I’ve tried, really tried, to resist the whole handbag mania. I already own too many and the notion of spending daft amounts of money on a number so “of the minute” that it will inevitably be very “un-of the minute” in a few months’ time doesn’t appeal. My one serious excursion into hot handbag territory – a delicious lizardskin one – showed up the folly of that line of shopping very quickly. All summer long I swung it on my arm, thrilled to be carrying such a delicious, highly fashionable bag. But the following summer it looked… just tired, so very, very last year.
However, this autumn has me tempted again. Designers have homed in on the vintage look, or what is these days called “pre-loved”. If he or she has done a good job, the bag has all the charm of something that could have been found in a certain sort of granny’s attic, so it seems dateless – a quality not to be underestimated. If you love it now you’ll probably love it just as much in two, five, 10 years’ time, and almost nobody will know which year you tracked it down or even – and this is more key – who made it. Which makes the fancy price tags seem justifiable, and why this could be the season for those who’ve held back from indulging in a fancy new handbag to have another think.
Three enchanting vintage-looking handbags in Brooks Brothers’ Regent Street store in London got me started on this trail. There they were, one a long, slim, horizontal bag, one tall and vertical, another of medium size, each made of glazed alligator and with proper frames and handles. It was their air of unusual formality that struck me so. Until recently the mood in bags has been soft and slouchy but this extreme air of gentility seems to be very “now”.
These are not, I hasten to say, handbags for every day – they’re much too smart and unforgiving for that. These are for when you’re off to a fancy lunch, a wedding or a christening, when a bit of dressing up is the order of the day. Their prices are daunting – from £2,799 to £4,999 for a red alligator bag (centre in picture) – but these are heirloom pieces, and look it.
If you like this style but not the prices, Lulu Guinness has a great leopard-print bag with an adorable old-fashioned shape for £795 (left in picture), while Mulberry has a host of bags (about £700) that echo the classic Kelly. Marc Jacobs’ Camille cracked-leather tote has the same lovely formal air (right in picture, 1,335). And if none of those pleases, scour the antiques shops.