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Designer concealed carry purses (concealed carry handbags) with models.

What Is the Difference Between a Purse and a Handbag?

Technically speaking, a purse is just a synonym for a handbag. In the United States, many people see the words as interchangeable. Historically speaking, though, the difference between a handbag and a purse is simple:

  • A handbag is a medium-sized bag used to carry various small personal items.
  • A purse is a small bag used to carry money.

Let's Talk About Purses

Today, the word purse is used to describe a small bag with straps worn over the shoulder.

Purses carry various items including money, makeup, a phone, and keys.

In the fashion world, a purse or clutch can refer to a small bag for special occasions like at a black-tie event.

The fashionable and trendy have ditched the term purse as it is considered outdated in the fashion community.

When is a good time to use a purse?

The best scenario to grab a small purse or clutch is when you are heading for a short time to run a quick errand or are going to an event where you will only need your keys, wallet, and phone.

The downside to choosing a purse is that it will not hold much and is easy to put down and forget due to its size.

Let's Talk About Handbags

A handbag is bigger and can hold more than just money and often has sturdy handles with plenty of internal pockets and compartments.

Handbags are often expensive fashion statements created by artisans of the craft and hung proudly in the crook of a woman's elbow as a sign of fashion and wealth. 

The term handbag is also more often reserved for higher-end bags, making it a chic and sophisticated choice.

What is a good time to use a handbag?

The best time to grab a handbag is when you’re feeling trendy and want show off your high-end accessories, or when you need to have a sturdy bag that conveniently organizes all the different things you need to carry with you. It's also best for when you will be out all day and need to carry a wide variety of things.

The downside to choosing a handbag is its bulkiness and weight. There is a reason why we have a million different heavy purse jokes out there in this world! The key to avoiding this is finding a company that uses the best leather and lining material to cut down on the weight and bulkiness.

In the end, the choice of a handbag versus a purse is a question of function. If you find you need help choosing between the two, ask yourself the following questions:

How useful do you need it to be?

  • Do you need something capable of holding several items or just a few things?
  • Does it need to be large enough to be comfortable for you on your journey?
  • Does it need to be small and inconspicuous so that it doesn't get in your way or ruin the lines of your beautiful dress?


Here's some fun trivia to impress your friends the next time you go shopping for that all-important fashion accessory:

  • Pockets were not invented until the 17th century. Therefore, men worldwide carried purses to hold their money and used it as a wealth status, much like women do currently.
  • When the term handbag first became popular, it referred to a man's hand luggage.
  • The most expensive bag in the world is the ‘1001 Nights Diamond Purse' by House of Mouawad and costs $34.5 million!
  • The average woman has six purses or handbags in her collection.

When it comes down to it, it doesn't matter which term you use as long as it looks great and functions the way you need it to.


Difference Between a Purse vs. a Handbag | LoveToKnow

What Is The Difference Between A Handbag And A Purse? | PinkFemme

Ten Fun Facts About Handbags | Samuel Fashion (

Handbag - Wikipedia