If you’re on the hunt for a terrific tote or an elegant evening bag, but not sure where to start, you’re in luck. In the March issue of In Style magazine, they called in over 1,000 handbags and narrowed the field to 115 sure-fire hits for this season. In Style contributor Amy E. Goodman shares some highlights:
Without a doubt, a great bag is an instant update to any outfit and is one of the first accessories that people make note of when assessing your ensemble. So whether you are hunting for a terrific work tote or a hot little number for an evening out, here are some hints to help you find the purse that packs the right punch for you.
The must-have bags to build a great bag wardrobe
These are the five bags you’ll reach for time and time again for their practicality, function and sheer appeal.
1. Just like the little black dress, we begin with a little black shoulder bag. This is by far the best all-around bag for your closet because it is both work and weekend friendly. It also wins for size — for a wide strap that is easy on your shoulders and a great body that holds all of your goodies. This one by Jones of New York also fits the bill when it comes to price at $98.
2. The next bag, the structured bag, is slightly more formal than the shoulder bag. Notable for its compact design with clever embellishments, this bag is often colorful, like the Dooney & Bourke design in citrus green — $225. What makes this otherwise formal handbag playful are the details — here a fun buckle pocket and snap-buckle clasp. It’s perfect for the work environment.
3. What better bag to enjoy the weekend and off-work hours than a casual one. Look for dainty florals, neat patterns and bright plastics. They like a yellow cotton number by Gap ($34) with side pockets that you can slip a cell phone and your shopping list into. The idea with the casual bag is that you can grab it and go. It pairs well with jeans and has the room to put more things in. You can always toss this at the end of the season!
4.The fourth bag that you need is a really terrific tote. Here, size absolutely matters. A versatile tote is not only made of lightweight material but also sports a classic design like the striped tote with leather handles from Kate Spade ($275). More and more designers are creating bags with the working woman in mind, so look for separate compartments for your cell phone, palm pilot and files. These special details help greatly when it comes to organization, which in turn help you avoid the cluttered interiors that many bags become.
5. The fifth and final bag is a gorgeous evening bag or clutch to accompany your formalwear. Catherine Zeta Jones took this satin red TODS bag with clear beads ($690) to the Golden Globes — a red-hot sexy purse. Keep in mind that just because an evening bag is petite that it should always hold the goods beyond just your lipstick.
Don't forget: From beginning to end, think practicality. You want to carry cash and credit cards, tissues and lipstick for a fancy evening — and all should fit without overstuffing a small bag.
And the price, while a bit pricy, there is a cost-per-wear equation that says the more you use a bag the less it costs. And a timeless piece that will look stunning years from now is also great to pass on to daughters.
Five bags from the runways
Now, once you have the basics down, here's a look at five of spring’s hottest trends, straight off the runway.
1. We saw a lot of designers use prints for this season — definitely a fresh return to all that is flirty and feminine. This canvas and leather bag by Ann Taylor ($99) is highly functional because you can fit a great deal.
2. Now here’s a unique trend that’ll make a huge splash this season — plastic. Don’t be afraid! Because when plastic is done well, as it is by Michael Kors, what you have is a bag that has a waiting list. People are clamoring to get it. Clearly, you cannot carry cash loosely around in this tote — all items should be self-contained — but the added benefit is that you can create a design within a design depending on what you fill it with: that’s half the fun! You’ll notice the vivid color — citrus tones were pervasive at the shows. Look for bright greens, oranges and yellows.
3. Our next bag is an absolute classic. Canvas is hotter than hot, and this canvas bag by Coach ($328) with cotton twill and leather accent goes just as well with jeans as it does a suit. You’ll notice that this is a handheld purse, and only you can determine whether you prefer a strap or handheld. There is an even divide of women who have preferences for each.
And if you are in-between? Look for a bag that has handheld capabilities with a removable shoulder strap so you can do either.
4. Another fun trend was that of the sporty bag. This looks like you can pair it with a Juicy Couture sweatsuit or spice up your workwear! Cole Haan’s canvas and leather bag with stripe is a smart and chic bag that bridges both the work place and play place ($275).
5. This last bag — the wristlet — is a personal favorite that goes to show that you can have a bag that doesn’t weigh you down. This one in silk jacquard by Rafe ($175) with polkadot pattern and gathered touch fits nicely in to a larger work tote as an ensemble, but can also stand alone for an evening out. We love that you just swing it on your wrist and have everything that you need literally, in the palm of your hand.
Tip to remember: When at the store, remember to always try on bags before a mirror. Imagine how many outfits it will go with. Make sure the size doesn’t over or underwhelm you. Make sure it is practical and functional and easy to get in and out of. There is nothing like a reluctant zipper to be a clear warning sign of what not to get!
Amy E. Goodman is a contributor to In Style magazine. For more information you can call 888-689-1643 or visit the In Style Web site at: www.InStyle.com or pick up the latest issue of In Style magazine on newsstands now.