I spoke about how much I enjoyed using my new Cuyana Leather Tote as my conference bag when I attended Alt Summit last month in my recent favorites post. Here is the promised detailed look at this beauty as well as what I carried in it during the conference.
I spent quite a bit of time considering this purchase. It all started about a year ago when I first noticed photos on Instagram of the Whipping Post Tote that some of the #PlannerEnthusiasts I follow own and love (apparently this tote has been on trend, at least in the Planner community, for a little while now). I actually already own a similarly sized tote by Louis Vuitton (a Neverfull MM in the Damier Ebène pattern I’ve had for about five years now) that I use on a regular basis, so I wasn’t in any hurry to buy another bag. I knew I wanted to add another tote to my collection eventually, particularly something a bit less “flashy” and easy to travel with that would work well in a variety of situations across all seasons.
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I narrowed it down to four choices of totes that offered all of the features I was in the market for, including beautiful leather and simple construction in a medium size. I knew that a zip top closure wasn’t that important for me for the functionality of this bag (although I do prefer a secure closure in my everyday handbags), but I was hoping for at least an interior zip pocket. I also didn’t want to pay over $200 for the bag. I considered it a bonus feature if I could have it personalized with a monogram.
The Madewell Transport Tote includes an interior zip pocket, but has a more rustic feel than I was going for. The J. Crew Downing Tote is a gorgeous classic (and typical J. Crew preppy style) design, but no zip pocket, although it does include a detachable wristlet. It’s a bit more narrow in width though and I felt it was stiffer than I’d like. Both can be monogrammed. The ever popular Whipping Post Vintage Tote is gorgeous, albeit with a bit more rustic look like the Madewell option. It also has no zip pocket, although it does have a built in slip pocket. As far as I can tell there are no customization options offered for it. It also seems to always be out of stock or backordered. I’d love to see this bag in person someday, since I was able to make a better informed decision about the other two after seeing them in shops. I relied heavily on online reviews before making my decision. I like to do my research before I buy something special.
Ultimately, I decided to spring for the Cuyana Leather Tote. I cannot say enough good things about this bag. To me, it’s an A+ all around. Handcrafted from buttery soft Argentine and Italian leathers, this bag is super soft to the touch and moves well with the body. It’s the perfect tote size to me as well, fitting into that “just right” or Goldilocks category, measuring 13″ high x 18″ wide x 5″ deep (this is the official measurement listed on Cuyana’s website, but I found it held much more than 5″ deep worth). The strap has a comfortable 9″ drop that makes it easy to carry on your shoulder even when it’s stuffed to the brim without gaping open by hanging too low.
The simple construction of the bag helps to keep it lightweight, since there aren’t a lot of built in bells and whistles. There is one small zip and slip pocket on the inside of the bag, which is great for stowing keys or other small valuables. My iPhone fits perfectly inside the little slip pocket for easy access.
I love how the classic design blends well with any outfit. After much debate (and a little help from my Facebook friends) I decided to go with the caramel shade. I am so happy I did (and thank you if you weighed in on that decision)! I paired it well with all of my daytime conference wear at Alt and it would have gone nicely with most of my evening outfits, too, although I chose to carry a purse to those instead. I already have plans to take it to some other conferences I hope to attend this year and know it will now be a staple of my regular wardrobe.
In addition to describing the details of the bag, I wanted to share how I packed it for my first conference, since I felt like what I brought really worked for me. Plus, it’s always fun to share these types of “What’s In My Bag” posts. I know I am not alone in my enjoyment of seeing what other people carry in their bags for different purposes. As you can see, typical me, I went a bit pouch crazy, but with this roomy open style tote that really was the only way to keep all of my on-the-go conference necessities organized and easily accessible. My cases filled out the bottom third or so of the bag, which left plenty of room to toss any swag or other things I picked up during the day on top.
Here’s what I carried in my conference bag (you can see more detailed photos of the contents below):
1. Poly Zip Letter Size Pouch – I wanted a place to put any loose papers I might pick up throughout the day. Of course, I opted for this cute panda one (it’s from Staples but I can’t find it on their website anywhere sadly).
2. Pen Case – I used a small pencil case from the Orla Kiely for Target collection (my favorite, as you’ll see) not only for extra pens, but also a folded reusable shopping tote (just in case of really big swag 😉 ), a backup battery for my iPhone (essential as a blogger at one of these things), a backup camera battery (not pictured but equally essential), and mints (I just discovered the Bach Rescue Remedies Pastilles and really like them).
3. Walking Pharmacy – This is the case I keep my daily on-the-go necessities in. I pulled it right out of my purse and left the contents as is for my conference bag. If you’d like to see what I keep in my Walking Pharmacy, I go into detail in this post (although I have downsized a bit since then, so maybe it’s time for an update). I now use the Orla Kiely small cosmetic cube for this purpose.
4. Vlogging Camera – I target=”_blank”>vlogged my Alt Summit experience, so naturally I needed my camera at the ready. I like to keep my Sony RX1003 in a lightly padded case from 1154 Lill Studio (sadly this shop is no longer open) with a little Mickey lens cleaning cloth attached that I bought at Disney World years ago.
