The complete guide to wearing a mini backpack like a grown ass woman

MCM backpack
Photography by Peter Stigter

After decades of being condemned alongside fellow nineties accomplice, the fanny pack, mini backpacks have made a triumphant return. The pack’s been coming on strong for the last few years, but lately, it’s proved itself staple (just take a look around any online shop’s accessories section for proof).

The best and also the most boring thing about mini backpacks is that they are practical. As grown women with more than a wallet to our names (I know I’m not the only person to use my bag as a smuggling service for snacks at the movie theatre or any other place), mini backpacks do the job we briefly thought we no longer needed: they carry our belongings without hurting our shoulders or wrists. Oversize handbags always seem like a good idea, but all of us know the pain of carrying one for more than 20 minutes.

Because winter is coming and what matters most is having both hands free to break your ice-induced fall, here’s a helpful guide to wearing a mini backpack like a grown ass woman.

MCM backpack

1. Be the teen you want to see in the world
Of course, by a mini backpack for adults, what I mean is one “made with quality fabrics and for designer prices, if you’re so inclined.” This season, Moschino paid homage to the coolest recess ever with its Barbie™-inspired PVC backpack (less mini, but it has to be included for nostalgia purpose obviously) and tribute to Spongebob Squarepants. Meanwhile, MCM‘s latest collection is a mecca of metal hardware, leather, leopard print, and gems. 2014 is our second chance to be cool teens, backpack-wise. The practicality of the style may be appealing, but there’s no need to surrender to neutrals just to play it safe.

MCM Stark Sparkle Stud Backpack ($646,

Acne Backpack
Acne Fall 2014 shot by Peter Stigter

2. Maintain the handbag connection
Maybe going from purse-to-backpack is a little too real. Maybe a backpack doesn’t seem mature. Maybe it doesn’t seem like it’ll work with your coats. To help ease the transition into backpack world, brands like Acne featured them in shows being carried like traditional handbags, proving that they really are multi-functional accessories, and not just novelty items. (Although, for the record, nothing looks cooler than a simple one-strap-over-your-shoulder á la junior high)

Tommy Hilfiger Backpack
Tommy Hilfiger Fall 2014 shot by Peter Stigter

3. Champion texture over blandness
Here’s something our bags and backpacks missed in middle school: texture. Sure, some of us had a Winnie the Pooh Zellers brand mini-BP we scored for less than $20 over a decade ago, but compared to Tommy Hilfiger’s mix of suede and leather (and plaid!) piece this season, the bags of our youth were lacking the components that help make pieces multi-dimensional and interesting. Or, more specifically, one aforementioned piece was a child’s item, and the other is simply a purse with differently positioned straps.

Philip Lim Backpack

4. Don’t shy away from the practical (if that’s what you want)
When some people started wearing stuffed animals-as-backpacks circa ’98, that’s when mini backpacks began their sad, slow descent into hell. (Or: to the bottom of charity bins, where they remained untouched for countless moons.) So maybe it’s the novelty paired with a novelty (like a Barbie print) that makes mini backpacks seem like a means of holding onto youth for too long. Maybe some of us/you are just looking for a bag that will support your back while holding your belongings. Fortunately you’re in luck.

3.1. Phillip Lim Pashli backpack ($825,

While the 2014 backpack world is hardly lacking bright prints, bold textures, or metallic embellishments, there are just as many brands championing subtle, sleek styles. Brands like Rag & Bone and Mansur Gavriel help carry the look into full-blown adulthood, as if these were just another leather bag to pair with a winter coat. Spoiler alert: they totally are. But that’s what mini backpacks of any style are. Why? Because we’re grown ass women wearing them. And, most importantly, none of these styles boast a Winnie the Pooh aesthetic.