Bags of room

Handbags can make or break an outfit. The perfect colour and style can bring a day dress to life or add pzazz to an evening ensemble. Choosing the ideal bag requires a little thought and a keen eye, particularly if you want to co-ordinate it with other items in your wardrobe. Here are some tips to help you make the right choice:-

The Fits-More-Than-a-Mint Clutch

You need something that goes with your dark jeans and heels on a Saturday night and is suitable for a black-tie wedding. A bag in a neutral metallic colour, such as silver, gold or pewter, will add subtle sparkle. Make sure your bag has a wrist strap so that you can avoid tucking it under your arm and snagging it on fabrics, like silk or chiffon. A brightly coloured clutch can be just as versatile and looks less formal than fabric bags for daytime events.

The right size: Approximately 10 inches long (the size of a standard envelope ).

The most common mistake: Choosing a too-petite style that barely fits lipstick and a credit card. Slip your essentials into the bag before you buy and make sure that you can snap it closed easily.

One to try: This Tilly 2 in 1 clutch (€11.17 ) from iclothing.ie accents a graphic shape, not to mention it will keep everything inside secure.

The Tote You Can Trust

Instead of choosing a flimsy fabric tote (which can sag and dig into your shoulder ), invest in something more durable that keeps its shape, such as a sturdy pleather, coated canvas or rainproof rubber in a neutral colour (black, camel, or tan ) that will look good and work all year round. Look for thick, reinforced handles that are at least two fingers wide. This ensures they will not snap if you are carrying a heavy load, like a laptop or children's essentials.

The right size: Something roughly the size of a cereal box that does not jut out more than six inches from your body.

The most common mistake: Choosing straps that are too short or too long. Make sure that your bag can be easily swung over your shoulder (with the top hitting at the middle of your ribs ) but does not drag on the ground if you carry it with one hand.

One to try: Gionni has the Alma tote (€60 ) which has a double compartment and long straps.

The Lady-Who-Lunches (at Her Desk ) Bag

The best choice is an office friendly bag is one that can take a beating over time, not cotton or suede, both of which show stains and scuffs and usually only work for one season. Instead of a slouchy hobo style in which things can sink to the middle, opt for a bag with a defined, rectangular shape. Black, brown, wine or camel will take you through the seasons. Vibrant jewel tones can work with a wool coat or dress.

The right size: A handbag that is approximately the same length and width as a file folder but not so boxy that it interferes with how your arm swings when you walk. Make sure it has an adjustable strap, a puffy winter jacket can hike up a bag that fits comfortably over a light top in the summer.

The most common mistake: Choosing a smooth, buttery leather (like lambskin ) that shows nicks and scratches, and sags under the weight of a heavy wallet.

One to try: Choose a bag with double pocket fronts for extra space as well as style kudos from Golden Spiderweb (€50 ). The bonus bag works for a spare pair of tights and make-up essentials.

The Keep-Your-Hands-Free Cross-Body

A compact messenger style bag that hangs diagonally across your body is ideal for those who do a lot of running around. Check that the stitching (particularly at the corners ) is even and tight: it should not budge or fray if you poke at it with your fingernail. Opt for a lightweight leather (real or faux ) or nylon that is durable but will not weigh you down when you are already carrying an armload of dry cleaning or laptop.

The right size: A bag that rests on the curviest part of your hip or in front of your lower abdomen and is not too much larger than a DVD.

The most common mistake: Chain straps easily slide off, dig into shoulders and add unnecessary weight. Look for a flat, broad, strap that is more forgiving.

One to try: A bold pattern with personality is good for off-duty hours, such as the steel coloured graphic tribal prints seen on this season's Liberty by Gionni collection. This crossbody one cost €48.

The Weekend-Escape Carry-All

For a short getaway or gym visit, a bag made of heavy-duty nylon or canvas will not rip (even when tossed into the underbelly of an airplane or bus ) but is soft enough to stuff into a locker. A flexible fabric can be folded and stashed in a bigger suitcase on longer trips and opened up later to bring home overseas purchases. Look for a version with both a top handle for holding just sneakers and a change of clothes, and a long, detachable strap that can be worn across the body to balance heavier loads when you're schlepping through an airport.

The right size: An overnighter roomy enough to hold an extra outfit, nightwear, toiletries, and a pair of shoes. Most airlines limit your carry-on to 45 linear inches - meaning your bag should be no bigger than 22" x 14" x 9".

The most common mistake: Buying a bag that is heavy when empty. Thick leathers stand up to being stuffed into the overhead compartment but they add extra weight. It is wiser to choose a coated fabric that is showerproof and light.

One to try: A floral or print style is easier to spot on the luggage carousel and looks stylish, too. This one from Liberty by Gionni €79 holds all your essentials and looks smart, also.

A Statement Bag

The US designer Rachel Zoe once said that style is a way to say who you are without having to speak. And that is exactly why you need a statement bag in your wardrobe. Whether it is a brightly coloured one to make your outfit pop or an eccentric clutch in a fun shape, this statement should reflect your overall aesthetic and tell the world exactly who you are.

The right size: This is really important for occasion wear so just keep it large enough for essentials - keys, phone, and wallet.

The most common mistake: Buying a bag that overwhelms your outfit. If you are carrying a knock-out bag, keep your clothes simple and streamlined.

One to try: This standout style from iclothing.ie incorporates catwalk shapes and this season's cobalt colour and costs €19.57.

The Coloured Bag

Black is always in fashion but sometimes it is good to embrace colour. Pick a handbag in the shade you like but which is on the opposite spectrum of colours you tend to wear, to create a contrast.

If you wear a lot of taupes and camel, try a yellow or red handbag. If you wear red often, then try a bag in a light shade of blue. It sounds counter-intuitive but it works. And, of course, you can always use colour to break up solid black, navy and white.

The right size: Size does not matter – it is all about the colour pop.

The most common mistake: wearing too much strong colour in both clothes and accessories.

One to try: This fuchsia bag (€54 ) from Gionni will liven up any pale or classic colour outfit.

The Casual Day Bag

This is your wildcard, and it allows you to show off your personal style. There are plenty of options this season that won’t break the bank, from a rock n’ roll studded hobo to a sporty messenger to a straw basket style. On those days when you can have a little more fun with your look, switch things up and work this bag into your 9-5 routine. It’s a great way to relax your style.

The right size – if you have a large body shape, choose a larger bag and a petit size best suits a smaller bag – its all about proportion.

The most common mistake: Investing in a trend that only lasts a season – choose a high street option for trends and opt for classic looks from designer bags.

One to try: a black and tan bag (€55 ) from Golden Spiderweb will get you noticed for all the right reasons.

The Backpack

A great backpack makes travelling an absolute breeze. This once humble symbol of the budget traveller is the new briefcase, handbag and holdall, rolled into one. There has been a huge increase in sales of backpacks which industry observers attribute to the increasing use of smartphones as they leave the wearer's hands free to text, tweet, or surf the net. Cara Delevingne, Alexa Chung and Rihanna have been seen enjoying the benefits of the reborn-rucksack.

The right size - Size matters. Too small and you look like you are still stuck in the nineties, too big and you may be mistaken for an actual backpacker.

The most common mistake: Treating it like a suitcase and loading it down with stuff. Resist the urge to fill it.

One to try: This floaty floral from Liberty by Gionni is gloriously feminine and very on trend for this season. The fleur backpack costs €65.

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