Fashion Test Drive: Chloe's Top-Handle Penelope Bag

This eye-catching bag also does good for the planet.

Fashion Test Drive
(Image credit: Chloé)

The “Chloé girl” aesthetic has been synonymous with carefree, polished ease since Gaby Aghion founded the Parisian heritage brand in 1952. “All I’ve ever wanted was for Chloé to have a happy spirit, to make people happy,” she said. Hoping to empower her fashionable female friend circle with easy, stylish off-the-rack clothing, Chloé was an anomaly amongst the made-to-measure fashion houses requiring their customers to wait weeks or months for their orders. 

A success amongst Aghion’s Parisian in-circle, Chloé’s first fashion show was held at the famed Café de Flore in Saint-Germaine-des-Prés. Stepping away from the brand in 1985, Aghion’s successors (Karl Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney, and Phoebe Philo, to name a few) continued to keep Aghion’s refined bohemian vision alive, reinterpreting hero pieces for the modernizing woman, and expanding their reach into covetable leather goods. 

In 2020, Gabriela Hearst joined the house, bringing her sustainable “honest luxury” practices to the brand and leading the Maison to be the first luxury brand to become B Corp certified. Always forward-thinking, Hearst continues reimagining luxury goods while staying true to Chloé’s longstanding Parisian sensibility. 

Making its debut for Chloé’s Spring/Summer 2023 collection, The Penelope top-handle bag is a nod to the French house’s spirit but perfectly suits the varied needs of the contemporary world. With a structured ladylike purse at the top of my essentials list, especially for the warmer months ahead, I had to take it for a test drive.

Chloe Penelope Bag

(Image credit: Sara Holzman)

The Inspiration

Inspired by Penelope of Homer's Odyssey, The Queen of Ithaca symbolized ideal femininity and loyalty. "She is a free, independent woman with a strong character," says the house. The Penelope was designed for the multi-hyphenate person who embodies those same qualities.

The Design

Available in small, medium, and large (medium shown here), the top-handle bag has a box build reminiscent of a vintage silhouette and a supple leather exterior. "The Penelope has rounded lines, refined details, and [honors] craftsmanship," says the house. The top handle drop at 6.3" is long enough to throw over your shoulder but can be conveniently hand-carried briefcase-style. Long clean lines are the bag's signature, while the spacious interior is easily accessible via its front flap design. Inside there's a zip pocket to keep everything in its place. The house's vintage jewelry collection inspired the metallic closure, developed in Italy.

Chloe Penelope Bag

(Image credit: Sara Holzman)

The Craftsmanship

With a B Corp certification and Gabriela Hearst's vision for a more sustainable future for fashion, the brand is steadfastly committed to creating pieces with a lower environmental impact. Alongside The Leather Working Group, an organization that promotes best environmental practices within leather manufacturing and related industries, the Penelope bag was crafted with careful consideration using ethically sourced calfskin. The Penelope is lined with linen, "which emits fewer greenhouse gases, consumes fewer pesticides, and requires less water compared to other conventional natural fibers," the house explains.

Shop Chloé's Penelope Top Handle Bag

Sara Holzman
Style Director

Sara Holzman is the Style Director at Marie Claire, covering runway trends and tracking down the latest finds to buy and wear. When she’s not writing about fashion, she pens about the best places to jet-off to. Over her six years with Marie Claire, Sara has reported on the ever-evolving world of fashion— covering both established and emerging designers within the industry. Sara has held fashion positions at Lucky and SELF Magazine and was a regular contributor to Equinox’s Furthermore website, where she wrote across their style, wellness, and travel verticals. She holds a degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri, Columbia, and currently resides in Manhattan. Follow her along at @sarajonewyork.