How to Style a Brightly Coloured Tote Bag (and Why It Could Be Your Most Versatile Accessory)

How to Style a Brightly Coloured Tote Bag (and Why It Could Be Your Most Versatile Accessory)
This week I popped up to London on the train to attend a lovely event at Hobbs in Covent Garden: A little champagne (orange juice for me considering my getting back to fitness regime), great conversation, some beautiful flower arranging and a lot of browsing the Hobbs SS16 collection. We were very lucky to be able to choose a gift in the form of something from the store as a thank you, and after some deliberation I succumbed to my current orange obsession and plumped for the delicious mandarin orange Adlington tote bag.

It may seem a frivolous choice to go for such a bright colour when choosing a tote, but please, please, hear me out on this…! Buying quality leather totes is something I’m finding myself drawn to more and more these days – I’m definitely favouring quality that will last over cheaper, more trend-led bags (I must be growing up at last). I’m convinced, however, that a brightly coloured tote bag could be the most versatile accessory in your wardrobe – far more so than black.

I have a leather tote in red that at the time retailed for over £300, and it’s the bag that I reach for nearly every time I put an outfit together. Now, I don’t wear a lot of red (hardly ever, in fact), but somehow the red seems to go with just about everything. Most recently I wore it with grey, burgundy and black; with all the brights and winter white on Valentine’s Day, and with black tights, a sweater dress and a camel cape at the beginning of January. So that’s a lot of wears already this year, and it doesn’t include the times I’ve used it when the outfit hasn’t appeared on the blog.

I’ve had it over two years and it doesn’t show any signs of wear and tear. It still looks box-fresh, and that’s thanks to the quality of the craftsmanship, which of course you do pay for.

For me, a bright bag goes with all the colours, but it does a great job of adding a punch of colour to neutral tones as well. You’ll always have something to brighten your outfit, especially if you’re drawn to black a lot and want to get out of your black rut.


To prove my point, I’ve created three outfits using the very same Hobbs orange tote. One office chic work outfit, one lunch date outfit and one smart-casual weekend outfit. Hopefully it’ll show that bright isn’t bad, and if you’re investing your money in a quality tote then not only are they worth the money, but I honestly think you should ditch the black and reach for the rainbow. Colour is so much more exciting…!


How to Style an Orange Tote Bag | Office chic outfit
1. Marks & Spencer Navy Belted Culotte Jumpsuit | 2. Michael Kors Navy Sawyer Watch | 3. Johnny Loves Rosie Jewel Bracelet | 4. Ralph Lauren Annabelle Scarf | 5. Louise et Cie ‘Hermosah’ Heels | 6. Hobbs Adlington Tote in Mandarin Orange

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Office chic work outfit

The workhouse of this office chic outfit is the M&S culottes jumpsuit – navy goes really well with orange, and it’s one of those classic pieces that can be worn to the office and then dressed up for after-work drinks. It’s a flattering midi length and of course looks like a dress but you have the bonus of wearing trousers. The orange tote compliments the jumpsuit beautifully, and a patterned neck scarf in tones of orange and pink will tie in the colours. Be different and go for off-white heels (as here) or nude: Navy shoes are harder to find and nude heels will lengthen your legs. They’ll also go with just about every other colour in your wardrobe – more so than navy. The only other details you need are a smart, business-like watch and some delicate jewellery like this jewel bracelet. Avoid noisy bangles in the office if you can – they often get in the way when typing and tend to annoy everyone else…!

