Whatever your bag, here are the trends IN STYLE


There are three kinds of women: big-purse women, little-purse women and no-purse women. Don't try to convert one into another.

Big-purse women swear they can't get by without a bag big enough to hold sunglasses, a makeup case, a Franklin planner, a checkbook, extra panty hose, Mace, tissues, a wallet, a key ring, pens, scrap paper and an envelope stuffed with coupons. Despite shoulder and back pain directly related to carting these suitcases around, they declare they simply cannot do without every single thing they're toting.

Small-purse women like discreet, sleek handbags. They often choose the tiniest bag available, and carry only the barest of essentials: wallet, keys, maybe a lipstick.

No-purse women simply hate handbags. They find them annoying and useless. Some of these women carry tote bags. Others choose backpacks. The rest just have roomy pockets or few possessions.

Following our own no-convert rule, we will not attempt to dictate purse size. We will not suggest that a certain size is more fashionable than another. It doesn't matter.

A small-purse woman is never going to buy an oversized bag, no matter what we say.

So we simply will point out a few handbag trends and offer some practical handbag-carrying suggestions.

* This summer's purses emphasize texture and pattern. Straw purses are back. Blame it on all the retro fashion from the '60s and '70s. Crocheted bags are popular, too, for the same reason. Purses also are covered with abstract prints and patterns, such as those by Roberto Vascon, which were inspired by artist Marc Chagall.

* Purses no longer are just sacks, rectangles and squares. Bags now come in triangles, circles, pyramids and other oddball shapes.

* Relaxed shoulder bags are popular again after a period in which everyone seemed to clutch prim little handbags.

* Signature purses those covered in designers' initials are out. Goodbye Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Chanel. Why? Conspicuous consumption is taboo. And too many flea market vendors offered fake signature bags for a fraction of the price of the real thing, which cut down on the elite factor.

True status bags, however, never die. The hot one of the moment is from the Italian design house Prada. As usual, fashion status doesn't come cheap. Expect to pay about $230 for a small Prada backpack. The large version is almost $500.

* Leather backpacks were popular last fall, are trendy now and likely will still be hot come September. Demi Moore wore one in "Indecent Proposal." Giorgio Armani showed them with his fall suits. The backpacks touted as an alternative to the briefcase.

* Fanny packs are on the wane praise to the fashion gods! These packs are practical, but too many bought them in garish shades of nylon and wore them directly over the crotch. This was not stylish.

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