What is a Tote Bag? The Ultimate Guide to Tote Bags:

Are you searching for a new handbag? Then you have a wide variety of options. You could get a shoulder bag, a clutch, a messenger bag, a wristlet, or even a satchel. But in this sea of choices, there’s one option that we can’t overlook - the tote bag. What is a tote bag? And why do so many prefer it over any other type of bag?

A tote is a large bag with a wide opening and parallel handles. Most people who choose the tote bag are looking for a mix of fashion and utility. A tote is easy to dress up or down depending on the occasion. But it’s not just a pretty face. 

You can’t carry your wallet, workout clothes, a laptop, and a good book in a cute wristlet or satchel. But does that mean you have to abandon your fashion sense and tote your stuff around in a duffle bag? Definitely not. Leave the toting to your canvas tote bag, a stylish carryall for busy people like you.

But where did the tote bag come from? And how did it become so popular?

History of the Tote Bag

The American word tote or toting has uncertain origins. But many believe that it originated from West Africa. In Kikongo, the word ‘tota’ means “to pick up.” And in Swahili, ‘tuta’ means “to carry.” But when did it become more than just a word?

In 1944, the outdoor brand L. L.Bean introduced its famous Ice Bag. Its purpose was to help carry ice from your car to your freezer, hence the name. But the bag’s popularity went beyond ice-carrying. L. L. Bean took note of this and dressed up the bag with different color and design options.

But it was Bonnie Cashin, an American designer, who took the tote from useful to fashionable. She designed a stylish leather tote that comes in a variety of colors. But the trendy take on the tote doesn’t stop there. Today, the most expensive bag in the world is the beautiful Hermès Himalaya Birkin bag. This tote bag sold for $500,000. And high-end totes are regularly featured in magazines and on catwalks throughout the world fashion industry.

Not to be left behind, the famous New York City book store, the Strand, created its own version of the tote. The Strand displayed its name, address, phone number, and various slogans printed in bold red letters. The totes created by L. L. Bean and the Strand are still popular today.

But what is a tote bag made of? And what’s the best material for your needs?

What is a Tote Bag Made of?

Designers use a variety of different materials to make tote bags. But its mainstay is that it’s durable and can carry a significant amount of weight. A tote can be made from cotton or nylon. These bags can be conveniently folded and tucked away for later use. When might you use this tote?

The environmentally conscious can use a cotton or nylon tote to replace plastic grocery bags. Why? Simple totes cut back on the use of plastic; they’re reusable, washable, and sturdy. If you’re looking for an eco-friendly bag that will also make your shopping more comfortable, the tote bag might be just what you need.

What about canvas tote bags and leather tote bags? You could use one of these types of totes to replace your current purse or handbag of choice. Why choose a tote? You’ll have more space to carry everything you need without sacrificing your sense of fashion.

But what if you want to personalize your bag? Totes are incredibly versatile. And custom tote bags are easier to create than you might think. You can order a classic tote and use the panels as a blank canvas for your artwork, design, or logo.

What is the Difference Between Canvas and Cotton Tote Bags?

Both canvas and cotton tote bags are environmentally friendly, stylish, and affordable. People use them to replace their grocery bags, display their company’s name and logo, or simply use it as a casual carryall bag. Both types are great for personalization because they’re heat resistant. That means you can iron on a design without damaging the bag. So what’s the difference between cotton and canvas tote bags? Is one better than the other?

Cotton is a softer material that’s also machine-washable. And the loose structure of cotton tote bags allows them to carry bulky items easily. Canvas tote bags have a tighter weave, making them sturdier. You can waterproof them, and they tend to be more fashionable than their soft cotton counterpart. They also can carry more weight. Though one isn’t necessarily better than the other, there might be one that’s more suited to your needs.

Tote Bag Size

Though cute boxy tote bags come in a range of sizes, there are some standard sizes available. The sizing guide below will help you find the right size for you.

Large: A large tote bag is about 22 inches wide, 15 inches high, and 8 inches deep. If it sounds huge, that’s because it is. People who need a carryall for their whole life love large totes.

Medium: A medium tote bag is usually about 16 inches wide, 15 inches high, and 5 inches deep. With a little less heft than a large tote, this bag reads more like a big handbag. It can easily be dressed up or down for any occasion.

