While bag straps details are a small style component in bag designing, choosing the right strap for your bag design is important when you are designing a handbag collection. In the manufacturing world, most bag handles and other bag fittings are bought through wholesale suppliers but when it comes to the actual bag strapping, much of it is made in-house. When deciding on a strap style for your creation, it’s important to consider the length and width because each has their own characteristics which change the look, comfort, and the way the bag is carried.
CHOOSING A BAG STRAP LENGTH
The strap length is measured from one end to the other, including the attachable hooks/hardware. Please note that “strap length” is different from “drop length” which measures the distance from the top of the strap to the top of the bag, when being worn. Measure all straps by their length (from end-to-end) because the drop length depends on the type of bag, what type of clothing you’re wearing (a heavy coat for example), your height, the position the bag is worn and so forth. By using the end-to-end length method, you can select the length that works best for your personal needs.
The standard strap lengths listed below should work for most people, however I’ve found that it is really a matter of personal preference. Only the user knows the strap length that makes carrying a bag comfortable and a pleasure. Here’s how you can find the right length.
To determine the length of strap needed, dressforms get used in my studio often, along with a tape-measure to help determine my desired strap length or drape it on my assistant (I’m certain you can find a volunteer live and willing) in the design studio. As well, I can recommend using a piece of cord or flat ribbon, attached to your mock-up sample, with it adjusted until the length is as desired. Measure the ribbon from end-to-end to determine your strap length. Another method that often works well is to find another sample bag you have produced that has the strap length you’re looking to replicate. You have already done the design work so odds are the strap length will be a good choice. If possible, attach it to the mock-up to see if it will work for the length you’d like to achieve on your new prototype.
I have categorized 7 typical uses and lengths of handbag straps:
- Wristlet (6 to 10-inch range)
- Short Handle (12 to 20-inch range)
- Shoulder (30-inch range)
- Long Shoulder (40-inch range)
- Crossbody (50-inch range)
- Extra Long (60-inch range)
- Adjustable (22 to 60-inch range)
Wristlet straps fit around the wrist then attach to the bag, making them a great choice for smaller bags that need to be kept close, like a clutch or billfold. Wristlet straps have an approximately 6-inch opening for your hand to slip through. They are designed to fit most handspans, while still being “snug” enough when placed on the wrist that it won’t easily slide or fall off.
A wristlet strap can also be used as a lanyard or even as a large zipper pull for larger totes.
Short Handle Straps (12 to 20-inch range):
Short handle straps are used to carry handbags either as a top-handle carried with your hand or over your arm, or as a tight-fitting hobo-style strap. If you’re a petite person, a 20-inch strap may work well to hold the bag tightly under your arm.
Keep in mind, when attaching a short handle strap to a hobo-style handbag, the weight of the contents will change the shape of the bag and increase the drop length quite a bit (sometimes double) so be sure to test this on your mock-up bag.
Shoulder Straps (30-inch range):
Shoulder straps are generally in the 30-inch range and are typically used to carry bags closely under your arm and close to the body. This is a popular bag strap length because the strap can also function as a top-handle for other bag styles, such as a tote. Many people like this length because it allows you to hold the handbag by the handle while you carry it on the shoulder, yet you are allowed to let go and be hands-free while commuting.
The beauty of detachable/attachable straps is the freedom to carry the bag any way you want. Simply attach the strap of your choice and go!
Long Shoulder Straps (40-inch range):
Longer shoulder straps are generally in the 40-inch range and allow the bag to hang down near the hip area when worn over the shoulder (depending on how tall you are, of course). For the petite person, this length can often be used to wear the bag across the chest, or often referred to as the “cross body” position.
When using as a cross body strap, this will have the top of the bag style sitting near the natural waist, depending on your height, weight and clothing.
Crossbody Straps (50-inch range):
Crossbody (sometimes called “chest straps”) straps are generally in the 50-inch range. This type of strap allows the bag style to be worn securely over the head so that the strap rests on the shoulder and the bag crosses the chest then sits around the hip area on the opposite side of the body.
This style is very popular because it allows the bag style to be worn securely in busy areas while commuting or travelling, etc., frees up your hands to carry other things, and generally provides the most comfort. Even if the bag style wasn’t designed for cross body wear, it is usually possible to convert it using a longer attachable crossbody strap.
