The 50 Best Stylish Handbags
If you're going out but don't want to look too dressy, this is a good choice. The yellow canvas means it doesn't look as if it's trying too hard, but the double heart on one side with black sequins and gold fabric allow this bag an evening feel. The shape is nicely quirky: everything works at a slant, including the shoulder strap, so that it fits nicely under your arm with only the heart exposed. Keep an eye out for the pink polka-dot lining - it's a lovely touch. Where from: Fornarina (www.fornarina.com), in stores nationwide, including House of Fraser (for stockists call 020-7529 4700) and Selfridges (0870 8377 377). How much: pounds 35.
Nautical themes are going full steam ahead this spring and summer, and - as always - a bag is a cunning way to introduce a new trend to an old outfit. Welcome, then, this chic little number from Jaeger. The navy- blue leather and cream canvas are well combined, strong enough to hold an anchor if that's your wont, and will suit your everyday needs. There's even something of an ocean wave in the way the leather's cut at the base, and there's absolutely no risk of getting sea-sick. Where from: Jaeger (01553 732102; www.jaeger.co.uk).
How much: pounds 175.
H&M have established themselves as the purveyors of fashionable things that don't look cheap but actually are. We, the high street shoppers, salute them for that. Especially when you can pick up a well-made shopping bag like this one with only a crisp pounds 10 note. The printed fabric has flashes of colour that herald spring; it's reinforced with stitching at the base and seams, and the bamboo handle is sturdy enough to carry all your wares. Merci beaucoup. Where from: H&M stores nationwide (020-7323 2211).
How much: pounds 9.99.
Gola have been in the business of making sportsgear since 1905, so it's fair to say that they know how to stitch things together in a lasting sort of way. Their handbag collection is testament to their experience: if you need something on a Saturday morning to hold your yoga kit and maybe even a dumbbell or two, this is the one. For the rest of us, though, the bright fuchsia-pink body and pale-blue handles are enough to sell it. Where from: Gola, for stockists call 01706 211111 or visit www.golaclassics.com
How much: pounds 20.
Granted, an evening out with this bag would have to be something special - or at least very cheap. Because this offering from Gucci is anything but cheap. It's made from embroidered black satin, perfectly compact without scrimping on space. Naturally, no detail is overlooked here: the handle is braided silk that ends in a long, elegant tassel, the frame is studded, and the lock is bamboo. It comes in beige, too, which probably means you'll get both versions - in your dreams. Where from: Gucci, for stockists call 020-7629 2716 or visit www.gucci.com How much: pounds 110.
This purple satin evening bag with beads that hang in tassels will sound like a look-at-me purchase, but it's surprisingly discreet. Its size means the beads aren't overwhelming, and the three little gems near the clasp are on just the right side of sparkling. There's a lovely swoosh as you walk, the beads catch the light, and there's room enough for all your night-out essentials. It looks fashionably "vintage", too. A good finishing touch for a gorgeous evening dress, or to give an instant injection of glamour to less dramatic outfits. Where from: Mikey stores nationwide (020- 7580 8123).
How much: pounds 49.
Without beating about the bush, this bag looks rather like another, much more expensive one that you won't find on the high street. Let's leave it at that, with a nod and a wink. In its own right, though, this Oasis bag is an excellent choice. There's plenty of room for everyday essentials - make up, magazine, a change of shoes - and the pleat down the front means it still manages to look smart even when it's packed to bulging. Where from: Oasis stores nationwide (01865 881986; www.oasis-stores.com).
How much: pounds 60.
Philippa Cochrane has been making her Arm Candy Bags for a little over a year now, and her fresh, creative approach is evident in the small but eminently worthy selection. She likes to call it an "eclectic collection of super-glam handbags", and indeed it is. This bag, in particular, is a luxury shopping option: the ponyskin is in Zebrino print, and the bottom section of charcoal suede has two exuberant tassles to finish it off nicely. Roomy and stylish, this versatile bag could easily cross from day to night-time use. Where from: Arm Candy Bags (07748 302976; www.armcandybags.co.uk).
How much: pounds 200.
It's sweet and unfussy. There are no bells and whistles on this, just a very practical leather bag that looks good and isn't going to fall apart very easily. There is an adjustable strap, strong leather stitching around the outside, and (this is the sweet bit) a butterfly hoop that fastens the bag. It's a casual, trusty accessory that will stand the test of time. What you see is what you get, which makes a refreshing change in the fickle world of fashion. Where from: FCUK (0870 606 3285).
