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9 Ideas to Turn a Plain Canvas Tote into a Stylish Accessory

Ally Nelson |

A plain canvas tote,or a plain canvas messenger bag is an amazing accessory in and out of itself. Versatile and useful, it can accompany you to work, to the beach, help you with shopping, carry your books, or just tagging along in a casual day in the city. With the multitude of colors and fabrics, they make some of the coolest bags to have around for all your needs.

However, since plain canvas totes also invite to a moment of reflection and creativity, why should you not style them up and turn them into exquisite and even exotic accessories? If you are into arts and crafts, if you love a good DIY challenge or you simply want to use the same tote bag but give it a completely new look and a modern flair, here are our top nine picks for today!

1. Roses are red…

white tote bag with red flower


…and your white heavy canvas tote bag with bottom gusset you use for shopping can turn into your casual purse for day meetings. All you need is some red and rosy cloth scraps (velvet, silk, wool even for more texture) and some sewing skills.

Cut the fabrics in petal shapes and adorn one corner of the canvas tote bag for a splash of color, contrast, and texture. Such a new tote works great with your future summer outfits.

2. Back to the Glitterati Era 

white tote bag with golden glitter heart


There is no feminine, glamorous, and sassy styling up of anything without a bit of glitter. The most amazing part of this styling is that you can use any plain or heavy duty canvas tote bag and turn it into a fashion statement with some good glue and some glitter.

You need to keep in mind to use quality glue and fairy dust so they don’t wash away in contact with water. The other amazing thing about this simple, yet stylish idea is that you can pour the glitter on any pattern you choose: hearts, flowers, butterflies, circles, and stars; you get the idea.

3.  State Your Mind

plain tote bag with message print


Do you know what is better than a plain canvas tote messenger bag? A small messenger canvas tote bag with long straps and a printed motivational message, poem, your favorite quote, lyrics, or tag. We live in the era of personalized items, ones that speak of who we are and show how we stand on love, life, and important values.

If you just want a quick reminder of the things that really matter to you, take your plain canvas tote and print it with your favorite quote. Make sure the printing is of quality, as you don’t want the message to fade away when you wash your new stylish accessory.

4. Leather and …Canvas

brown canvas bag with leather pocket and straps


In case you find some old leather belt or some ruined leather accessory you want to repurpose, get those scissors and your sewing kit out because you have some work to do.

Replace the tote bag’s handles with the thin leather belt pieces and apply a patch of leather on the front to make a pocket. You can also use denim, not only leather, and you can, of course, apply this technique on a white tote or a colored one. The main idea is to turn a tote bag into a day purse with a retro feel to it.

5. Monograms for the Win

tote bag with flower details and pink monogram


You can style up a plain canvas tote bag for yourself or to gift it to a friend (or to your bridesmaids). Pick some jumbo size two-tone canvas bags and just monogram your name or the name of the receiver in the color of the bag for a stylish effect. Monogrammed tote bags are incredibly cool and they work as gifts for friends or even for corporate events. Not to mention that all women love them.

6. The Designer Bag you Always Wanted

canvas tote bag with thin black stripes


This idea spins off a little on the idea we have seen before, but bear with us for a moment. A purse can be just a purse, but some canvas tote bags can turn in veritable works of art. As proof, we can only say that even huge runway fashion houses are focusing these days on canvas tote bags with some style twists. Therefore, instead of thinking how to get your hands on some exclusive label tote bag, you can make your own – and we are here to help.

Pick an oversized boat-like canvas tote bag with loop closure and change the canvas handles with leather ones (new or some coming from a repurposed belt). Stitch straight, parallel lines on the last third of the bag, round and round. If you do not want to stitch, glue thin leather straps to achieve a new, designer bag in no time.

7. Denim is the Canvas to Paint on Your Dreams

denim tote bag with buttons


A plain canvas tote bag in denim is a stylish accessory and women love it because it works with everything they wear – not to mention that denim is a solid fabric able to carry your groceries home like a gentleman. But if you want to up your ante with a stylish denim accessory, why don’t you let the imagination flow through you and embellish the denim bag in any style you want?

Fabric appliques are easy to achieve. Moreover, you can make yo-yo flowers, crocheted colored circles and petals, circles and other geometrical forms, and so on. It is entirely up to you what colors, models, and patterns you add to your denim canvas.

8. The Universe is Your Oyster

denim tote bag with accessories


Do you have a dark-colored over the shoulder cotton twill grocery tote bag you want to turn into a versatile stylish accessory for both day errands and evening outings? Nothing simpler! Choose your favorite buttons in the world and sow a star-crossed pattern on one of the bag’s side.

If you want to go a bit over the top, we recommend you use silver glittering thread and round silver or colored buttons on a black or dark blue tote bag. Sky is the limit when it comes to button applications, stars, and stripes.

9. Artsy Crafty You

painted tote bags


One of the best ways to relax and decompress is to engage in some artistic activity, like drawing. You don’t think that coloring books for adults have such a mind-blowing success because they lack therapeutic and entertainment value, do you?

Well now, take those crayons, brushes, colors, and inks and paint like there is no tomorrow. You can create your own abstract black and white tote bag in an hour or you can go bolder and make watercolor art on all the high quality promotional tote bags you have in mind as gifts and attire for your girls and bridesmaids!

Finishing Up

These were our nine awesome ideas on how to turn your plain canvas tote into a stylish accessory! Do you have other similar ideas? Are there some tricks you would like to share with us? Feel free to use the comments’ section below!