Best New Bag Styles

Nothing enlivens a ho-hum wardrobe like a new handbag. This season, we’re spoiled for choice with a host of must-have silhouettes, from the classic mannish messenger style, as made famous by Brit babe Alexa Chung, to the updated chain-strap bag that owes a substantial debt to Coco Chanel. “A handbag should stand the test of time, so it’s worth investing in a classic that won’t date with passing trends,” advises Prue Lewington, a style editor with The Sunday Telegraph who blogs at

While over-the-top handbag hardware feels like yesterday’s news (just how many zips, grommets and straps does one person need, anyway?), luxurious textures are still the name of the game. Finishes like exotic skins, feathers, fur and gem-encrusted designs are guaranteed scene-stealers.

Daytime is all about slouchy, sexy cool. For the evening, we love switching to a dainty, vintage-inspired clutch. Whatever your handbag mood, we’ve hunted down a style that suits you. The season is in the bag!

Messenger Bags

The pleasingly masculine lines of the classic messenger bag continue to keep us captivated. “I love how the old-school Elkington bag was the inspiration behind Mulberry’s sell-out Alexa style,” raves Lewington. “We can expect to see more of the messenger silhouette through 2011.” Along with the Mulberry Alexa (opt for animal print to punch up that all-black ensemble), look out for androgynous styles from Brahmin and Givenchy.


Another style to watch for, as Lewington notes, is the ladylike shoulder bag with a hip chain that drapes across the body for a cool, off-duty look. Chanel’s quilted clutch is perfect because you can hide the strap if you want to work a more grown-up evening look. Marc by Marc Jacobs, Badgley Mischka and Prada also offer great cross-body chain styles. Given the enduring popularity of the chain-strap bag, you can shop vintage stores for affordable alternatives that no one else will be carrying.

Bright Colours

Light up your life with a coloured bag that pops. If you’re not prepared to fully commit to the colour explosion that broke out on the spring 2011 catwalks, opt instead for a splash of colour with a brightly hued tote bag. The key to this style is keeping things simple: the colour is the whole story here, so the more streamlined and uncluttered the design, the better. (Although, like everything else, there are exceptions to this rule: see Balenciaga’s gloriously over-the-top orange and pink snakeskin bag from the spring 2011 collection.) Choose a citrus-bright tangerine or lipstick-red for maximum impact.


Oversized totes that carry everything but the kitchen sink have dominated the fashion world for the last few seasons, but the diminutive bag is making a serious comeback. Minaudieres, cocktail clutches and vintage-inspired miniatures were on the minds of designers from Marc Jacobs to Riccardo Tisci. The new collection from quirky-cool New Zealand label Deadly Ponies hones in on the small-is-beautiful ethos. “We made a move away from oversized bags to more petite, classic shapes this season,” explains designer Liam Bowden. For further inspiration, check out the adorable Mr. Flower Pouch style, or the ostrich-skin Mr. Bandit Snake clutch, with its fabulous tassel details.


Deadly Ponies’ Bowden declares: “This season is all about fur, animal textures and colours.” There’s nothing savage about these styles, though. “Playful tassels and classic equestrian detailing and hardware help refine the rawness of the fur,” he adds. Look out for exotic materials like stingray, snakeskin and feathers, which showed up in collections from Alexander Wang to Valentino. Bejeweled bags are also everywhere: Check out Matthew Williamson’s collection for Bulgari for pure, gem-encrusted bling that will make you long to be a princess for a day.

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