Try to choose a shape which is the opposite of your body type. If you are tall and thin, look for a slouchy, rounded hobo bag to compliment your figure. If you're short and voluptous, play off opposites by choosing a handbag that is tall and rectangular or long and sleek (like a clutch).
In general, the rounder your figure, the more structured your bag should be. That doesn't mean that you have to carry a hard box around to counterbalance your womanly shape: rectangular or square silhouettes in soft leathers or fabrics will do the trick.
Some popular shapes:
Tote - An open-top bag with straps or handles. Hobo bag - A crescent-shaped shoulder bag. Duffle - Tall shoulderbag, often with a wider opening on top. Field bag - A flap-top shoulderbag with utility-type closure (buckles, snaps, etc). Clutch - A small, handheld bag (frequently used for evening wear). Satchel- A large, handheld bag. Baguette - Long and rounded shoulder bag resembling the namesake bread. Messenger - A large, soft shoulder bag with long straps (often worn across the body). Cigar Box - A small, boxy, hard bag. Pouch - A soft, small bag. Kelly bag - A classic Hermes style named after Grace Kelly; a large, structured handbag with distinctive hardware closures. Jelly Kelly - No relation to the Hermes original, it's a bright rubber tote.
While the shape should oppose your body type for maximum flattery, the size of the bag should be in proportion to your figure.
Think scale here: a woman who is 6 feet tall and a size 14 would look lost with a teensy hand-held bag. A petite size 0 would look overwhelmed by an enormous slouchy bag.
In recent years, styles have become smaller and on very short straps which make the bag fit right under the arm at breast level.
Close-fitting bags are a great look if you're svelte and want to show off cleavage; not so great if your arms and bust are too large.
How to tell if a shoulderbag is right for you? Try on the bag. If it feels cramped under your arm and constantly hits your breast, it's not for you.
A shoulder bag's length (where the bottom of the bag hits your body) will accentuate whatever part of the body it comes near.
For example, a shoulder bag that ends around the hips will play up your hip width (the eye is drawn to the bag).
Most women look great with a bag that hits mid-torso because it flatters the waist.
a. Take time in a store to try on handbags in front of a mirror just like you would apparel.
b. Don't be tempted by trendy shapes that don't suit your figure: there are plenty of great alternatives that will work.
c. Think lifestyle when shopping for handbags: if you're toting diapers and graham crackers, an artsy vintage bag won't hold up