Women Don’t Just Wear One; They Inhabit It

Handbag and matching shoes

The hostess of the bridal shower led the ladies in a typical game – the handbag game. A list was passed and all the guests were asked to partner with someone to see how many things from the list they could find from their purses. The list was extensive, but it was no match for the ladies. Item for item they presented the paraphernalia to the amusement of the bride.

What sorts of things did they find? First they had the typical things you would think of such as tissue, wallets and cheque books. Secondly were the less-essential but- yet-not-surprising things such as nail clippers, nail polish, eye liner, sunglasses, and mints. The laughs really came when women could actually submit less typical gear the list demanded such as Q-tips, USB cards, batteries, deodorant, and old birthday cards. This common shower game demos exhibit A; it’s what we’ve all suspected. Women don’t carry a handbag – they carry their home.

Equally important to our precious cargo is the look of our bag. What are the rules of handbag fashion now? Are they still supposed to match our shoes? Times have changed, and women are skilful at flowing with trends.

Or have times really changed all that much? While perhaps the shoe and bag matching rule is a little grey these days, the 2012 New York runways appeared to have taken inspiration from the 1940s and 1950s for some of its new looks. And why not? There may not have been a better era from which to snatch. For this spring and summer, classic oversized clutches with gleaming hardware were the line, but straps seem to be shorter than in the past. Lace covered many bags as often as stripes.

Girl with handbag

Bright vivid colours were very in this year as well, but of them all the main theme, once again, was clutch, clutch, clutch. Whether the size is large or small, nobody is wearing their bag on their shoulder this year.

As for rules, bags and shoes do not have to match today; they only need to coordinate with colours in your outfit. Rumour has it that almost all the old rules are out today: not mixing brown and black; no white after Labour Day; no suede in summer. However, there are still a few policies in place. If your outfit is mainly in neutral colours, you can be a little bold with your jewellery and handbag.

According to style consultant Stacy London, accessories do not have to match each other in colour, but they should be similar in colour value. For instance, a neutral brown and grey outfit can have a variety of coloured accessories if they are all in, for instance, fall tones. In other words, if a necklace is a muted colour, the purse should be a muted colour, or if one accessory is a bright colour,they should all be bright. But if your clothing has a lot of colour already, your jewellery and handbag
should be neutrals like brown or grey.

As for living out of your purse, time can be saved from digging and hunting by investing in a purse organiser. If there is a purse you adore that simply does not have many or any pockets, Purse Pleaser and Kangaroo Keeper sell lightweight plastic bins to arrange your wallet and cheque book nicely, as well as the Q-tip, USB card, batteries and deodorant (sounds like a purse-cleaning is in order).

The need for an evening bag may depend entirely on the area in which you live and the circle in which you circulate. But most of us have at least one, even if it’s in the back of the closet and needs the dust blown off. No matter where you live, weddings are in every corner, and that can be a wonderful opportunity to pull out the bag. Every woman loves the rare opportunity to use it.

Evening bag rules are similar to other handbag rules in that matching is key. A velvet dress needs a velvet bag, and jewellery should coordinate with the hardware on the bag. Small is key. Petite rectangular or square bags are the typical approach to a special day.

Harper’s Bazaar mentioned Alex Davis’s Cobra Society line for spring 2012 taken from North African cultural inspiration. A very large Italian leather clutch was Davis’s handbag this year.

Cutting edge Net-A-Porter has a creative product of Davis’s for spring. Other designers with more casual clutches have outside pockets, which is nice for women on the go. For these fast-paced girls, leather is a good workplace material, and most women that need to be gone all day need almost a mini suitcase, so although a shoulder strap is more convenient than a clutch, at least the acceptable large size of handbags is handy for ladies who don’t put their bags down until the day is done.


Women with careers in metropolitan areas may splurge for the label from Saks, Satine, Shopbop and Net-A-Porter and may be smart for doing it. In certain careers, high-end styles may equal being taken seriously. For those of us on a budget, department stores have done a fantastic job this year of imitating the greats. The charming bold and bright colours appropriate for spring are available at the malls. Department stores are into clutches also, and geometric designs are their biggest promotions. They carry bags with a lot of explosion like their mentors, even the brightest orange. Delightful designs with hot pinks, turquoise and cobalt blues are also their favourites. The colours of all these locations are almost celebratory. They are everything spring feels like: winter is over, let’s
get out.

Handbags are a creative outlet and about the only area on a woman’s outfit where whimsy is still allowed for the over-thirty-five gang. Wear a hot pink blouse with fringe, and friends whisper “mid-life crisis,” but a hot pink purse with fringe is likely to get a very flattering “cute.” Our bags let us self-express and carry our whole lives around for our convenience. Who can ask for anything more?

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