Investment banking dress code for women: handbag edition

It's no secret that investment banks, whether they're in London, Frankfurt, Paris or on Wall Street in New York are known for some of the most conservative dress codes in the world.

These dress codes have primarily been based on what men wear to work. This means that you see oceans of men in dark blue suits, with a colourful tie, black leather shoes and an anonymous document folder or duffle bag.

Women are changing the dress code rules

But dress codes have started to change, and as more and more women work in high-powered roles, they are setting the tone for what's ok to wear.

And frankly, that's how it should be. Because we're done with the time when men told us how to dress.

Embrace colours

While black, dark blue and grey are still the most seen colours in most investment banks or funds, women are wearing tops and dresses in more and more colours.

It's very easy to pair a dark purple dress with a dark blazer and make it look both fashionable and professional at the same time.

Colourful power suits are also more readily available from less expensive brands like Zara. And you can be elegant in other colours like cream or shades of pink.

Pair one high-quality bag with what you wear most days

Woman in white suit and black handbag walking up stairs

Consider which colours you wear the most when you pick a work bag. Handbags can be a big investment, and they are supposed to last a long time to make up for it. So you want to make sure that the bag you use for work will look great when you walk into meetings.

Black is a very versatile colour, especially if you like to mix up your clothes and shoes, but it's not the only thing out there.

Dark shades of both blue, red and green can also work very well. And lighter shades of beige and grey are also very popular.

If you choose to go with a classic black bag, you can always have a smaller bag for going out after work that you keep inside your work bag.

Bags with huge logos are less common

Women have in general had more freedom to play with jewellery, shoes and bags in the world of finance and investment banking.

This is still the case today and it's hard to go wrong. No one is going to tell you outright which bags you need to use to work. And there isn't one hard and fast rule.

But one thing that is changing more and more, is that people choose to be less flashy with huge logos and recognisable designer bags. Fewer women also seem to wear bags with branded canvas.

Even people who love their luxury-priced designer bags, often choose to leave them at home during the day and use something more practical and discrete while at work. Flashing your money might seem like a great thing to do in movies like Wolf of Wall Street, but it isn't what investment bankers do these days.

Find a functional bag that's easy to carry

Investment bankers, lawyers, accountants and anyone else in a professional setting also need to make sure that the bags they choose are functional.

This means that a bag that can only be held in the nook of your arm might look very cool when you don't have anything heavy in it. But when you have to carry pitch books or laptops for meetings, you need to be able to carry the bag over your shoulder or crossbody.

Read the guide on which handles and straps you need for your work handbag here.

You'll be surprised by the amount you need to put in your bag for work

One of the things that surprised me when I started working as an investment banker was the amount of stuff I was expected to carry. This could either be to a meeting in the city, or through the airport to get to clients in other countries.

Carrying chargers, pens, notebooks, laptops and multiple cellphones became daily life. And then there are the heavily bound pitch books that need to be presented both at pitches and important meetings during a project.

Make sure the handbag you pick has enough space to accommodate for all of this. If you have to start bringing two bags to work every day, you will start to get annoyed.

If you struggle to keep your work bag tidy, read here.

These styles are most common

There are several types of bags that can cater for analysts, associates and VPs, who often are the ones expected to carry the most things for meetings.

Tote bags are very popular as they have quite a lot of space. Since most of these cannot be closed, they are often not used when you fly as you need to put your bag down on the side, and you don't want the contents to fall out.

Some people also bring multiple bags, like one structured computer bag and one soft bag for gym clothes and shoes. Finding a bag that can cater to both at the same time might be helpful so you don't have to have your arms full while commuting.

To look at slimmer computer bags, click here. To find larger bags with room for clothes and water bottles, see here.

For more bag or work inspiration, follow us on Instagram or sign up to our Women in Business Newsletter.

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