How to Style an Orange Tote Bag | Lunch date outfit
1. & Other Stories Embroidered Dress | 2. MaxAzria Black Sunglasses | 3. Kate Spade New York ‘Lenticular Eyes’ iPhone 6 & 6s Case | 4. Topshop Turquoise Triangle Cube Earrings | 5. Topshop Ginger Mary Janes | 6. Hobbs Adlington Tote in Mandarin Orange

Lunch date outfit

Your brightly coloured tote is perfect for a lunch date or shopping being nice and roomy for all the stuff us ladies carry around. The & Other Stories white embroidered dress is a beauty – great for spring and summer and can be worn with a long cardigan if the temperature drops in the evening. This statement dress only needed block heeled Mary Janes (much more comfortable for walking), bold turquoise earrings and black cat eye sunglasses – all of which, including the orange tote, pick out the colours in the dress. Don’t forget a conversation-piece phone case: Kate Spade does some of the best ones.

How to Style an Orange Tote Bag | Weekend outfit
1. Derek Lam Matte Peach Optical Glasses | 2. Topshop Colour Block Asymmetric Tee | 3. River Island Black Smart Ruched Sleeve Blazer | 4. DL Nineteen Sixty One Riley Boyfriend Jeans | 5. Vince Camuto ‘Orbital’ Geometric Black Cuff Bracelet | 6. ALDO Zerah Black Studded Flats | 7. Hobbs Adlington Tote in Mandarin Orange

Casual weekend outfit

The weekend is the time you want to throw everything (and anything) on, grab your bag and run out the door. Straight leg jeans are much more comfortable (and more on-trend) than skinny, and you can either go for strappy shoes like these ALDO studded flats or swap them for sports shoes like the New Balance black and white trainers or a pair of white Adidas Originals. I think a colour block t-shirt and black blazer is a great go-to at the weekend with jeans – you basically just can’t go wrong with this combination and you’ll be comfy but not scruffy. Your brightly coloured tote doesn’t need to pick out a colour in your outfit, but if it’s in the same colour family (like this yellow, white and peach Topshop t-shirt) it’ll still work really well. Finally, get yourself some cool reading glasses like these pale peach readers. If you’re my age or older you’re very likely to need them – and if not now, probably very soon…!

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Linking up to: Style StoriesiwillwearwhatilikeVisible Monday, Shoe and TellLet It ShineMonday MingleStyle Sessions, Turning Heads TuesdayTrend Spin Link-UpWhat I Wore WednesdayBrilliant Blog PostsThrowback Thursday, My Refined Style, Passion for Fashion FridayFriday’s Fab Favourites, Fun Fashion Friday


  1. 5 April 2016 / 11:41 am

    I never realized that I NEEDED a bright orange tote bag before seeing this, thanks so much for the inspiration!

  2. 9 March 2016 / 12:57 pm

    Oh I love all these outfits Catherine! You've given me so many ideas for styling my GIANT orange tote!!!


    Ashley || Sed Bona

    • 12 March 2016 / 2:56 pm

      Hmmmm a girl after my own oversized tote heart, Ashley!! I am glad, thank you sweetie!! x

  3. 9 March 2016 / 12:47 pm

    I was eyeing up a bright tote a couple of days ago thinking "hmm but how would it work?" so thanks for this post! You are so right, it's not like we have to wear the colours of the bag necessarily! I do love orange, and it pairs so well with Spring navy as you demonstrate! I'm in love with the & Other stories frock and the ASOS flats are pretty fierce too! Lovely looks all! 🙂 x

    • 12 March 2016 / 2:56 pm

      Thanks Steff – it's funny I look at black bags in the same way: I rarely see how they'd work with anything I wear because they're just too damn dark and don't go with anything! And I agree with you about the & Other Stories dress, I adore it too…!!!! Glad you liked the choices x

  4. 8 March 2016 / 6:03 pm

    I'm wondering if you do wardrobe capsules? I am looking for a wardrobe to pack in a carry on for an all inclusive tropical resort vacation and want to make sure the clothes are age appropriate. Any input would be greatly appreciated!!!

    • 12 March 2016 / 2:52 pm

      Hi Dimples, it's not something I've covered before, but it would be something interesting to cover in the future. HOWEVER… you said the very thing that I vehemently oppose on this blog "age appropriate" – if you look at my header you'll see that I mention it and say under my profile pic in my sidebar that I oppose the term!

