Bag it! It’s the tote that counts

Whatever item of clothing you consider, there’s usually a slew of advice to go with it. But when it comes to handbags, fashionistas focus more on the brand name and desirableness of the current ‘It’ bag to even consider if it goes with their shape. What kind of question is that?

fashion and trends Updated: Aug 20, 2011 20:34 IST
Dhanishta Shah
Dhanishta Shah
Hindustan Times

You may know all about choosing clothes to flatter your figure. But what about your bag?

Whatever item of clothing you consider, there’s usually a slew of advice to go with it. Thus, large size people are cautioned not to wear horizontal stripes, and shop assistants will steer slimmer people away from skinny jeans that would make them look even more like a beanpole. But when it comes to handbags, fashionistas focus more on the brand name and desirableness of the current ‘It’ bag to even consider if it goes with their shape. What kind of question is that?

How to bag it

A very good one to ask, say experts. "We may not think about what the shape and size of our bag has got to do with the way we look. But, yes ladies, let’s face it, it does," explains designer Sabah Khan, who retails under the label Sabashe.

"If you are petite, it does not make sense to wear large bags," adds bag designer Pinky Saraf. "Women with a slim frame can add curves to their look by picking a slouchy, rounded hobo or soft-body satchel," suggests designer Prabhat Kumar.

However, Kumar cautions curvy or plus-size women against wearing slouchy and round bags. "Look for bags that are boxy instead. Also avoid prints that are too big or too small. Small prints will make you look bigger than you are, while large prints will draw attention to your size," he says. "Medium-sized bags and regular clutches are best, because anything overpowering will again add volume for plumper women," adds Saraf.

"Tall slim women have an advantage. Most bags look good on them. They can go in for a tote for day wear or an envelope clutch for evening" says Saraf. "If you are tall and slim, you may use a rounded bag like a hobo or an unstructured bag, or even oversized bags, since they balance the proportion. This will complement your figure as it will provide a sharp contrast to your body," says Khan.

What about shorter women? "Wide totes can make short women look even shorter. Instead, select a bag that is longer vertically to elongate the appearance of your torso," advises Kumar.

BagsBefore you take the plunge, you need to pay heed to the length of the bag. "If the bag ends at your hip or half-hip, then that becomes the focus as the eyes are drawn towards it. So, naturally it’s a better option to decide the length according to your body type," says Khan.

Thus, as Kumar says, "Pear-shaped women should look for bags that hang to the upper torso in order to draw the eyes away from problem areas. Satchels and bowler bags are fashionable options. Avoid bags that hit at the hip. Thick-waisted or top-heavy women should do the opposite. They should choose a handbag with a longer handle, avoiding those that finish around the bustline or mid-section. A hip-length crossbody bag is a nice choice."

So is there a basic golden rule to follow? Khan puts it simply: "The size of the bag should complement your size, while the shape needs to be proportionate to your structure." "Indeed, it’s all about proportions. If you get these simple visual tricks right, you will be able to make a bag flatter your personality," concludes designer Rachana Reddy.

Built like me

Does that mean that we are doomed to carry only certain types of bags? "There are many factors that are important when you carry a bag. Your lifestyle needs to be considered. Are you constantly out and need to carry a lot of stuff? In that case, a tote would be ideal. However, if you are petite, balance it out with a medium-sized bag," says Saraf.

Designer Malini Agarwalla emphasises that attitude has got a lot to do with how good bags look on us. "I have seen some flamboyant tiny ladies look great with oversize clutches and bags," she asserts. So, if your heart is set on a bag and it does not go with the ‘rules’, make sure you match it to your attitude instead.

PouchesFrom work, to play, to party

Reddy advocates "a nice structured bag" for work. "It looks stylish and holds all your essentials well in place," she adds.

"For casual wear, sling bags are really in. Or, a tote (in lots of different colours) if you need to fit in more stuff. They will stay light and let you relax," says Reddy. Saraf adds that sling bags incorporate an element of safety, besides adding a cool factor to the outfit. "They are most convenient while shopping and travelling," she believes.

Designer Bhavna Shah from the label Twines, has seen a steady rise in demand for denim bags for casual wear. "These are very popular, especially among the college-going crowd. I made small denim clutches recently and they sold like hot cakes!" she adds.

Clutches seem to be trickling in as convenient day wear too, albeit only at places where you need not carry a lot of stuff. Reddy’s collection of clutches comes with a detachable chain handle and the design aesthetics are such that they can be transformed from day to evening by pairing them with a suitable outfit. "A clutch with an option of a chain is indeed most versatile," says Khan.

Where evening bags are concerned, the vote goes to clutches. "A clutch or a fancy purse works well for parties," says Reddy. Saraf agrees that clutches are versatile and here to stay. "Those in neutral colours such as gold, silver, bronzes and antique finish move the most," she claims.

Before you Buy...

It’s easy to fall in love with a bag. But before you take the plunge, do consider a few factors. "One of the biggest mistakes women make when they buy a bag for regular use is not correctly assessing how many and what kinds of things they want to put in the bag," says Shah. Shah describes simple requirements, such as having a provision for the mobile phone on the outside of the bag.

Moreover, nothing looks uglier than an overstuffed bag. Shah advises trying out clutches too. "It should fit in the bare essentials that you would carry such as a mobile, keys and money. Check if all the stuff fits and the clutch closes properly," she advises. "Many women carry these really tiny clutches which can barely hold a lipstick, only for effect. If that is the case, be aware that you are compromising on the functional bit for style," says Saraf.

Agarwalla advises women to consider their lifestyle before they buy an expensive evening bag. "For a lady who mostly wears saris, a beautiful gold potli would be most versatile for evening. For a western clothes lover, a black clutch with a touch of crystals is fabulous. For a younger person who wears a lot of colour, a bronze evening bag goes well," she says.

She also adds that the most common mistake is that women tend to follow trends without bothering to see whether a particular one suits them or not.

Orange clutchWhat's the right time?

You would never wear knits in summer, right? Bags too have their own materials that suit the seasons. Bright breathable materials and jute rule the summers, and Shah cautions against carrying cloth and leather bags in the monsoon. Winters are all about richer materials. Khan mentions that her Fall collection at Lakme Fashion Week has made generous use of suede and velvet. Leather is another material that works for winter bags.

Understanding the rules

In order to carry a bag with style and let it look good on you, there are a few rules to follow. "Women must carry a bag the way it is meant to be carried – handbags in the hand and shoulder bags on the shoulder," says Kumar. His penchant for designing bags with futuristic and unusual shapes makes him emphasise strongly on the ‘matching’ factor. "Never carry a sporty bag with formals and vice versa. Do take care of styling and don’t ever mismatch the look," he states.

Khan believes that "a bag works as an accessory as well as a utility item. It can jazz up an outfit. Even a proportionately-sized coloured sling bag on a basic white tee and blue denims can be a style statement." "A simple outfit can be made to look not only special but different each time it’s worn depending on the handbag and accessories," says Agarwalla.

Bags can indeed work wonders for your sense of style. As Saraf puts it, "When you carry a bag, you are not carrying a bag alone. You are carrying your personality and your attitude as well. Ultimately, the bag has to gel with you in totality."

From HT Brunch, August 21

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First Published: Aug 20, 2011 17:49 IST