5 Grown-Up Ways to Wear a Backpack Purse

Backpacks have gone from high school hallways to high fashion runways. Now they’re one of the most popular styles of handbags around. How do you wear a backpack purse at 40, 50+ so you look classy, not collegiate? Here are 5 Grownup Ways to Wear this trend.

1. Choose a Luxurious Bag

Polyester, nylon, and canvas may be functional backpack materials for travel, but they’re too ordinary to make a chic fashion statement. The best backpacks are sleek and sophisticated, made from luxurious fabrics like leather, suede, and even velvet for a more high-end, grownup look. One of the more popular brands is Michael Kors, which makes a wide variety of quality backpacks. This black faux leather backpack purse is one of their bestsellers. You can also get it with silver zippers. Michael Kors marigold backpack purse My bag is from Michael Kors. This gold color is sold out, but I found another bag in a similar color here and here.

Amazon has a good selection of backpack purses, including many from Michael Kors.

2. Beautiful Details are Chic

Backpack purses have an inherently casual vibe, so choose one with sophisticated hardware and high-fashion details to look sophisticated. This sling leather backpack has a gorgeous shape and chic gold hardware.

juvenille backpack

3. Nothing too Cutesy

The nice thing about backpack purses is that there’s a style to suit every fashion personality – from feminine to rustic to bold. However, too much print, sappy colors, faux fur, and sparkle are the cutesy details to avoid so you don’t look childish.

Mini backpack purses that look like they belong to a 10-year-old are another thing to watch out for. Some are so tiny; you’d think they were made for a doll! This little pink, fuzzy backpack is cute for the grandkids, but grown-up gals need something more sophisticated.

Brown backpack

4. Wear it With Something Modern

Finding the perfect bag is only one-half of the equation. If you want to look fabulous wearing a backpack purse at any age, pair it with something modern and sophisticated.

For example, pulling off this look is hard if you wear a backpack purse with out-of-date jeans, a baggy old sweatshirt, and boring shoes. Same if you wear it with something too little girly like a frilly skirt or Mary Janes.

You’re going to look like you are playing schoolgirl. Choose clothes with modern silhouettes and details to look chic. This sleek green backpack purse looks fabulous with this funnel neck tunic and sporty leggings.


5. Carry It Over Your Shoulder

Backpack purses don’t have to be worn like backpacks (although that’s convenient when you want to go hands-free). They look chicer when you toss one over a shoulder like you are dashing off to have fun or do something meaningful. (LOL!)

Some have a more extended handle and be carried like a tote or worn in the crook of your arm. I’ve even seen a few that can fit over your shoulder and be tucked under your arm. It’s really up to you which you prefer and which feels most comfortable.

More Great Looks with Backpack Purses 

Classic Backpack

This leather backpack purse is from Frye. See how the fine leather construction and gold circular hardware give this designer backpack purse a posh equestrian vibe?

Modern Backpack

This is such an exciting backpack purse. It is a gorgeous color, and the shape and fabric blocking are modern.

Nylon Backpack

This striking nylon backpack purse with front zippers is from Michael Kors.


Chic Backpack

I love the ties on this stunning black leather backpack purse and the fold-over flap that lets you expand the bag when you need more room.

Front zippers also give this bag a relaxed, urban feel.

Still on the fence about carrying a backpack purse? Try one on for size and see if it doesn’t grow on you. A backpack purse is practical and chic for mature fashionistas,  and heck, if you ever get tired of it, you have a great extra travel bag!

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20 thoughts on “5 Grown-Up Ways to Wear a Backpack Purse

  1. Great article – only it shows *1* actual way to wear a backpack?? I wanted to see more than how to carry it over one shoulder.

  2. I love your gold bag – I don’t care what color I can get it in, but does it have a name?
    Thanking you in advance!

  3. Shopping for a backpack was fun in the first two shops I went in, but after trying on what seemed like 30 backpacks and none of them fit, the novelty wore off. Luckily I took my Dad along as an apparent backpack expert; although I tried men’s bags as well, there was no way they would fit, plus my Dad had this great fear that I would keel over backward and, worse, maybe onto a road! In the end, I had to order a women’s backpack specifically for very, very short people! (I didn’t realize I was that abnormally short!)

    Men’s vs. Women’s backpacks, as long as they can be adjusted to fit your body, you are all good!

  4. I was interested in this article as I have always loved backpacks. Now that I am older, I prefer genuine leather. I bought a Mandarina Duck rucksack in pale cream this summer and found it helpful. Their style is very pared down, and the leather is soft. I usually wear mine over the shoulder like a bag, but when you need both hands, there you are…!!

  5. Hi,
    I made an expensive impulse purchase on vacation last year; a deep Burgundy GOYARD Saint Leger is measured 14h, 13w, and 7″d when complete. I am 5’5 and a size 10; how do I wear it with nice, chic street bright clothes since it is the most expensive thing I have ever bought and I love it? I don’t know how to wear it

    1. Hi Kay, That sounds beautiful. There are no rules for what you can and cannot wear in your backpack purse. That’s the beauty of a luxury bag. I think Burgundy always looks great with black or camel. That’s a vibrant combo. So in the fall, you could do black suede jeans and a beautiful chunky camel sweater and booties. Gray looks friendly with Burgundy, too, so you could try a gray sweater dress with black boots and this burgundy bag. I think these backpacks look best when worn with simple, clean lines, nothing fussy or frilly or too delicate. A load has a relaxed, sporty vibe, so you want casually chic clothes rather than too buttoned-up/formal clothes. Enjoy!

  6. Hi,

    You have the big Micheal Kors bag, will the small one be too small? After having two kids, I am glad when the time comes when I don’t have to carry much all the time :-)

    1. Hi Jays, Only you know that. It depends on what you carry. I like the giant bag because when I shop or go somewhere, I can put my purchases in, or my kids often ask me to take stuff. The nice thing is you can always send back the size you don’t want. Here is mine. They no longer have it in mustard, but there are many other lovely shades:

  7. I’m 27, but I love your blog! I want to stay elegant, and I said I would never wear backpacks again. But then traveling is such a hassle without it! Thank you for this! Keep it up! Much love /

  8. Hi Deborah,
    I’ve read your blog for a while now but have never felt the need to leave a comment until now. I enjoyed reading all the creative suggestions for backpack purses which I never even considered buying before as I thought they weren’t for the over 40 crowds. You have made me do a 180 on this, and I will keep my eye out for my cute chic backpack purse on my next shopping run. Thank you, and keep the great ideas coming!

    1. Aww, Glorianna,
      You made my day. Thank you. I think it is essential as we get older to keep an open mind about new styles. It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut. Good for you for having an open mind. That’s what keeps us young at heart!
      Cheers, Deborah

  9. You have the best fashion advice for any blog! I love this post and have gotten so many great ideas from you. Thank you!

    1. Hi Crystal, It’s lovely to hear that I can help. It’s tricky navigating the fashion world at 40, 50+ when our bodies and lifestyles change, and no one knows where to shop. Please let me know what other topics you’d like me to cover. I’m always on the lookout for ways to serve you. All the best! Deborah

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