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, grown-up look.

One of the more popular brands is Michael Kors, which makes a wide variety of quality backpacks. This black pebble 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. I also find 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 to look sophisticated, choose one with sophisticated hardware and high fashion details. This Raven leather backpack has a gorgeous gold metal tab closure.

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 on 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.

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For example, it’s hard to pull off this look if you wear a backpack purse with out-of-date jeans, a baggy old sweatshirt, and boring shoes. Same with 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 actually look chicer when you toss one over a shoulder like you are dashing off to have some fun or do something important. (LOL!)

Some have a longer 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

Backpack Purse - Frye Tan Leather

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?

Backpack Purse - Olive Suede

Modern Backpack

This is such an interesting backpack purse. Not only is it a gorgeous color, but the shape and fabric blocking are so modern.

Backpack purse - Red quilted Michael Kors

Quilted Backpack

This striking leather backpack purse with chevron quilting is from Kate Spade.

This purse will make you look fabulous and feminine.

Backpack Purse - Michael Kors Black Leather with gold zippers

Chic Backpack

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

Big patch pockets, and braided ties, also give this bag a cool, 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!

Join the Conversation

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

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

    Men’s vs Women’s backpacks as long as it can be adjusted to fit your body then your all good!

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

  3. 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 full. I am 5’5 and a size 10, how do I wear it with nice, chic street smart clothes since it is the most expensive thing I have ever bought and I love it. I just don’t know how to wear it

    1. Hi Kay, That sounds beautiful. There are no rules for what you can and cannot wear your backpack purse with. 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 nice with burgundy, too, so you could try a gray sweaterdress with black boots and this burgundy bag. I think these backpacks look best when they are worn with simple, clean lines, nothing fussy or frilly, or too fine. A backpack has a relaxed, sporty vibe, so you want casually chic clothes rather than clothes that are too buttoned up/formal. Enjoy!

  4. Hi,

    You have the big Micheal Kors bag, will the small one be too small? After having 2 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 really depends what you carry. I like the bigger bag because when I shop or go somewhere I can put my purchases in or my kids often ask me to carry stuff for them. The nice thing is you can always send back the size you don’t want. Here is mine. They don’t carry it in mustard any longer but there are lots of other nice shades:

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

  6. Hi Deborah,
    I’ve read your blog for a while now but have never felt the need to leave a comment until now. I really enjoyed reading all the creative suggestions for backpack purses which I never even considered buying before as I thought they really weren’t for the over 40 crowd. You have made me do a 180 on this and I will be keeping 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 really important 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

  7. You have the best fashion advice of 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 be of help. It’s tough navigating the fashion world at 40, 50+ when our bodies and lifestyles are changing, 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