Fashion & Beauty

Need-to-Have Handbags: An Update

April 3, 2018


TRY THIS little experiment: Haul out your handbags and lay them on a queen-size bed. Do they take up the whole bed or most of it? If so, it’s time for some spring pruning.

But first a short primer on the handbag styles you should have in your wardrobe—if you don’t already —or if you want to refresh the stock you own.

Nancy has an impressive handbag collection, including several from Hermès. Her bags almost take up a queen-size bed, so something’s gotta go to make room for an update or too. An adorable belt bag won’t take up much room, which will leave space for another special addition.

Totes are an essential. They’re the ones I use every day to carry my yellow pads, small note pads and pens, as well as some personal items and makeup, which I stash in smaller inside bags. Totes come in slightly structured styles in leather, such as Aquatalia’s cognac carryall or in more informal fabrics like canvas or raffia. Unlike a top-handle bag, which frequently only has one or two short handles and is closed across the top, totes have two handles and are easy to get into and out of.

Cross-bodies: Saddle bags, messenger bags, shoulder bags can all be considered cross-body if they have a long adjustable strap. When you don’t have much to carry and need to be hands-free (like walking the dog), a small cross-body fills the bill. It’s ideal for running errands, plus a small cross-body makes for the perfect going-out bag in the evening; it keeps your wallet and phone safely stashed, and you don’t have to put it down anywhere if you prefer not to.

Backpacks:  Well-Being Editor Mary Carpenter swears by backpacks. They’re not for everyone, but in their favor, says Carpenter, “wearing a bag on one side, especially on the occasions when it gets heavy (when traveling), throws off my balance… and for my back, because of a little ‘adult onset scoliosis,’ I don’t want anything affecting one side of my body differently than the other. They are slightly inconvenient for getting things out of if there’s no place to rest the bag like next to a cash register—or going through a ticket line to board an airplane…. It’s easier to get whatever I need out before I’m standing there fishing around awkwardly. I also like having a front pocket that has just essentials—money and credit cards, so I know where they are — that saves some fishing around! Also, best to avoid leather because it makes everything heavier.”  If you’re in the market, new compact styles look downright chic.

What I learned from the bag test — my collection took up about a single bed– is that it’s time to prune my evening bag supply.

Belt bags: According to an eBay report on cultural milestones, popular pieces from the ‘80s and ‘90s (Adidas Superstars, Champion sweatshirts and fanny packs) are having a renaissance. In particular, the fanny pack showed a strong presence on spring 2018 runways. They’re such a far cry in style from the original ’90s version, you may just want to try one on. Not only have they improved exponentially in appearance, think of the practical value. Even when you’re going from room to room in your own home, if you kept your cell phone in a belt around your waist, you wouldn’t have to waste time looking all over for it.

Clutches: The antithesis of hands-free, clutches are not the most practical for daily use. Although I’m quite fond of how sleek an oversized style looks tucked under an arm. Clutches provide more capacity and are shaped more like an envelope than a minaudière or box clutch. A minaudiere is an accessory to evening wear in which you’re lucky to fit a lipstick and keys. Think Judith Leiber’s jeweled beauties.

Take a look at our picks for adding to your handbag arsenal or updating it.

—Janet Kelly


One thought on “Need-to-Have Handbags: An Update

  1. Carol says:

    May have to try a beltbag! I was already thinking about what to do when the warm weather comes and I no longer wear a vest or hoodie around the house with a pocket for my phone!!! never liked the clutch bags as too impractical!

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