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Haute Stuff: The rambles of a handbag hunter

While seemingly a simple task, finding a carrier for every essential, the perfect handbag, is no science

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By Leanna Pankratz (Contributor) – Email

Print Edition: July 4, 2012

I’ve had a small obsession this spring and imminent summer with finding the perfect handbag. Seemingly a simple task, finding a carrier for all my essentials (and I do have many essentials; I carry a small black leather purse on a chain these days which I believe is filled far beyond its suggested capacity), I’ve looked in many places, scouring racks here and there for something that blends in with my ever-evolving taste.

While I’ve had a fleeting winter affair with long strapped, over-the-shoulder handbags, this summer I’m feeling something a little bit different. Walking through any store specializing in handbags and accessories this season, one will see a new assortment of purses that have a less bohemian look and a more structured, polished and ladylike design. Short handled, creamy leather and square; simple in their lines, sprightly in their colours and the perfect addition to a summer wardrobe, this new crop of handbags caught my eye and my sartorial heart. Perhaps one with a light, silky scarf tied around the handle, in the manner of onetime Vogue editor Babe Paley.

On a recent trip to Vancouver, I was given the opportunity inside an Hermes outlet to page through a photobook featuring the couture house’s early designs – scarves and handbags, most notably. The photo that immediately caught my eye featured screen icon Grace Kelly, shortly after her marriage to Prince Ranier of Monaco, carrying Hermes’ haut à courroies bag, so adored by Kelly and often photographed on her arm (particularly during her first pregnancy, to discreetly hide herself from street photographers), that it was renamed the Hermes’ “Kelly Bag.” This bag has a clean, structured design and is always in a solid colour, my favourite being a slightly off-white shade with a gold latch. The bag would pair perfectly with any sort of summer dress, or clean summer ensemble, adding a touch of simplicity and straight-laced elegance to the many multi-textured pieces featured on this season’s runways.

I just want something classic. No fringe, no lace, no chains. Something to hold my lipstick, cellphone, wallet, backup perfume, calling card, iPod, lighter, notepad and pen in a discreet and ladylike manner. Something that will not take the focus away from the outfit, but blend into it in a way that is harmonious and pleasant.

I was walking through Aldo the other day, another accessory go-to of mine, and noticed a wide assortment of exactly the kind of handbag I wanted, for a fraction of the price I’d be paying at Hermes or Dior. Some even had the Paley-esque scarf tied nonchalantly around the handle. Success! I am such a fan of the rampant colour scheme this summer: bright, soft, peachy and clean; watermelon pinks and corals and all things on the white spectrum.

This is perfect. I’ve found what I’ve been looking for, finally, in a bag somewhat reminiscent of the Kelly – cream, with a gold latch and a coral silk scarf to tie around it. Pair with a spritz of Ralph Cool and a pair of huge, cat-eye sunglasses, and I am ready to take on the beach, city streets and anything else that summer is going to send my way. I can taste the patio cocktails already.

Goodbye black, metal-chained, crinkled leather of winter. Hello to something a whole lot more current.

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