As a handbag expert, I repeatedly get asked two questions: "What is your favorite handbag?" and "What bags should every woman own?"

To the former, I say, it's like picking a favorite child -- it just can't be done. Each bag has its own set of lovable characteristics.

To the latter, I've devised a foolproof answer that is both budget conscious and meets the needs of the modern woman.

So, here goes ... My three must-have handbags:

Black Clutch

La Regale Faux Snake Clutch. Photo:

Whether you're off to a black-tie affair, dinner with the hubby or clubbing with your girlfriends, you can't go wrong with a black clutch. Look for one that isn't too dainty in size nor too large to lug around all night. It should be appropriate for a wedding and a weekday date.

Leather is the most versatile option, faux works too, as long as you make sure the seams are done neatly and there are no extra embellishments that will red flag the clutch as "cheap." Exotic skins are also classic and certainly worth the investment.

For a budget-friendly option, check out La Regale's Faux Snake Clutch (shown above), $36;

Medium-Sized Work Bag

The Sak's Silverlake Leather Convertable Satchel. Photo: The Sak

There is no handbag more essential and constantly in use than your everyday, work-appropriate bag. And as such, this is the category where you want to really focus on the quality and finish.

Look for pebbled leather or patent -- something that doesn't damage easily. Coated suede is also a good option.

In terms of color, since we're doing the one bag thing, stick to black, brown, grey, creamy white or sort metallic.

You'll want to choose a shoulder bag or satchel (one that comes with an optional longer strap). This will give you the choice of going hands-free when necessary, which can be often, especially for the busy moms out there.

Also, it's ideal if there is at least one outer pocket to stash the quick-grab items -- like your cell, keys and lip gloss!

For a classic option at a reasonable price, check out The Sak's Silverlake Leather Convertable Satchel (shown above in Teak), $199;

Large Tote Bag

For a chic and affordable choice, try Longchamp's Le Pliage Tote. Photo:

This is the bag that's meant to be used as a carry-on, gym bag or weekender.

But, if you're having a hectic day and your medium-sized bag just isn't gonna cut it, the large tote is a perfect stand-in. But try to limit this to when you really require the additional room -- I don't think it's healthy for your back or appealing to carry an oversized tote on a daily basis.

There are no set rules about the color or pattern of a large tote or duffel bag, but again, keep durability in mind. A coated canvas finish is my fabric of choice since this bag will see more time under the seat in front of you -- be it a plane, car or train -- than it will as your arm candy.

For a tote that goes the distance, but not on your credit card bill, try Longchamp's Le Pliage Tote (shown above in Bilberry), $88;

Purse-onally Yours,
Pamela Pekerman

Pamela Pekerman is the founder of