Handbag 101: The Basics

Terms To Know And What They Mean

The world of handbags is innovative and vibrant, so much so that a bag itself is simply a wearable art piece. But behind all the glamour is a very technical industry that can be confusing to newcomers. If you're looking to educate yourself in the ways of the handbag world, this is the place to start. Here we've broken down a slew of basic handbag terminology that is constantly evolving to encompass as many nuances as possible!

Handbag Silhouettes

In Alphabetical Order

Backpack

Barrel

Belt Bag

Bowler

Briefcases

Bucket

Clutch

Cosmetic Case

Crossbody

Doctor

Dome

Duffle

Flap Bag

Hobo

Lunch Pail

Messenger

Minaudiere

Saddle

Satchel

Sling

Shoulder

Tote

Top Handle

Vanity/Train

Wallet on Chain*

Waist Bag

*Often referred to with the acronym “WOC,” pronounced as “wok.”

Accessories

  • Pochette - An additional detachable pouch that comes with a handbag
  • Poignet - An extra strap that wraps around two handles to bind them together, often seen on travel pieces
  • Clochette - A bell-shaped covering for keys that attaches to a handbag
  • Bandouliere - Another name for an extra strap that is not its primary method of wearing

Sizing

  • BB - Assumed to mean Bébé Bandouliere, French for “baby strap;” is typically the smallest or mini version of a given size range and often, due to its size, has a strap to be carried on the shoulder
  • PM - Meaning Petite Modèle, French for “small model,” is a typically smaller size of a range
  • MM - Meaning Moyen Modèle, French for “medium model,” is a typically medium size of a size range
  • GM - Meaning Grande Modèle, French for “large model,” is a typically larger version of a size range
  • NM - Meaning Nouvelle Modèle, French for “new model.” This is often used to refer to a new version of a previously released handbag. There will be slight, if not noticeable, differences between the old and new versions depending on the maker
  • B##/K## (ie B25 or K32) - This is usually seen on social media channels, but refers to either a Birkin (B) or Kelly (K) followed by its size in centimeters. For example, a Kelly 25cm will be referred to as a K25

Anatomy

  • Length - The length of the base of a handbag across its front. Note: Rebag measures most handbags from corner to corner to determine this measurement.
  • Width - Also referred to as the depth of the handbag measured from the side. Note: Rebag measures most handbags from corner to corner to determine this measurement.
  • Height - The height of the bag from the base to the top edge of the bag. Note: Rebag measures from most handbag’s center front to determine this measurement.
  • Strap Length - The actual length of a strap from end to end when laid flat.
  • Strap Drop - For handbags with longer shoulder straps, this measurement is taken from the underside of an extended strap to the top edge of a bag. Not to be confused with Strap Length.
  • Handle Drop - For handbags with shorter handles, this measurement is taken from the underside of an extended handle to the top edge of a bag.
  • Wax Edge - When raw materials are used in handbag manufacturing, they have a rough edge that needs to be finished to complete the look and adhere to high-quality standards. This is done by applying a flexible rubber, or “wax,” to the edges of the bag

Decoration

  • Printed - The technique of applying a print on top of fabric, not to be confused with a woven-in pattern
  • Embossed - The physical machine imprinting of a design into a textile or leather.
  • Embellished - A combination of extra decorative details including but not limited to beading, embroidery, patches, sequins, appliques, ribbon work, and other such techniques.
  • Studded - Elaborate or simple decorative designs and patterns created with the use of metal studs. Not to be confused with hardware used for construction or functional purposes
  • Beaded - The technique of using beads in various sizes to create interior or exterior patterns, motifs, and textures
  • Embroidered - The technique of using yarn or thread to create a pattern or design on top of an existing material
  • Quilted - Two layers of material filled with padding held in place by lines of stitching
  • Tooled - Not to be confused with embossed, tooled typically refers to leather in which a pattern or design has been hand-worked into the material using various leather instruments
  • Paillettes - Though technically large and flat by definition, it’s another term for sequins by French design houses
  • GHW - An abbreviation for Gold Hardware
  • PHW - An abbreviation for Palladium Hardware
  • SHW - An abbreviation for Silver Hardware

This article will be updated periodically to include more terms.

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