Get A Grip: The Five Handbags Every Woman Should Own |

Get A Grip: The Five Handbags Every Woman Should Own

When it comes to buying a handbag mother knows best, says Claire Brayford. Follow our guide to the five essential styles...

What makes a must-have handbag? Designers would do well to ask life’s mothers. Their desire for beauty – and intolerance of impracticality – makes for the perfect critic. What they want are classic yet smart buys that will ace the cost-per-wear calculation. Here are our five – all with matriarchal approval. Words: Claire Brayford Holding image: Mansur Gavriel

Image @mansurgavriel


It’s not the amount it holds but the pleasure it affords that makes the pint-sized cross-body bag so essential. In calf or saffiano leather, casually resting against your hip, it recalls life when you had time to consider your outfit and before your only accessory was your baby wipe-filled pram bag. The ultimate? Anything by Gucci, especially the red logo-emblazoned Soho bag, closely followed by the YSL Blogger. Also joy-filled are the LK Bennett Mariel, Mark Cross’s Laura or Anya Hindmarch’s Smiley cross-body bag. Designer Sophie Hulme says: “They look great on every woman. They can be dressed down with jeans (especially our Finsbury in a fun bright colour), or up with heels for evening. And they’re perfect for anyone who carries two bags but still wants to look put together and have your essentials to hand.” It’s infinite style hands-free – who doesn’t want that?


This is the sartorial equivalent of the heavyweight champion. It’s the bag to carry for the first crucial business meeting or the tour of your child’s oversubscribed school. It impacts on how you look – and how you feel. Chanel is the apogee, and its latest collection, the Metier Arts, is beyond all beauty. Choose from the Boy bag reinterpreted in herringbone velvet or two-tone leather and the iconic 2.55 in pink tweed or embroidered with beads and rhinestone (*passes out). For the more bohemian, the Chloé Drew is also inexorably chic. As Talitha co-founder and Net-a-Porter columnist Kim Hersov says: “I am obsessed with Chloé bags as wardrobe staples and have my eye on the new autumn styles to mix in with my Talitha pieces next season.”


Roomy and reliable, a clean leather carryall holds everything that won’t fit in either of the above. In slick, understated leather, this shopper doesn’t need to make a statement or cost the earth. Take a look at New York brand Kara’s lightweight totes, which come in a host of colour-pop shades. Mansur Gavriel’s calf-leather shoppers (this is the brand the fashion world obsess over) have a detachable wallet to organise the chaos within, and Zara always excels at overspilling in style. While it is best to steer clear of canvas, there is one exception. It’s my personal favourite – the impossibly chic monogrammed totes from L’Uniform – especially No43.


Hard-working and authoritative – this is the bag for the all-conquering mother and career woman. It’s a bag with style, substance and a focus on organisation. New to this market is Mallet & Co, a beautiful leather brand created by the brains behind the Mulberry Bayswater, Nicholas Knightly. Also timelessly elegant and hardwearing are Valextra, Smythson, Hill & Friends and Victoria Beckham. Jo Glynn Smith, commercial editor of Harper’s BAZAAR UK, says: “I would always recommend Aspinal as they are luxury but more affordable than the designer brands. The new Editor bag is fab as it has a tech pack in the pocket so that you can charge your phone or computer. It also contains a Tracking Tile, which allows you to track your bag via your mobile.”

Image: @olympialetan


After dark your bag should be an object of pure desire. Whether it is an Olympia le Tan book box, a seashell-covered Figue clutch or a Jimmy Choo glittering envelope – evening bags add a sense of occasion. Designer Anya Hindmarch says: “Our crisp packet bag is a little piece of art. It is modern, and a forever classic. It is made in the most luxurious way by the most amazing second-generation minaudière maker in Florence – they are the masters of this craft. It is very complicated as it is completely asymmetrical. It also has a chain so you can wear it over your shoulder too.”