Become a Handbag Designer

Handbags can range from simple and utilitarian to all flash and flamboyant, and everything in between. If you intend to design them, learn both ends of this spectrum. Then, combine the different elements into new and different designs all your own.


  1. Determine whether you want to design handbags as a hobby or as a profession. Your handbag habits could also be a little of both, making handbags in your spare time to sell for a bit of extra money.
  2. Sharpen your sewing skills.
    • Get a sewing machine and learn how to use it.
    • If you're short on cash, used sewing machines can be a very good deal. You don't need a lot of fancy stitches or computerized embroidery to learn to sew. Ask around and see if someone you know has one you could have or borrow, perhaps in exchange for doing some mending for them. Check garage sales and thrift stores in your area, too. Sewing machines are pretty durable. Ensure your machine can cope with leather if you intend to use this material for your hand bags.
    • Learn to wind a bobbin and thread your sewing machine.
    • Learn a little hand sewing, too, at least enough to sew a button, though this can be done by machine. Buttonholes can also be done by hand or machine.
    • Invest in a good pair of sewing scissors.
  3. Start making your own bags from patterns. Try a denim purse, a tote bag, and a drawstring bag for some good introductory projects. Notice how the pieces fit together to form the shapes of the bags.
  4. Try making some of the less conventional bags. Recycled and reclaimed materials give their own unique character to bags. What other materials and objects could you turn into a bag or purse?
  5. Move on to more advanced sewing techniques. Learn how to add zippers, snaps, Velcro, and other closures. Learn to line your bag, to create box-bottom bags and three-dimensional shapes. Learn to make various sorts of pockets and straps.
  6. Study bags and luggage in all forms. Look at suitcases, backpacks, messenger bags, purses, lunchboxes, diaper bags, Make a Coin Purse, knitting bags, anything.
    • How are they constructed?
    • What fashions and styles do they reflect?
    • What purposes or needs do they serve?
    • What is lacking or inconvenient about them?
  7. Learn about creating patterns. Get some scrap fabric and play around with it until you understand how shapes go together. Don't forget to leave a seam allowance. Get some garage sale or thrift store handbags and dismantle them to see what they looked like as flat pieces.
  8. Notice how you use the bags you have. Notice which bags you prefer and why. Ask to see friends' bags (this may be somewhat personal, so don't press). Notice what people carry in their purses. Should you include a separate pocket for a cell phone? An internal pocket for personal items? Generous capacity for a book or notebook?
  9. Explore fashions, designs, and embellishments. At some point, most purses and handbags are constructed along similar lines and what sets them apart is fashion. Notice how different materials and colors change the character, style, and feel of the bag. What makes it Choose Unique Handbags and Purses? Observe and experiment with the following elements.
    • Shape. Bags run from tall and slender to short and wide, and everything in between. How does the shape of a bag affect the handling and appearance?
    • Color. Textiles and other materials are available in a wide variety of colors, but you can also dye materials, leave the natural color of the material, and use coordinating and contrasting panels or trim.
    • Pattern. Here, the sky is the limit. Subtle, loud, abstract, geometric, floral, or simply the pattern created by the construction and trim on the bag.
    • Material. This affects the bag in many ways, including appearance, handling (both for construction and use), weight, and feel.
  10. Start selling the bags you make. Start online or at craft fairs. You'll make a bit of money, gain exposure, and learn what people think of your creations. Listen to your customers and give careful consideration to what they say, especially to anything you hear repeatedly.


  • Start carrying your own handbag creations as soon as you have some to choose from. Notice what you like and don't like about them. If you're selling them, carrying one is also a way to promote your products.
  • While you browse handbags, notice anybody else who is browsing handbags, too. What handbags are they carrying? What choices do they make? What bags do they examine but put back? What comments do they make to any friends who are shopping with them?
  • Don't forget to consider how handbags will wear for those handbags that will be used for more than one special occasion. What will they look like when they get a bit dirty? Is the material going to withstand years of wear and abuse gracefully? Some materials, such as leather and canvas, seem to build character with wear. Other materials just fall apart, get scuffed and scratched, and start looking shabby.
  • Go purse shopping with any friends that will let you and observe what they choose and why.


  • There are a whole lot more unknown fashion designers than known fashion designers. You may wish to have a backup source of income in mind before pursuing this career.
  • Don't be surprised if people compare (often without saying, but you can tell) what you want for your handbags with what they can pay for those produced en masse for large chain stores. Delicately remind them that they are buying something made in the U.S. (instead of being made by cheap labor in other countries), and that they are getting something unique. Point out what else may be different about your bags - the design, the construction, the materials, etc. (don't give away your trade secrets, however. You never know when a competitor is posing as an interested customer).

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