Handbag Materials Defined

Handbags Materials DefinitionsHas this ever happened to you? You’re shopping for a handbag, you see one you like, and you read about the bag’s details only to discover it is made of a material you don’t recognize. What exactly is raffia? Or nubuck?

Well, here is a list of various handbag materials and explanations to help you the next time you’re shopping for a new bag.

Why is this important to know? Because when buying a handbag online, you can’t pick up and feel the fabric for yourself. Knowing what the material is like will help you understand how your bag will feel and what you should expect in terms of stain or water resistance, wear and tear, and fabric care.

For more handbag material definitions and other bag terminology, see our bag glossary.


Antique(d) Leather: Leather that has been made to look worn. Also called distressed, worn, or rubbed off leather.

Canvas: A closely woven fabric that can be lightweight or heavy and is often a combination of natural and synthetic fibers. Often found on totes

Chenille: A heavy woven fabric that is soft and bunchy. Often found in sweaters.

Cordura: A high performance nylon. Sometimes found in motorcycle, military, and performance apparel.

Corduroy: Cotton fabric with vertical ribs (raised lines).

Cradle to Cradle Wool: Wool that has been Cradle to Cradle certified, meaning it has been reused and/or can be reused for another purpose.

Crochet: Fabric made using a knitted loop technique. Often seen on bedspreads.

Denim: A coarse woven cotton. Usually found in jeans.

Flannel: Soft, wool or wool-like fabric. Sometimes seen in men’s shirts.

Flax Linen: See linen

Fleece: A soft, bulky fabric often found in winter jackets, snow jacket linings, and blankets

Full Grain Leather: The most genuine type of leather. It has not been treated other than having the hair removed. Same as Top Grain Leather.

Jacquard: Fabric where a pattern is directly weaved in or knitted in. Jacquard fabric often has a raised pattern effect and sometimes resembles tapestry material.

Leatherette: Imitation leather

Linen: Fabric woven out of fibers from the flax plant. Often found in summer clothing because it is lightweight. Sometimes used in tablecloths and bedding.

Nappa Leather: Soft, flexible, and smooth full grain leather made from unsplit animal skin – often sheep or lamb. Nappa leather is often dyed.

Nubuck: Brushed leather similar to suede, but unlike suede, it is made from top-grain hide.

Nylon: A strong man-made fabric that is highly stain-resistant

Pack Cloth: A tough, durable material often coated for waterproofing.

Patent: Glossy finished (shiny) leather or faux leather.

Peau de soie: A type of satin with a dull appearance often used in evening bags.

Pebbled Grain Leather: Leather with a finish that resembles small pebbles. (think basketball)

PU: Short for Polyurethane. A type of synthetic leather.

PVC: Short for Polyvinyl Chloride. A type of shiny, flexible plastic often used in place of patent leather or rubber.

Raffia: A natural, weavable fiber from palms.

Rayon: A synthetic material that is similar to silk, but more elastic. Sometimes used in undergarments.

Satin: A smooth fabric that is made from silk or rayon. It typically has a glossy surface and a dull back.

Seagrass: Grasses that grown in marine areas or coastal waters.

Suede: Leather with a napped or brushed surface. Usually made from the inner side of the hide.

Taffeta: A stiff, crisp, and smooth fabric with a glossy shine on both sides. Often used in evening bags.

Top Grain Leather: The top layer of leather (leather is split into multiple layers before it is used).

Twill: Fabric woven with a pattern of diagonal raised lines.

Velvet: A dense, soft material often used in evening bags.

Vinyl: See PVC


Other handbag materials not listed above include cotton, silk, wood, calfskin, lambskin, goatskin, metal, straw, croc, and alligator.

Did we miss anything you’re curious about? Comment on this post or Contact Us and let us know.


Written by Shari Mathias


  1. Dominique · 03/23/2010

    Wow there are a lot of differnet fabrics when it comes to handbags. Her i tought that leather, denim and vinyl were the only ones. I do have a lot to learn

  2. aviveden2010 · 08/27/2010

    Wow! many definitions of handbag materials. Thanks for sharing.

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  5. arian · 07/11/2015

    What about Ares? I found this material on furla.

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