Purse vs. Clutch vs. Handbag: What’s the Difference?

When you step out, you want to look polished and put together. One of the best ways to do this is with accessories like purses, clutches, and handbags. The right accessories will complete your outfit and create an effortless style. But which item do you choose? Let's discuss the options and how each item can create the look you want. 

What are the differences between purses, clutches, and handbags? In America,  "purse" is a catchall term that can refer to either a clutch or a handbag. However, in other regions, a purse is typically a small bag to carry money or coins.

The main difference between a clutch and a handbag is the size. A clutch is small and usually held in your hands, while a handbag is a larger item carried with a shoulder strap or handles. 

Keep reading to find out more about the differences between these three types of bags and how best to style each one!

A woman wearing a sweater and holding her dark purse, Purse vs. Clutch vs. Handbag: What's the Difference?

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What is the Difference Between a Purse, Clutch, and Handbag?

The choice of whether to carry a clutch or a handbag primarily depends on the number of items you'll need to have on hand and the activities you'll do when carrying it. Handbags are typically roomier and will allow you to bring everything you might need - makeup, phone, wallet, a water bottle. A handbag is an excellent choice if you'll be out for a long day.

A clutch is much smaller and will carry only essential items. You'll also want to consider if you need to have your hands free. A handbag generally has a strap for ease of carrying, but some clutches will also have a thin strap.

Consider if you'll need to set your clutch or handbag down. A handbag can be hung over a chair or on a hook, or set on the floor. A clutch needs to be held or placed on a table. Clutches tend to be an item carried with evening wear, but today's clutches can be versatile enough for daily daytime use. 

Is a Clutch a Purse?

A clutch is a type of purse that is carried in the hands or tucked under the arm. A clutch typically does not have a strap for carrying. While many people think of a clutch as an item used more for fancy occasions, today's clutches are versatile and able to be carried daily.

The material the clutch is made of will determine when you can carry it. A sequined clutch would look great with a cocktail dress, while a simple leather clutch can go with you everywhere. The color you choose will also determine if the clutch works with only certain outfits. If you choose a neutral color, the clutch will match most everything. 

What is a Clutch Size Purse?

Clutches are small and used to carry only essential items. A clutch will hold small cosmetic items, like lipstick, your credit cards, and your phone. 

Clutches come in various styles and have different types of closures. 

This is a zipper clutch or wristlet.

It can be used for casual daily carry while keeping your belongings secure inside the zippered pouch. The wrist strap makes carrying easier than a traditional clutch without a strap. 

Click here to see this clutch on Amazon.

This clutch style is called a "kiss-lock" because of the way the top closes together. 

The sequins and style of this clutch would make a great accessory to formal wear for an evening out. Click here to see this sequined kiss-lock clutch on Amazon.

An "envelope" clutch is one more style named for the type of fold over the closure of the clutch.

This classic style clutch is very versatile. Click here to see the envelope clutch on Amazon.

Some clutches have removal chains or straps which make them easier to carry. 

Click here to see this clutch on Amazon. It boasts both a removable strap and wrist strap!

Can You Use a Wallet as a Clutch?

Wallets are typically smaller than a clutch but can be carried in your hand. If you choose a slightly larger wallet, you could use it as a clutch. You won't be able to bring as many items as you may in a proper clutch. A great option is to carry a wallet in your larger handbag and grab it to run into a store when you don't' want to take the entire bag. Your wallet can do double duty as a clutch.

Some of today's wallets are designed with a thin detachable strap so you can use them as both a wallet and a clutch. 

As you can see, this wallet would hold your credit cards and coins, but not any cosmetic items. Some wallets will also hold a phone. You may also find one with a carrying wrist strap.

Click to see this wallet on Amazon.

Click here to see this wallet with a wrist strap on Amazon.

What is the Difference between Clutch and Pouch?

A pouch is another type of clutch. It is a simple design that can be used for everyday carry. Pouches are typically closed with a zipper. They are very easy to carry and look sleek with casual outfits. Pouches may be slighter larger than a clutch. A pouch will hold your essential items with just a little extra room. 

Click here to see this pouch on Amazon.

How Does a Handbag Differ From a Clutch?

If you need to carry more items, then a handbag is definitely for you. Handbags boast the most storage and are great for ease of carrying as well. They come with straps or handles that make wearing them comfortable.

A great style when you'll be doing a lot of walking is the crossbody. This style is comfortable to wear and easy to access while shopping. The crossbody strap is also a theft deterrent and keeps your belongings close to you.

Other handbags are carried on one shoulder or by handles. 


There are many options when choosing a clutch or handbag to personalize your outfit. Remember to consider both how much you need to carry and where you will be going for the day. Switching out your wallet between different handbags gives you the option to change your look effortlessly and even use the wallet alone as a clutch. Have fun and use these accessories to express your style while completing your outfit. 

If you wonder what colors are trending, now see our post about choosing a handbag color.

Or you may want to check out this article on the top ten handbag brands.

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