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Aug 30, 2023

11 items in this article 2 items on sale!

11 items in this article 2 items on sale!

Last spring, a friend surprised me with a Uniqlo mini–tote bag with my dog’s name printed on the front in lilac lettering. What I initially thought of as a gag gift quickly became my go-to bag. It turns out a mini-tote is exactly what has been missing from my life, and based on the many mini-totes I’ve seen in New York City and beyond, I’m not the only one with mini-tote mania.

There are so many times when I need to carry just a few things with me but a purse feels too formal, so I throw everything into a cavernous tote bag and spend the rest of the day trying to locate something at the bottom of it. The mini-tote keeps everything closer to the surface and within reach while still being sizable enough to hold a significant amount. I grab it for walking the 15 minutes from home to my local Pilates studio when all I need with me is a water bottle, wallet, phone, and keys. I’ve taken it to countless brunches, on multiple weekend trips, and even for a day at the Minnesota State Fair.

Tiny totes, like most miniaturized things, are also irresistibly adorable. Measuring in at seven-to-nine inches tall and eight-to-13 inches long, they’re still big enough to be useful, but the miniaturization of something typically seen in a larger form proves to be delightful every time. We are in a cultural moment of embracing fun, girlie things — from the cotton-candy pink of the Barbie movie to the collective joy of exchanging friendship bracelets on the Eras Tour — and what could be more fun and girlie than a mini–tote bag?

Unlike some highly coveted totes, the mini-tote isn’t a status item but an accessory you love using so much that you want your friends to share in the joy and convenience. I have influenced countless people who have in turn influenced countless others to buy a mini-tote (or two) after seeing mine, and we’ve become pros at spotting them wherever we go. Each time I see one, I snap a photo and text like-minded friends, delighted by another woman carrying such an adorable yet practical accessory: “Hey, Barbie! Love your mini-tote.”

At 13 inches by 9.5 inches, this mini-tote fits a water bottle, thin sweatshirt, ChapStick, and keys. There’s an inside pocket so your tiniest items don’t get lost and a snap at the top to keep the bag closed. The handles are long enough that I can comfortably carry it over my shoulder, a key feature I consider when picking a mini-tote.

You can also get this bag custom screen-printed with stickers, images, or typography (as my friend did with my dog’s name) at a UTme! station at Uniqlo locations in New York City, at Disney Springs in Florida, and at Ala Moana in Hawaii.

This General Knot bag is roughly the same size as the Uniqlo bag but has vegan-blond-leather straps and copper hardware that make it look more polished and expensive. There’s also a big side pocket for keeping your smaller items organized.

Three of my friends bought this whale mini-tote at the Nantucket Whaling Museum gift shop this summer (I had to spend $12.95 on shipping when I decided I needed it two weeks later). The bag is made of extra-heavyweight canvas and prominently features a large whale graphic and the Nantucket Historical Association logo. Despite being only three inches deep, it comfortably holds everything I need to take with me to brunch.

The children’s section is a gold mine for mini-totes (out of my way, kids!). This floral-printed canvas bag from Gap’s new LoveShackFancy collab comes in both ivory and pink and has a cross-body strap in addition to top handles. It’s a great way to enjoy LoveShackFancy’s whimsical feminine style at a lower price point.

The Ralph Lauren girls’ section is also a great source for charming mini-totes. The Gingham Big Pony is a little bag that has a lot going for it with a zip closure and both interior and exterior pockets. It also comes in floral print.

This classic neutral canvas tote with white nylon detailing is perfect for everyday use whether you’re schlepping around running errands or vacationing in Positano. It’s also available with pink or orange detailing, and you can get your mini-tote monogrammed for an extra $24 on the Stoney Clover Lane website.

A list of tote bags would be incomplete without including a bookstore tote, especially when tiny totes are the perfect size for carrying a single book with you. Beloved NYC indie Book Culture sells a black canvas mini-tote with its logo on it that comes with comfortable 25-inch-long handles.

L.L.Bean totes are tried and true, and this insulated mini-tote is an adorable way to keep your items cool without schlepping around a Yeti. The classic neutral canvas tote — available with navy-blue or dark-green straps — conceals an insulated pouch with food-grade lining. It’s perfect for a solo picnic in the park or bringing your lunch to work.

At $175, the Marc Jacobs Small Tote Bag is the luxury vehicle of mini-totes. This black square cotton-canvas tote comes with a zip closure up top and a removable cross-body strap in addition to the top handles for extra carrying options.

If you like the square shape and cross-body strap of the Marc Jacobs Small Tote Bag but don’t want to drop $175 on a canvas bag, the BDG Serena Mini Tote Bag is a great alternative. This bag really puts the mini in mini-tote, at just 6.5 inches tall. It comes in light pink, neutral, black, and lime green.

I love the graphic pop of this red, black, and neutral Marimekko tote from her Kioski collection, which features playful essentials in bold prints. The bag is made of sturdy canvas, and the straps feature Marimekko-branded typography.

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