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Bagging a retro handbag: choosing the most essential accessory of all

Good grief, where would we women be without our handbags?  Where else we would keep all our essential items when we’re out and about? Our purse, our keys, our make-up and, yes, our mobile phone – they all go in the handbag. This impossible-to-live-without piece of kit to store essentials in is itself utterly essential. But just because it’s so necessary doesn’t mean it shouldn’t look good.

Yes, it doesn’t mean it can’t complement your outfit; it doesn’t mean it can’t be colour-co-ordinated with that natty little jacket; it doesn’t mean it can’t be as stylish as those new boots. And it doesn’t mean it has to be totally ‘on trend’; it doesn’t have to be at the cutting edge of fashion. If you like, it absolutely can be vintage. It can be whatever you want it to be, so long as it combines functionality with looking great. But, given all that then, how on earth do you actually choose the retro handbag that’s right for you?

One design to rule them all?

One way to approach selecting a vintage handbag, should you have not dipped your toe into retro-styled accessories before, is to play it safe – to choose one that’ll serve as a ‘staple’ bag. One that’s handily universal and will pretty much go with everything; practically every possible outfit you choose to throw on in the morning and whatever else you combine with it – shoes or boots, scarf or jewellery and so on.

Selecting one of these pretty much requires opting for a bag whose appearance isn’t too ostentatious and whose colour’s fairly neutral – for instance, keep to the wonderfully elegant black and brown satchel types; keep away from rockabilly-esque animal prints and ’60s-ish boldly coloured efforts. That said, the one you plump for doesn’t have to be staid. Why not up it a notch via such a bag topped off with metallic styling or subtle print detail?

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One size fits all?

Of course, when choosing a ‘universal’ vintage handbag, abiding by style concerns is all very well, but don’t overlook the importance of size. If you’re going to be perusing through a whole host of retro handbags to find the one – the one and only – it’s got to be of a suitably universal size and shape. Nobody wants to walk about with an enormous bag weighing them down; that’s neither comfortable nor does it look good. Although, walking around with an overstuffed handbag’s probably even worse. Not the disagreeable look or in-transit handicap you want from your handbag.

And, it may sound silly, but it’s worth thinking about – just as you would with any clothes you’d consider buying, when browsing for a vintage bag don’t overlook the fact it needs to fit you physically. If you’re petite of frame, a big satchel type (despite however elegant it may be) probably isn’t going to be a goer. By contrast, if you’re tall or broad, a tiny, coquette-ishly boxy bag probably isn’t going to be right either.

Or… just go for it!

Finally, though, let’s be honest, it’s likely you already own a plurality of handbags (most women do, after all), so why not throw a little caution to the wind and buy the bag that truly catches your eye – or the one you’ve fallen for? You only live once, right? After all, going retro when it comes to fashion (especially in clothing) is all about bucking the modern trend and going for the look, style and form that appeals to you. So why not go for that animal print number? Or that bright pink effort with the natty studded finish and chunky buckles?

Indeed, given its vintage nature (you may or may not be looking second-hand, but this is still relevant either way), the bag you’ll be eyeing isn’t going to cost the earth – we’re not talking a Gucci or Versace accessory here. So you could splash out a little more and buy one bag that’s fun and frolicsome for casual-about-town days/ nights-out and then one that’s a little more demure to go with office-wear and formal occasions. Remember, though, overall the most important thing is you opt for something you like. A handbag’s an essential accessory – it’s with you all the time, it’s very visible and it becomes an ‘extension’ of you. So go retro by going for something that’s both functional and looks great!

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