Good news: work bags don't have to be staid. This lime-green Billy Bag manages to hold lots, while still looking hip. The colour is a good start. Next the leather, which is soft on the outside and lined on the inside (pink and yellow flower motifs on brown background). Then the two large buttoned pockets, concealed beneath the flap, and finally the long zipped pocket at the back. All good reasons not to feel guilty about buying this for yourself. Where from: Billy Bag (www.billybag.com) in stores nationwide, including Selfridges (0870 837 7377).
How much: pounds 115.
LARA BOHINC 107
If you want something unusual that looks a bit rock 'n' roll, this is it. Take one long turquoise patent-leather clutch bag, and rivet a metal plate upon its side that has cut out circles and lines. Voila. It opens like a book (but only so far, to prevent all your things falling out), snaps shut with the help of internal magnets, and has a chain that runs around the edge to complete the glamorous rock-chick look. Where from: Lara Bohinc 107 (020-7684 1465; www.larabohinc107.co.uk).
How much: pounds 792.
ANTONI & ALISON
How frustrating it is when you're after a bag that's a bit different, but the fashionistas keep getting there before you. Try this one: some people will say it's silly, with its plastic padding and the word "and" spelled out for no apparent reason, but they'd be wrong. It's fun, unusual, and on a practical level very well designed, with a strong clasp to fasten it, enough room to hold all your necessaries for the day, and a black velvet interior. What a mix of materials - very postmodern. Best worn with an ironic smile. Where from: Antoni & Alison, for stockists and mail order call 020- 7833 2002.
How much: pounds 80.
The thick fabric is a bright buttercup yellow, so fellow shoppers can keep track of you as you wander through the urban jungle. Practicality is a close runner-up to its beaconesque qualities, though. The handles are reinforced with metal studs and doubled up where they join the body of the bag through a metal ring, so they're less likely to rip under pressure, and there are buckles at both sides to adjust the capacity. Two pockets at the front to stuff receipts in, and there you have it: an ideal0 bag for hard-core shoppers. Where from: Gap stores nationwide (0800 427789).
How much: pounds 29.50.
How much: pounds 15.
How much: pounds 595.
A bit of metallic gold never goes amiss on an evening out. This bag has hints of silver within it - or white gold, if you will - which prevents it from looking too gaudy, while still retaining the bling element. The linked strap is a nice feature, and it's all leather, so you can be assured that it won't be trashed after a couple of nights out. In fact, the more you use it, the softer the leather will become. And if you pack it out, the puckering at the seams will show - very pretty. Where from: Topshop stores nationwide
(0845 121 4519; www.topshop.co.uk).
How much: pounds 50.
The cherry motif enjoyed a surge of popularity recently, thanks mainly to Marc Jacobs, but you'll find it popping up just about everywhere now. This bag is a fine example of that, as well as a further reason to suggest that fruit is sometimes better to look at than it is to eat. Made from canvas with buckled red-leather straps and a strong leather fastener, it's a dinky bucket shape, and while not huge should be roomy enough for disciplined bag-fillers to use every day. Where from: Karen Millen stores nationwide (0870 160 1830; www.karenmillen.com).
How much: pounds 80 from a selection.
The longest handles you may ever have seen on a handbag. But not too long. Wear it diagonally across your body, and it's comfortable as well as making life difficult for bag snatchers - always a bonus in the naked city. In addition, this bag is incredibly roomy, and has hidden magnetic buttons, so it automatically shuts, keeping the contents secure as well as adding to the streamlined appearance. The little crocodile is ever present, of course, warning other shoppers off your purchase. If you want one, better make it snappy! Where from: Lacoste stores (www.lacoste.co.uk) and House of Fraser stores (020-7529 4700) nationwide. How much: pounds 119.
How much: pounds 395.
It's something of an understatement to say that the Italians really know how to make good handbags. This black-leather tote is soft but strong, with handles that are thick and tubular, making it nigh on impossible to rip them from the body of the bag. Which is useful when you're carrying all your heavy work things in it. A laptop won't be a problem for this baby, neither will folders or even a change of shoes, and they'll all be discreetly concealed within the bag's sleek confines. Heavy duty, and worth the investment. Where from: Vivia in stores nationwide (020-7384 4484; www.vivia.co.uk). How much: pounds 325.
Here's proof that you don't have to spend a fortune on a gorgeous handbag if you do a bit of searching around. Exhibit A: this sexy, red-leather evening bag. It's nothing short of a gem. The length of it and the two compartments mean that you're not stuck for space, and the short white-leather-and-chain shoulder strap can be tucked away out of sight, if you want to use it as a clutch bag now and again. It looks good carried either way, and the silver magnetic clasp on the front is a chic finishing touch. Where from: Mango stores nationwide (020-7434 3694).