5. Business Cards – Yet another Orla Kiely case from Target! This medium sized pouch actually comes in a set of three (that isn’t currently available online). I am able to fit just about one hundred of my business cards in this little case, all stacked neatly for easy retrieval. Let me know if you’re interested in a post about my business card design and what printers I used. I couldn’t be happier with them!
6. Notebook & Pen – I brought this small spiral notebook, which I picked up at Walmart for a couple of dollars. I prefer to use spiral notebooks when I take notes so I can easily write on both sides of the page. I tucked a retractable pen onto the side so I could easily grab the whole setup and start jotting away at a moment’s notice. It’s important to remember, however, to put a lid on your pen or click it back closed or risk getting marks on the interior of your bag like I foolishly did. Lesson learned!
7. Business Card File – I found a coupon file on clearance at Staples for less than a dollar (much like this one from The Container Store) to use as an on-the-go business card filing system. I made labels breaking down each day by time/event and sorted the cards I received into the according slots to help me remember the people I met. I also crafted a small folder with my favorite full adhesive sticky notes by Post-It which I used to take a few notes about the people I met and then stuck it to their business cards. I struggle with names sometimes, especially when meeting a whole bunch of people at once, and any clues I can give myself to remember helps immensely.
8. Wallet – I opted to carry around my wallet with me, although I think in a larger conference setting I would probably leave it in the hotel room safe and just carry around my ID and some cash if necessary. This wallet is from Mulberry, but it’s sadly no longer available.
9. Phone – This is self-explanatory, really, but having my phone with me was very important to keep up with social media and look pertinent people and websites up throughout the conference. I actually noticed quite a few people with my same beloved phone case while I was there, which is the Rifle Paper Co. Clear Rosa iPhone Case in case you’re wondering. It’s no wonder, since it’s so pretty!
You can see the contents of some of my pouches better in these photos.
Having my little on-the-go business card file made it easier for me to better remember the many lovely women I met.
I mentioned earlier that I chose not to carry my tote around during the evening events (although I wish I had brought it to a couple of them), and instead used my regular purse (actually this one that lives out at the Utah house if you’re curious). I basically kept my everyday purse contents the same for these evening events, with the exception of adding in one of the small Orla Kiely pouches that comes in a set of three filled with about forty of my business cards. I also carried a business card snap pouch I picked up at The Container Store to slip other people’s cards into since I couldn’t carry around my larger business card file with me. This helped me keep everything together and in its place.
The Cuyana tote’s gorgeously soft leather and no frills construction lends itself to a bit of a floppy nature. While this makes it super easy to fold up flat and pack, it also leaves the bag without any internal support. One of my pet peeves with tote bags in particular is when they sag a lot on the bottom. I just don’t like the look personally. It’s also not good for the leather if you’re carrying a lot of heavy things. I decided to construct a simple removable and reinforced base for my Cuyana tote from a few basic supplies.
You will need:
・One plastic mat (see note*)
* I picked up a pack of inexpensive flexible plastic cutting mats from Walmart (plastic placemats work well, too). I use these to protect my table and desk when I’m crafting, particularly if I’m gluing something, and when I’m painting my nails to avoid any hard to fix accidents.
✻ Lay the tote out on a flat, clean surface, folding the base up so it is exposed. Measure the base and take note of its depth.
✻ Line up the mat with the base and make a mark for the width. Using your ruler, create a line guide where to cut based on these two measurements.
✻ Once cut, round off the edges with scissors to take away any sharp edges that might damage the interior of the tote.
✻ Use the already cut portion and trace out a second piece. There should be enough space on one mat to cut out two pieces.
✻ Use a thin layer of glue to attach the two pieces together and allow to dry completely.
My base measures 13.75″ long by 5.35″ wide.
Now you have a removable and reinforced base for your tote! It’s easy to pack flat along with the tote in its dust bag for protection during travel.
I show the tote and my conference bag contents in more detail in this video:
It’s giveaway time! I wanted to share the Orla Kiely for Target love with you. The Orla Kiely Pouch Giveaway will run until Wednesday, February 18, 2015 at 6 PM CT. The giveaway is open internationally. All entrants under the age of 18 must have parental permission to enter. TWO winners will receive one of the Orla Kiely for Target 3-Piece Set Pouches pictured below:
You can enter by following the directions in the Rafflecopter widget posted below (check out this blog post for more information on entering Rafflecopter giveaways). I’ll announce the winners on THIS blog post and contact them directly through email, as always. Good luck!
** GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED ***
Congrats to the winners of the Orla Kiely Pouch Giveaway!
The Poll Results for *How many pouches do you have in your everyday bag?* out of 3626 entries:
5+ (1547) 43%
1-2 (1255) 35%
3-5 (715) 20%
0 (109) 3%
Sometimes Rafflecopter experiences technical difficulties. If you can’t enter for some reason, try again later and it will probably work.
I hope you enjoyed this look at my new tote. I’d love to know what some of your top picks to pack in your conference/work bag are, if you care to share.
* Post contains affiliate links. This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are genuinely my own. *