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 for Marie Claire, where she's worked alongside the publication for eight years in various roles, ensuring the brand's fashion content continues to inform, inspire, and shape the conversation about fashion's ever-evolving landscape. With a degree from the Missouri School of Journalism, Sara is responsible for overseeing a diverse fashion content mix, from emerging and legacy designer profiles to reported features on the influence of social media on style and seasonal and micro trends across the world's fashion epicenters in New York, Milan, and Paris. Before joining Marie Claire, Sara held fashion roles at Conde Nast's Lucky Magazine and Self Magazine and was a style and travel contributor to Equinox's Furthermore website. Over her decade of experience in the fashion industry, Sara has helped guide each brand's style point of view, working alongside veteran photographers and stylists to bring editorial and celebrity photo shoots to fruition from start to finish. Sara currently lives in New York City. When she's not penning about fashion or travel, she’s at the farmer’s market, on a run, working to perfect her roasted chicken recipe, or spending time with her husband, dog, and cat. Follow her along at @sarajonewyork