Small: Small tote bags are around 12 inches wide, 13 inches high, and 4 inches deep. Though it doesn’t have the space of an average tote, it has the same fashionable look while maintaining a size that’s much easier to carry.

How to Choose the Correct Size For You

So what size tote back is right for you? Large tote bags are for those who don’t have time to go home for an outfit change between work and the gym. Or for people who need to have their laptop on hand at all times. If that sounds like you, you’re probably in the market for a large carryall tote bag.

A medium tote bag is for someone who wants a bag that can easily go from daywear to nightwear without skipping a beat. It’s got more space than your average handbag, but it’s not too large to take on a night out.

The small bag is for those who like a tote bag’s look, but prefer a more manageable size. This bag would just carry the essentials like your wallet, keys, and lipstick.

Alternatives to the Tote Bag: Shoulder Bag and Satchel Bag

If you’re not sure about the tote bag, there are a couple of alternatives that might interest you. You might be exploring options like a shoulder bag or a satchel. But what is a shoulder bag? What are the benefits of a satchel bag? And how do these two alternatives stack up against a tote bag?

Tote Bag vs. Shoulder Bag

So what is a shoulder bag? It’s a purse or handbag with at least one strap. And it’s designed to fit over your shoulder. It can sit on one shoulder like a hobo bag. Or a crossbody strap can distribute the weight a little better (i.e., a messenger bag). The upside to a shoulder bag is that it offers a hands-free carry.

Tote bags, on the other hand, are generally hand-carried, or they rest in the crook of your arm. Compared to a shoulder bag, they’re a little less convenient to carry. But the double handles and wide opening of a tote bag make retrieving the bags’ contents a little more comfortable than a shoulder bag would.

If you prefer your bag’s contents to be more organized, the shoulder bag offers pockets and sections. In contrast, the tote bag has little to no built-in organization. However, you can find a few that have inside pockets to hold smaller items.

Tote Bag vs. Satchel Bag

So what is a shoulder bag? It’s a purse or handbag with at least one strap. And it’s designed to fit over your shoulder. It can sit on one shoulder like a hobo bag. Or a crossbody strap can distribute the weight a little better (i.e., a messenger bag). The upside to a shoulder bag is that it offers a hands-free carry.

Tote bags, on the other hand, are generally hand-carried, or they rest in the crook of your arm. Compared to a shoulder bag, they’re a little less convenient to carry. But the double handles and wide opening of a tote bag make retrieving the bags’ contents a little more comfortable than a shoulder bag would.

If you prefer your bag’s contents to be more organized, the shoulder bag offers pockets and sections. In contrast, the tote bag has little to no built-in organization. However, you can find a few that have inside pockets to hold smaller items.

Tote Bag vs. Satchel Bag

What is a satchel bag? Satchels usually have a rigid structure, a triangular shape, and shorter handles meant for hand carrying. Their original purpose in the 1700s was to carry books. And they can sometimes have a briefcase-like feel. The rigidity of these bags allows them to stand on their own. Many businesswomen like to use bags like this.

A tote bag doesn’t usually have the business feel of a satchel bag. And it doesn’t offer the same level of organization. But it’s generally regarded as a more comfortable bag to carry.

The average size of a satchel is 30 centimeters high, 40 centimeters wide, and 12 centimeters deep. They’re not as roomy as a tote bag, but they can carry several personal items without becoming uncomfortably heavy.

Tote Bag Uses

Do you need a sturdy shopping bag? Are you looking for the perfect bag for your next trip to the beach? Do you need a bag that can store your gym clothes for your evening workouts? The tote bag can do all of this and more. Its versatility is one of the reasons that many women use a tote bag every day.

Why use tote bags when shopping? Have you ever had a plastic grocery bag tear on the walk from your car to your home? Eggs break, chips get crushed, and you’re frustrated. Keeping a stash of reusable totes in your car is an eco-friendly way to make your shopping easier.

If you’re going to the beach, you might want to grab a tote to use as a beach bag. After all, your huge beach towel won’t fit in your clutch. And isn’t it easier to store everything (your sunscreen, towel, and other necessities) in one spot? Plus, beach bag style totes come in a variety of fun prints, colors, and designs.

Why use a tote as a picnic bag instead of the classic picnic basket? It’s big enough to fit all your foods and drinks without the bulk and discomfort of carrying a giant basket around. Totes make picnicking easier.

