition of a tote versus a hobo, a duffel versus a demi or a bowler versus a bucket bag? Explore the the definition of these words and more in our glossary of common purse and handbag terminology.

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Accordion: used to describe the structure of a handbag's interior when its compartments fold open like the bellows of an accordion.

Applique: a decorative element composed of beads, embroidery, metal, painted fabric or leather that is applied to a handbag's surface.

Antiqued: a type of surface treatment that has a rubbed-off, worn appearance and texture.

Baguette: a small handbag with a narrow shape, resembling a loaf of French bread.

Backpack: a bag held to the back by two symmetrical shoulder straps attached at the top and bottom of the bag's outer edges.

Ball and socket: a handbag closure featuring two tilted balls that snap closed with a socket groove and open when twisted between thumb and forefinger. Often featured on coin purses.

Barrel: a handbag with a cylinder shape, similar to that of a barrel.

Beadwork: decorative embellishment composed of beads and/or sequins.

Belt bag: a purse that fastens around the waist, as a belt. The bag of the belt bag is sometimes removable. Also called "fanny pack."

Box bag: a handbag with a hard, box-like exterior and shape.

Bowler: a round, medium to large handbag with a shape that resembles a bowling ball carry bag.

Bracelet handle: a handbag handle that is shaped like a closed circle.

Brocade: fabric featuring raised patterns or designs in its weave.

Bucket: a large, bucket-shaped bag; typically longer in height than width. The bottom is typically round.

Canvas: an inexpensive, versatile fabric made of synthetic fibers, natural fibers or a combination of the two; can be light or heavy in weight.

Carpet bag: a large, single-compartment bag with a double handle.

Compartment: a large section in the interior of a handbag.

Clasp: a fastening mechanism usually made of metal, which is intended to hold a handbag strap to a handbag or that keeps a clutch or wallet closed.

Clutch: a small and thin hand-held bag, usually lacking a shoulder strap; meant to be held in the hand or tucked under the arm.

Change purse: a small purse or wallet-section made to carry coins. Traditionally has ball and socket closure.

Convertible: most often implies that a bag's strap may be removed or tucked inside, thus turning it into a clutch.

Crescent: a semi-circle shaped bag, typically featuring zipper top closure and long, thin shoulder strap.

Croc: an embossed pattern simulating the skin of a crocodile.

Crochet: a type of needlework material constructed by looping yarn with a hooked needle.

Cross-body: a strap, usually adjustable, that can be used to carry a handbag across the body; see "messenger."

Crushed leather: see "antiqued."

Demi: a small, angular handbag with a single strap designed to be carried in the hand or on the shoulder.

Distressed: see "antiqued."

Doctor's bag: a handbag with a stiff frame lining the interiors of its wide top closure. This construction is intended to provide easy access to its contents.

Drawstring: a bag that closes at its top via a string, cord or chain laced through holes or eyelets.

Duffel: a roomy, rectangular bag with a zipper closure and two top handles.

Dust cover: a cloth drawstring bag used to protect a handbag when it's not being used.

East-West: describes a handbag that is longer in width than in height.

Embossed: a designed imprinted into leather or synthetic leather most, often simulating an animal skin.

Envelope: a flat bag with a square or rectangle shape and a triangle shaped top flap that folds over the close the bag, thus resembling an envelope.

Feed bag: a bag (typically cylindrical) with a single shoulder strap and drawstring closure.

Feet: knobs applied to the bottom of a handbag so that it may stand on its own when not being carried. These function to protect the contents of the handbag or piece of luggage from moisture on the ground thus preserving wear and tear on the bag's bottom.

Flapbag: a handbag with a flap top closure.

Frame: a handbag with a strong, typically angular structure.

Hobo: a medium to large sized bag with a zipper top closure and a shoulder strap.

Imitation leather: any synthetic material made to look like leather.

see "imitation leather."

the surface material featured on a handbag's interior.

a handbag with a long, adjustable strap designed to be worn across the shoulders. Named after those bags originally carried by mail couriers.

a hard-cased clutch or evening bag, often covered in crystals or beads.

a fur-lined handbag worn simultaneously over both hands for warmth.

Name plate:
a metal or leather plate fastened or sewn to the interior or exterior of a handbag. Often displays the logo or name of the handbag's brand.

see "synthetic leather."

describes a handbag that is longer in height than in width.

considered to be the strongest man-made fabric ; is highly resistant to abrasion and stains. Nylon is often used in tote bags.

describes a handbag that is particularly large in size, or larger in size than the norm.

Open pocket:
a pocket that does not feature a closure at the top.

a pattern based on a looped shape that is round at one end, and narrow and curled at the other. Paisley print is typically multi-colored.
leather or imitation leather that has a glossy appearance.

Pebbled grain:
an embossed finish that resembles the texture of a pebbled surface.

Polyurethane (PU):
see "synthetic leather."

see "synthetic leather."

a leather or fabric case for carrying paper or notebooks. Typically features a flap closure.

a small evening bag with a gathered (typically drawstring) top closure.

Pull tie:
a fabric or leather string that is woven through small holes along the upper circumference of a bag in order to close it. See "drawstring."

a surface texture comprised of a diamond or square-shaped topstitch pattern, thus resembling a quilt.

a finely woven fiber derived from palms.

an imitation gem made of glass, paste or quartz.

a flat headed metal pin that is inserted though two pieces of material to join them together. The pin is then hammered on the pointed end to form a flat head, thus securing the pieces together.
a medium to large handbag that closes at the top and features a top carrying handle.

a lustrous, soft fabric with glossy sheen and soft, slippery texture.

Shoulder guard:
a piece of fabric or leather that functions to distribute the weight of bag and its contents.

an embossed pattern simulating the skin of a snake.

see "tote."

Sling bag:
a soft shoulder bag the has a single shoulder strap with one end attached at the bag's top and the other at the bag's bottom.

a decorative metal button attached to a piece of fabric or leather via pointed shanks on its back. These shanks are pushed through the material and hammered or bent so that the stud adheres to the material's surface.

Synthetic leather:
any man-made material meant to simulate leather.

an ornament consisting of a bundle of threads, cords or other strands hanging from a cylindrical head.

a large, rectangular, two-handle bag with an open or zippered top.

a line of stitching bordering the edge or seam of a material. Topstitching threads can be the same color as the host material, or more often, they are a contrasting color.

a decorative material along the edges of a handbag.

describes handbags made of synthetic materials.

Whip stitch: widely placed stitches over the surface of a fabric or leather as a decorative element or to bind two pieces of material together.

a small handbag (see "clutch") with a bracelet-shaped strap so that the bag may be carried hanging on the wrist.

Zipper pull:
the top tab on the outward-facing part of a zipper that is pulled to open the zipper.