      So please, please, please stop thinking that you have to be age appropriate, or that your wardrobe choices have to be age appropriate – or that ANYTHING in your life has to be age appropriate. How old you are has nothing to do with what you wear, do or think – your wardrobe choices should reflect what you like, what suits you (more so your personality than your shape or size) and what the occasion is.

      So there'd too many variables to even begin suggesting things for you (you have to consider your style, your holiday destination, how long you're going, your tastes, your budget, your planned activities, your existing wardrobe…) – FORGET being age appropriate, it's just another variable you don't need to worry about…!! xx

  5. 6 March 2016 / 12:57 am

    I'm completely with you on this matter, Catherine. Prior to experimenting with the palette of my clothing, the only spot of colour you'd find on me was in the form of either bag or shoes. These two were almost always in some bright, completely effervescent shade. Either that or metallic or some graphic print. If you look through my outfit posts, I'd wager you won't find many pictures of me with a solid black bag 🙂 so yes, I completely agree. And you've given me a perfect excuse, nay, justification as to why I now need to go hunting for the perfect sunset-hued bag so I thank you xoxo

    • 12 March 2016 / 2:46 pm

      hehe I'm sure you didn't reeeeeeally need an excuse to go bag shopping now did you, Sheela..?!!!! Thank you sweetie, glad you lied the post! x

  6. 5 March 2016 / 12:55 am

    I love a tote bag that fits all the junk I love carrying around with me! That orange is perfect!

    Thanks SO much for linking up!

    Dawn Lucy
    Fashion Should Be Fun

    • 12 March 2016 / 2:37 pm

      Hehe I too carry around a lot of junk, Dawn Lucy – hence choosing a large tote…!! Thank you sweetie x

  7. 4 March 2016 / 10:10 am

    You can't go wrong with an orange bag! What a great choice – enjoy it!! Some lovely ideas here. I really like the studded pumps – purse friendly Valentino tribute!

    I have an orange Bayswater that put me on the baked beans diet for years. (Photo here if you're feeling nosy 😉

    • 4 March 2016 / 3:15 pm

      Aren't the studded Valentino-lookalikes fabulous…?! LOVE your orange tote btw – it's a beauty!! x

  8. 4 March 2016 / 8:20 am

    Orange is such a happy color, and the tote is fabulous! I definitely need mitre orange in my life…

    • 4 March 2016 / 3:15 pm

      I think along with yellow, orange is the happiest of all colours – you're right! Thanks Andrea x

  9. 4 March 2016 / 8:13 am

    That Other stories dress is calling me! Love the bag too,Orange is one of my favourites colours
    Laurie x

    • 4 March 2016 / 3:14 pm

      Gah Laurie I love that dress too!!!!!!! I think I may just have to get a dress to go with my bag…!!

  10. 3 March 2016 / 8:30 pm

    Midi culottes, nooooo! I love the top of that jumpsuit then it's a scroll down sadness. They make even the model look stumpy of leg.

    PS – great bag and great outfits otherwise…

    • 3 March 2016 / 8:52 pm

      Eleanor I think it's the way that M&S have photogrpahed the model that make her look that way – the pose and the shoes are all wrong. I find the midi the most flattering of all lengths… all the comments about my B&W gingham dress prove that, and everyone went gaga over that dress which is the same fit and length! Don't forget no one actually stands like that model is doing on the M&S site, they've made her stand that way just to show they're trousers and not a skirt. Plus heels make all the difference.

      I bet you'd feel differently if they were styled and photographed with the items in the outfit layout…!!

    • 3 March 2016 / 10:25 pm

      I agree, that was not a flattering way to model that outfit. It's too dressy for tennis shoes. You're just going to have to buy it and model it for us!

    • 3 March 2016 / 11:51 pm

      hehe it did get me thinking that, Wendy…!!

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