Extra Long Straps (60-inch range):
Extra long bag straps have many uses and are a great choice if the user is a tall or plus-size person, wear heavy clothing like a winter jacket, or prefer a low-hanging bag. This longer length is designed to provide a similar drop-length as the 50-inch crossbody straps, but for those that fall into the scenarios just mentioned.
It is possible to go longer than 60-inches, but the strap materials quickly become limited. Due to genuine leather hide size limitations, it is often not possible to go longer than 65 to 70-inches or some kind of hardware connection is needed. Other materials, like imitation leather and nylon webbing, can be made into very long bag straps because they are yard goods available on large rolls.
Adjustable Straps (28 to 65-inch range):
Adjustable bag straps offer the ultimate in flexibility. Adjustable straps come in two forms: with the popular tri-glide “slider” hardware for precise tuning of strap length, or with “punched holes and a buckle” that have fixed adjustable lengths.
Adjustable bag straps range in lengths from 28 to 65-inches. Many customers elect for the 55-inch adjustable strap because its range can be changed quickly from 34-inches to 55-inches, making it seamless to convert the bag style from a shoulder to crossbody style.
A bag strap with a slider mechanism or buckle will alter not only the strap length but the drop length of a bag too. With an adjustable bag strap, the user has the freedom to carry or wear the bag exactly the way they want, on the shoulder hanging low to the hip, across the chest, or tightly under the arm. This design detail makes any kind of bag styling much more versatile, therefore saleable, when presenting a new collection.
CHOOSING A BAG STRAP WIDTH
The strap width is the portion of the strap that rests on the shoulder or in the hand (if used as a “top handle”). Generally speaking, the larger the bag strap width, the heavier a bag that can be supported. This is because the contact area of the bag strap increases as the strap width increases, which allows for improved weight distribution and comfort. This is particularly useful for anyone with sensitive shoulders (due to arthritis, for example). You could add a shoulder shield to the strap to prevent narrow straps from cutting into the shoulder and pad them a little bit to add additional comfort when carrying heavier loads.
Also interesting to note, a slender strap usually hugs the shoulder better, helping to prevent the bag from slipping or falling off. As a rule of thumb, smaller bags generally use smaller width straps, and larger bags generally use larger width straps. It makes common sense!
So the challenge becomes finding the right balance between usefulness (do I need to carry a large and heavy bag, or small and light weight bag?), comfort (will I be carrying the bag for extended periods of time and does it fit my body?) and appearance (does the strap look balanced with my bag?).
I have categorized handbag straps into 7 widths and uses:
- Extra Slender & Drawcord Straps (3/8-inch)
- Slender Width Straps (1/2-inch)
- Standard Width Straps (3/4-inch)
- Classic Width Straps (1-inch)
- Wide Width Straps (1½-inch)
- Extra Wide Width Straps (2-inch)
- Chain Straps (varying in width from ¼-inch to ⅝-inch)
Extra Slender & Drawcord Straps (3/8-inch):
An extra slender or drawcord bag strap is great for a minimal look on small bags. Drawcord straps do not come with attachable hooks (extra slender ones do, however) because they are designed to be knotted at the ends and looped into or through the bag’s hardware, or used on a bag style with a traditional drawstring closure.
Slender Width Straps (1/2-inch):
Slender bag straps are great for smaller bags, clutches, envelope bags, slender billfolds or if the bag styling is seeking a delicate or minimal visual look to your handbag collection. Slender straps tend to stay on the shoulder with less slippage. For bags designed to carry a lot of weight, choose the more apt “classic” or “wide” bag straps.
Standard Width Straps (3/4-inch):
Standard width straps provide good carrying capacity for small to medium sized bags, and offer a good balance between the minimal look of a slender strap and the wider/larger look of a classic strap. These straps are comfortable to wear and are double-stitched to provide good carrying strength.
Classic Width Straps (1-inch):
Classic width straps provide great comfort and carrying capacity for medium to large size handbags and purses of all types. This is the most popular selling width and can carry heavier bags with ease.
Wide Width Straps (1½-inch):
Wide width straps offer excellent strength and comfort for large tote bags, brief cases, diaper, camera or weekender bags. These straps are great for carrying a lot of weight because they distribute the weight of the bag, easing stress on the shoulder.