How much: pounds 20.
There is a school of thought within the handbag-carrying fraternity that small is beautiful. Quite right, provided you don't need the comfort- factor gleaned from hauling around lots of so- called essentials every day. For those minimalist enough only to need a slick of lip gloss and a credit card or two, this will be the perfect handbag. It comes in thick, tan-coloured leather with reinforced cream stitching, a nicely detailed shoulder strap with studs and a double leather shoulder pad. Compressed luxury at its finest. Where from: Aquascutum stores (0800 282922; www.aquascutum.co.uk).
How much: pounds 150.
There's no arguing with this bag. It has an interior large enough for a Dionysian frenzy of a shopping expedition, and a zipped pocket on the outside, so there'll be no time wasted rooting around for your purse within its cavernous depths. It's made from waxed leather, so you don't have to fear for your goods if there's a downpour, and the elephant print and flowers make it look as though you picked it up on your exotic travels instead of the local high street. Where from: Wallis stores nationwide (0845 121 4520; www.wallis-fashion.co.uk). How much: pounds 30.
There's a 1970s vibe here, but more in line with bohemianism than groovy flares and platforms, you'll be glad to hear. If you're out and about at the weekend, it's a handy size for carrying all your bits and pieces, and because it weighs hardly anything, this bag doubles up as a convenient accessory even if you're carrying nothing in it but your purse. The round wicker handles make it look authentically old-school, even though it's actually the latest thing. Which puts paid to the old adage that cheaters never win! Where from: Ravel stores nationwide (01458 843809).
Sigh... This Covent Garden East West bag is just what you'd like to grab on your way out in the morning, right after you slipped on your Manolos. It's made from leather and brass, and you can lock it, safe in the knowledge that only you hold the key to this beautiful object. Open it up, and you'll see that the interior is lined in beige canvas. The lock itself has an - almost - discreet namecheck, lest you ever forget its designer provenance, and the double shoulder straps ensure a comfortable hold. Enough room to fit in small essentials, but no clutter. Where from: Chloe stores worldwide (020-7823 5348; www.chloe.com).
This dazzling little beauty of an evening bag is literally encrusted with jewels. There's just enough sumptuous black silk exposed in the background to properly show them off, and their cut refracts the light, so the bag shimmers and reflects off any surfaces that it touches. Okay, they're just pretend gems, but that doesn't matter at all here - if anything, it makes the bag lighter to carry and even more covetable. It's a compact little thing, with a 1940s shape and an elegance to match that bygone era. Where from: Tina Antoniades (020-7243 9395).
How much: pounds 105.
This green leather gladstone-esque creation is just one of a weepingly good selection of bags available from Orca. Handles that are buckled on, little pockets at each end, a zipped pocket at the base of the bag and three compartments inside, with internal pockets for your everyday things. The lining is pink, with cute prints of handbags, and it all zips tightly shut with the help of a sparkling silver butterfly. Be prepared for looks of molten envy when you carry it. Where from: Orca, in stores nationwide (020-7228 7888; www.orcabrand.com). How much: pounds 175.
Ah, where to begin? Topshop just knows. This funky green suede shopper is technically huge, but really doesn't feel so big when you're using it because the suede is so soft, supple and malleable. It crinkles and folds with your body movements, and can be packed to the brim without becoming uncomfortable. The brown leather ribbons wrapped around the handle are purely for decoration, and succeed tremendously. Bravo. Where from: Topshop stores nationwide (0845 121 4519; www.topshop.co.uk). How much: pounds 40.
It's made from woven plastic. There's no getting away from that, but then why would you want to, unless you're a complete snob when it comes to fabrics? It's reminiscent of heady days spent in the sun, with its light-catching rainbow hues, and comfortable to wear - the plastic feels soft, almost padded - as well as being strong enough to hold plenty of your worldly goods. The colours are metallic, with something of the disco about them, so it's best kept for the weekend. Where from: Miss Selfridge stores (0845 121 4517; www.missselfridge.co.uk). How much: pounds 25.
The epitome of a practical work bag. While big enough to hold a laptop and an A4-size notepad, it still manages to achieve the look of a well- cut handbag. That's because it is one. Black leather that will only get better with age, checked fabric lining, and handles that are firmly attached with metal rings and studs make this bag both smart and sturdy. The leather loop that fastens it closed is a nice finishing touch. Where from: Aquascutum stores (0800 282922; www.aquascutum.co.uk). How much: pounds 275.
