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Hold on, ladies, the new bags are coming; Fashion: The trend in handbags is to styles with handles on top.


Handbag lovers now have a reason to carry on.

The bags of the moment are smaller, hand-held styles, reminiscent of ones carried in the '40s and '50s, such as Chanel's quilted bag and Hermes' structured Kelly bag, named for the late actress Grace Kelly.

Today's hand-held versions range from a tiny canister-shaped evening bag -- big enough for lipstick, mirror and a $20 bill -- to a soft, casual tote that holds keys, a billfold and cell phone. They come in leathers, knits, straws and a variety of linens and silks, in a bonanza of shapes and colors.

The return of hand-held bags, also called top-handle bags, is attributed to femininity in fashion ready-to-wear.

"With fashion designers like Stella McCartney of Chloe and the team of Dolce and Gabbana pushing ladylike clothes, bags needed to be less serious and heavy-looking," says New York designer Marcia Sherrill.

Evening bag designer Mary Norton of Charleston, S.C., says her customers, who include actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, like to carry her colorful, whimsical bags to add a dash of glamour to that little black dress. The eye-catching bags are decorated with feathers, flowers or stones, whatever strikes Norton's fancy.

It's not surprising that Americans spent $4.4 billion on handbags last year, according to Accessories magazine's fashion market editor Canty Gross. "All ages are carrying these types of bags," Gross says.

Many career women are also carrying top-handle bags. "It's a subtle trend," says New York trend tracker Ellen Campuzano, "yet a fresh approach to handbags."

And she points out one important selling point for those who still love their shoulder bags: Many bags have long enough handles -- or they come with a removable shoulder strap -- so they can be slung over your shoulder.

Pub Date: 02/07/99

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