Extra Wide Width Straps (2-inch):
Extra-wide width straps offer excellent strength and comfort for large shoulder bags, sports bags, duffles and other travel bags. These straps are great for carrying a lot of weight because they distribute the weight of the bag, easing stress on the shoulder or across the body. Often extra wide widths are top-stitched with multiple rows of machine-stitching which adds body and strengthen the strap.
Chain Straps (varying in width from ¼-inch to ⅝-inch):
Chain straps range in width from ¼-inch to ⅝-inch. Most chain straps are metal making them impossible to cut by thieves and can carry a good amount of weight depending on the chain style and thickness. You can find plastic chains as well though they are used for making more of a fashion statement rather than for practicality. Remember though, carrying a heavy bag on your shoulder with a chain strap can quickly become uncomfortable. I don’t recommend carrying heavy bags on the shoulder with a chain strap due to the increased pressure. A wide fabric bag strap or a thick chain with leather shoulder/handle, is better suited for this scenario. That said, chain straps are great for communicating elegance, sophistication and class, which generally translates to fashion/style rather than function.
Luxury chain straps have the look and feel of fine jewellery and come with connecting hardware that are ready to attach to your bag. Chain straps are available to match with almost any bag design detail, whether it be: hardware, material, or colour, making them an excellent and elegant styling choice.
BAG STRAP MAKING MATERIALS
It goes without saying that if you are designing a bag fabricated in a certain material that the bag straps are made from the same material. However, thinking like a designer, there are other options you may want to consider. We want the bag strap to be durable yet comfortable to wear. We want the bag strap to appear balanced with the rest of our bag design to unify our design concept. We want the bag strap to be useful and support the weight we are carrying. Therefore you may want to consider other choices for making bag strapping apart from the fashion fabric.
Furthermore, by designing an attachable bag strap you can:
- Add or replace a strap on the bag so you don’t have to replace the whole bag
- Convert a purse or other bag into a cross body with an adjustable or long cross body strap
- Restore your favourite handbag that is no longer usable with a new genuine leather strap or chain handle
Genuine leathers and imitation leathers are classic materials used to make bag straps as they are very durable and look great as a contrast detail. They are available in many traditional and fashion colours, and surface finishes. The only drawback is conventional sewing machines are not powerful enough to sew through thick layers of leather so hand-stitching may be required.
Nylon webbing is incredibly strong, sturdy and durable. Cotton canvas webbing is sturdy, soft to the touch and complements many bag types. Webbing straps are also a low-cost alternative to a genuine leather strap. Adjustable O-rings and D-rings can be used as connectors and set in place with rivets. Webbing is available by the roll in a variety of solid and patterned colours.
Luxury chain straps have the look and feel of fine jewellery, are metal with a gold-tone, nickel, gunmetal or antique brass finish, and connecting hooks are available in matching metal colour/finishes that can be attached to the chain lengths. This material works well for making replacement bag straps for existing daytime bags and adds a lightness and sparkle for evening bags.
HARDWARE OPTIONS FOR BAG STRAPS
Now that the design dimensions of the bag strapping has been decided, connecting hardware needs to be chosen. There is plenty of choice in the marketplace but attachable hooks/attachable O-ring metal hardware seems to be the favourites among designers. These attachable connectors are ideal to making replacement bag straps for existing bag designs, as well. They are available is many different metal colours and finishes, from classic silver and gold with polished finishes to antique brass and gun-metal with brushed finishes.
Tri-glide sliders are popular for precise tuning of strap length and offer the ultimate in flexibility when designing adjustable bag straps.
Metal buckles can be used in your bag strap design that allow for fixed adjustable lengths to the bag strap by way of adding punched eyelet holes to the strapping.
Measure the inner diameter of the hardware to ensure the strap fits into the hardware without buckling or allowing any slack.
Also think design harmony within the styling of your bag. Try to match or compliment other bag fittings such as bag feet and bag zippers to the metal colour and finish of the connecting hardware you are using on your bag straps to create a unifying look. These little touches makes the difference between a homemade and a handmade bag.
Design Your Bag the Way YOU Want and Make the Style Your Own
With the right choice of bag strap, you have the freedom to design your bag exactly the way you envisioned it. There is no need to worry about how a bag will look or hang with the strap it came with as length and width have been well-thought out. Now, that choice is yours in the styling, with a strap that fits the user’s needs, mood or style!