One of the most prized possessions of women from all ages has been their handbag. From the carry-all to hipster – bags with obscure artists and quotes to Bottega Veneta’s suave and sophisticated leather travel version – the humble shopper bag is an essential in every woman’s bag collection. It is also popularly known as the Tote. It can be carried for formal events or just a stroll down the marketplace, it is perfectly handy. While the bag is very utilitarian, its history is neglected. The etymology of the word shopper – ‘a person who yearns shopping’. Your shopper is the perfect sous chef for the culinary maestro in you.

The transition of Shoppers through the 20th century
L.L bean- ice bag- shopper-tote

L.L Bean launched its ice tote shopper bag in the 1940s.

Rewind a few years, in the 20th century the shopper became very populous in the US. In the 1940s, LL Bean launched its ‘ice bag,’ which was sold as a builder’s canvas for transporting ice to one’s freezer from the car. This ushered in the eventual craze for shopper bags. The tote shopper originated as an ice carrier and designed more elegantly in the 1960s in the similar form as it is built today.


The tote shopper utilized by the homemakers in the 1950s

In the 1950s, the tote shopper was used as a staple to aide in the daily chores for the homemakers. The 1960s heralded a new wave of socio-political awareness that had an impact on style preferences, including the selection of bags. Allowing shopper-totes of all kinds to become more popular.


Cashin Carry Tote by Coach – Contemporary design in leather during the decade


The American designer Cashin designed the ‘Cashin Carry Tote’ for Coach – a contemporary design in leather during the decade. It was available in a number of flamboyant colors. It was during this decade that produced in tandem with purses, it is believed that the Cashin Carry Tote was the first time a tote (shopper) bag was considered more as a fashion adornment than a practical everyday accessory.

Strand-shopper-tote-New York-bag-1980s

A staple on city streets of New York was the tote shopper bag launched by the iconic Strand bookstore in the 1980s.

A staple on city streets even till today was the tote (shopper) bag launched by the iconic New York City bookstore (The Strand) in the 1980s. The tote (shopper) was a blank stock shopper, purchased in bulk. It was a natural cotton duck canvas, with an inside lining. Red Helvetica letters were employed. The graphic boldly advertised the store’s name and contact details along with slogans that gained steady popularity, most notably – ‘18 Miles of Books’.

Though there is a lot of making done in the creation of iconic tote (shopper), there is still a need to keep its designs fresh. Over time, The Strand’s design team made improvements to the handles and added a velcro closure to the inside of the bag.

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Hermès ‘Birkin’ bag in 1984

In 1984, Hermès chief executive Jean-Louis Dumas sat next to Jane Birkin on a flight to witness the contents of her bag fall out of the overhead cabinet and heard her exclaim how hard it was to find a leather bag that she actually adored. Thus the ‘Birkin’ bag was born. After that, the shopper sailed along swiftly

The Shopper has evolved beautifully through the 21st century
Tory Burch-tote-shopper bag

Tory Burch tote shopper bag in 2013.

High-end shoppers are a rage down the runway as well.  The chic Coach bags, the popular Madewell shoppers, and iterations by Rebecca Minkoff, Tory Burch and Prada gracing the fashion weeks. Clearly, the shopper tote had the moxie with multiple brands ardently waiting to create their own versions. But the shoppers seen on the runway come in a variety of fabrics that set it apart from your average version.

Beautifully crafted leather to lush velvet, high-end versions of the iconic shopper tote can become the conversation piece of an outfit. One major similarity between both the high-end and everyday version of these bags have is space. Luxury tote shoppers definitely offer more room than any ordinary handbag.

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Madewell transport tote shopper – a classic leather bag

Take the Madewell transport tote shopper, larger than an average shopper, but possesses sophistication that your everyday one lacks. Over the last few years, many women and men have flaunted it.  Joyce Lee, head designer at Madewell, had once said, “It came out of what our girl needed in a bag, something that is simple in form, utilitarian in function, can be used every day, and that’s the perfect complement to denim. It needed to be timeless, and the leather had to look better with age.”

IKEA-shopper bag-tote-Balenciaga

IKEA’s high-end version of the shopper was recently released by French luxury brand Balenciaga in 2016

Instead of visiting the stores people preferred shopping online. Thus Ikea popularized the shopper: Its version of the oversized bag came in different colors. They are sold as a better alternative to plastic bags. A high-end version of the Ikea shopper was recently released by French luxury brand Balenciaga.

The use of the shopper bag was diverse. Some used it for grocery shopping while some to carry their essentials and some to hit the mall for a shopping spree helping create a more personalized statement than your usual purse. While the shopper has undergone many makeovers over the years, it has stood the test of time and evolved beautifully and have been gaining popularity. Shoppers such as sleek, large bucket bags have graced the pages of many ritzy magazines.