(Courtesy by AP) The hottest bags for fall are fit for a lady.

Replacing the large, heavily embellished bags of recent history are vintage-inspired ladylike models topped off with a handle or two.

(Courtesy by AP) The hottest bags for fall are fit for a lady.

Replacing the large, heavily embellished bags of recent history are vintage-inspired ladylike models topped off with a handle or two.

The style offers a feminine contrast to fall’s menswear-inspired details like strong-shouldered jackets and complement the longer-length ‘50s style skirts being turned out in pinstripes and plaids.

“The new direction for handbags this season is a return to a structured, ladylike handbag,” says Ken Downing, senior vice president and fashion director of Neiman Marcus. “With the sharp tailoring and appreciation for men’s tailored details, the structured bag is the go-to bag.”

Sister classic-silhouette satchels and frame bags had their place on the runway, too.

These bags all look right with of-the-moment fashion, but also go well with just about everything in your closet short of formal eveningwear, says Julia Kalachnikoff, accessories director for Lucky magazine. All retro in look, they are versatile enough for jeans but go through cocktails, she says.

Some of the latest options from designers such as Marc Jacobs, Louis Vuitton and Prada recall the bags carried by gloved hands in the middle of the last century. Today’s versions, though, are anything but stuffy, and there’s plenty of room for all your stuff.

The bags are larger than those of the “Mad Men” era and are modernized with cell phone pockets, sleek hardware and mixed materials, Kalachnikoff says. Many of the satchels feature the now-ubiquitous crossbody strap.

“It’s a way of modernizing a shape that was big in the ‘50s and ‘60s,” she explains.

They carry the overall tone of polish, crafted in leather or texture-rich ostrich, pony and deer skin, crocodile, alligator and snakeskin. Trims in velvet and lace add a touch of the romantic and some are done up in fur or have a chain or lock detail.

“It’s more about the leather than it is about hardware or embellishments,” says Claire Foster, accessories editor for trend forecaster Stylesight. “There was studding all over the place for such a long time. That’s completely gone.”

Kalachnikoff calls the bags “the eventual backlash” against black and heavy hardware. “It’s nice to be cleaned up and keep things a little more simple.”

There’s also a lighter palette.

“Camel is really the big hit color of the season,” she says, adding that there are also soft yellows, blues and greens. “There are lots and lots of neutrals. Everything is just a little bit muted.”

Foster also notes the return to tan leathers, like sand, stone and mustard, which are being shown along with pale pink- and blue-grays.

Neiman’s is featuring the trend in all shades of green, especially olive, a reflection of the latest infatuation with the military look. The greens work well with popular apparel colors, including browns and camels as well as bright jewel tones like saffron and paprika. “Olive has a newness to it,” Downing says. “It becomes a neutral for the season.”

Traditional and a little more conservative, the bags are seen as in keeping with today’s minimal times and minimal clothing looks.

Amid the economic crisis, Foster says, women still want to shop but are looking to get more for their money. These bags are a good investment, she says, because they are less showy and more subtle. “They are the bag you will carry the whole season with every outfit. It’s returning to that old way of looking at an accessory, that it’s going to last you.”

With so many choices, Foster thinks they’ll be a hit. “You can take it in more of a fashion directional edge if you want to because it has interesting properties and exotic leather but the simpler styles are really accessible for a wide range of people,” she says.

Kalachnikoff agrees. “Whatever your look is, there’s something in this category that will appeal to you.”

There are always other bag shapes to buy, just in case you’re looking for something different:

Strips of fringy leather have been around since the Wild West but they’re getting the luxury treatment on handbags. Jimmy Choo, Prada and Fendi are offering a fringe bag or two for fall.

“They’re definitely luxe-ing them up and making it modern,” Kalachnikoff says.

Fringe is emerging now and will likely grow into a full-blown trend by springtime, adds Neiman’s Downing. “It’s a nod to the peasant-inspired looks of Yves Saint Laurent made famous in the ‘70s with flounced skirts and off-the-shoulder tops.”

“I feel we will be seeing this boho spirit on the runways for spring with fringe details on handbags,” he says. “It plays hand in hand with the ideas designers are proposing going forward.”

A chic, envelope-style clutch tucked under your arm exudes elegance but it’s largely been a nighttime look until recently.

“Instead of being in evening fabrics, like sequins and satin, there’s a lot of rich leather and the shapes are little bit bigger and suitable for day,” says Kalachnikoff.

Downing agrees that carrying no-strap clutches during the day is catching on. The bag boasts “a very ladylike idea,” he observes.

But, he allows, they’re not always practical.

Leave a larger tote in the car and pull out the clutch when you’re ready to make an entrance, Downing recommends, adding: “There’s never not a reason for a clutch.”


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