So you need a gym bag to carry your workout clothes, a water bottle, and a towel. Why use a tote bag for that? Because totes are easier to carry and cuter than your average duffle bag.

You could also use a tote as a cute casual purse. Fashionable moms often choose a tote bag to carry band aids, toys, crayons, lotion, tissue, and whatever else their little ones might need throughout the day. Your teen might use it in place of a backpack to carry books and other school supplies. These are just a few of the many creative ways you can use your tote bag.

How to Clean and Care For Your Tote Bags

So you’ve done it! You’ve gone and bought yourself a tote bag! It’s beautiful, and you love it, but you’re not sure how to clean a canvas tote bag. Why should you know how to clean and maintain your tote? Because of its versatility, most of us use some form of a tote bag every day. So over time, it can take quite the beating.

Before you throw your canvas bag in the washing machine, there are a few things you should do. If your bag has any additions (like pins or buttons), it’s essential to remove those before cleaning it. If your tote is made of colored fabric or has a pattern, painting, or design on it, you’ll want to make sure those colors don’t bleed into other materials. How can you do that?

Dip a portion of the bag into some water. Then squeeze out the water over a paper towel. If there’s coloring in the water or on the paper towel, it’s best to spot clean it instead of washing the whole bag. That will cut down on any fading.

If your canvas bag is colorfast or white, you can either hand wash it or add it to your washing machine. Make sure to empty all the pockets first and follow any instructions provided on the care label.

What if your bag has some stains? Some stains don’t lift easily with a gentle wash. So you might need to use a stain removal product. It’s important to test it out on a hidden part of your bag so you can make sure it doesn’t cause any damage.

If you choose to hand wash your canvas bag, you can mix any mild detergent with water. And you might even be able to use a soft bristle toothbrush to help remove any stains.

Tote bag waxing is a great way to protect your canvas bag, but it requires a different approach when washing it. It’s important not to put it in your washing machine, send it to the dry cleaners, or use detergents. That will cause the wax coating to deteriorate.

Instead, you can use a soft bristle brush to wash away any dirt gently. You could also use cold water (without any detergent). This method will protect your wax coating from any damage.

It’s essential to clean and care for your tote bag the right way. That’ll give it a long life; make sure its colors stay sharp and maintain its protective coating.

10 Reasons Why You Need to Buy a Tote Bag

There are so many good reasons to buy a tote bag, or three, or five! They’re versatile and durable. And if you search ‘tote bag fashion’ or ‘tote bag outfit’ on Pinterest, you’ll find a million cute ways to wear them. So why do you need to buy a tote bag? Here are ten reasons!

1. In case we haven’t mentioned it before, the tote bag is versatile! You can use it for work, school, the gym, shopping, as a travel bag, or even as a beach bag.

2. Canvas tote bags are eco-friendly! So they make the perfect replacement for plastic grocery bags.

3. Tote bags are not just useful; they’re also fashionable! Whether you’re going for a casual daytime look or you’re planning on a girls’ night out, a tote bag can be your partner in crime.

4. There’s a lot of variation in totes. There are different designs, patterns, materials, and fabric. If you’re feeling artsy, you can even personalize your bag. We believe you should have a few different kinds of tote bags to have a few different looks.

5. They’re big! You need room for all your stuff, and a tote has all the space you need.

6. It’s a safe and cute way to carry your laptop. Tote laptop bags are durable and designed to bring your computer along with all its essential accessories. Plus, it’ll look great with your outfit!

7. It makes a great gift! If you love it, so will your mom, sister, and best friend. Totes are reasonably priced and have a wide variety of styles.

8. Moms love totes as a carryall for their little ones. Trying to stuff diapers, clothes, feeding bottles, and towels into a smaller bag is frustrating. This bag makes it easy for a mom to pack up and go.

9. Totes are easy to carry. And the wide opening makes it easy to access all its contents.

10. Donate to charity! The Ubuntu Life Foundation is making a difference in the lives of mothers and children in Kenya. Your purchase will help these families receive the education, healthcare, and work they need to sustain themselves.

Final Thoughts

So what is a tote bag? It’s much more than a big sturdy bag with parallel handles. It’s an eco-friendly replacement for plastic shopping bags. It’s big enough to carry everything you could possibly need in a day, but it’s also fashionable. You can personalize a tote bag to suit your tastes and needs. And it makes a great gift! So are you ready to find your perfect tote bag?


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