If you have a secret hankering to be a biker, but don't fancy all that exposed driving, here's a step towards the look, at least. Made completely from white leather - apart from its twin black leather go- faster stripes - this bag is strong and has more than enough room to hold whatever you might need. There are two large, zipped pockets that go round the sides of the bag, for quick and easy access, and the sturdy handles and reinforced stitching mean it can easily endure the wear and tear of everyday use. Where from: Bally stores nationwide (020-7408 9878; www.bally.com). How much: pounds 395.
This dinky little shopper - from your local branch of Boots, surprisingly - with its cheerful print, is just the right size for scooting around town with, popping in your purchases as you go. Because the background is black, it won't get grubby easily, which gives it a pretty long life span. Attached on a long strap inside the bag is a purse of the same pattern, so your money will always be conveniently placed. Which is handy, but potentially very dangerous if you are in the mood for spending. Where from: Boots stores nationwide (0845 070 8090; www.boots.co.uk). How much: pounds 18.
Dotty P's has really raised its game in recent seasons, keeping a closer eye on current trends, and has come up trumps with accessories as well as clothes. This brown-suede bag with metallic gold-leather handles and edging uses simplicity to great effect: the shape isn't fussy, the capacity is just right for casual use, and it already looks a bit worn in, which gives the impression that it's a trusty friend. The best bit is, your boho compadres will be none the wiser as to its rather inexpensive origins. Perfect! Where from: Dorothy Perkins stores (0845 121 4515).
How much: pounds 25.
The bold choice of colour is partly what makes Marc Jacobs stand out - peacock-blue with navy stitching - but also the simplicity of form. Pompous, but true. This leather tote bag has two pockets in front, each fastened with a buckle, and a long leather strap that wraps around the whole bag to buckle at the front. The finishing touches are what make it extra special: navy suede lines its interior, and on the base the five silver studs make sure the leather doesn't get dirty. Where from: Marc Jacobs worldwide (www.marcjacobs.com), including Selfridges (0870 837 7377). How much: pounds 695.
It's not subtle, but sometimes you don't feel like fading into the background when you're having a night out. In which case, reach for this bright-red perspex clutch bag and prepare to be noticed. It's a novelty, but it's well made too: strong, with plenty of room, and you're unlikely to see anyone else with a lipstick for a clasp. The chain strap is detachable, depending on whether you want to dance around it or keep it firmly on your shoulder.
Where from: Lulu Guinness (020-7823 4828; www.luluguinness.com).
How much: pounds 145.
OLLIE & NIC
This large scoop bag, the Garland, is typical of the Ollie & Nic range of designs - as cool as an urban ice cube. It's 100 per cent cotton, so is soft and durable, and the while the dragonfly in pink sequins looks like it just landed, it's firmly attached. There's lots of space inside, but the bag's simple shape and clean lines mean it looks compact, and doesn't seem unwieldily, even if bulging a bit. Also comes in orange with a green dragonfly. Where from: Ollie & Nic; stores across the UK and in independent retailers (020- 8543 6710; www.ollieandnic.com).
How much: pounds 40.
Eley Kishimoto's bright, crazy prints are distinctive, and this shopper bag doesn't deviate from the tradition. The print is called "spinning man", and he spins around your bag amid colourful swirls, flowers and polka dots. It's beautifully stitched and put together, of course: the handles are of the softest leather, and the lining is turquoise, to match the swirls on the outside. Not an ordinary shopping bag, by any means. Where from: Eley Kishimoto Archive Store, 40 Snowfields, Bermondsey, London SE1 (020-7357 0037).
How much: pounds 115.
If you're a real cool cat, this is the bag for you. Designed in the shape of a half-moon, it's made up of different sections of silver and white leather all individually stitched together - right down to the strap, which is white leather on one side, silver on the other. Because there's so much stitching, it feels reassuringly strong, and while it's incredibly compact, the shape allows it to hold a goodly amount of your stuff. Aesthetics and practicality combined: how very hip.
Where from: Buba, for stockists call 020-7384 4540 or visit www.bubalondon.com.
How much: pounds 95.
This bag is extremely smart, eminently practical, and big enough to hold A5-size books and documents. Made of leather, it's fully lined and has two zipped pockets on the inside, as well as on the outside. The detachable shoulder strap comes in useful if you prefer carrying the bag like a briefcase - the double handles are very strong - and it's entirely up to you whether you decide to keep the Scottie-dog tag on or not. Where from: John Lewis (08456 049049; www.johnlewis.com).
How much: pounds 100.