Buy me: Antique handbags

From Emma Noble to Liz glittery knickers Hurley, premiers and opening nights look more like a scene from a Russ Meyer film. Everyone rocks up in see-through slips and negligees and it's been left up to the accessories to lend individuality to their wearers. Enter then, the handbag - no longer a mere receptacle but a statement of intent.

Handbags say more about you than you may care to reveal. Mrs Thatcher was thought to have kept her cabinet in order by the mere presence of hers - shiny black and meaning business. And it was the multifarious nature of these seemingly innocent objects of female necessity that attracted the attentions of Denise Barrett and Ann Cordery. Over the years they have amassed a huge collection of vintage handbags from the early 1800s to the pop art 1960s. And tomorrow they go on sale at the wittily entitled Sac a Musee - a mini museum of diverting handbag designs.

"I've always loved bags - most women do," says Denise Barrett. "It's a psychological thing." And looking at the vast array of styles on offer, there's a handbag to match even the most extreme personality. What's more, Barrett and Cordery have often been approached by designers interested in handbag history. "But that's OK," says Barrett. "Design has to be updated and the past is often the inspiration. After all, where else can you go for it?"

Choose from a tempting selection of mesh bags dripping with shimmering gems, basket bags with sea horses and shells, crystal-encrusted evening pouches, embroidered purses and several star turns. Steal a march on the in-crowd. Bag a bit of history.

Sac a Musee - Korany Suite, Basil Street Hotel, Basil Street, SW3 on 4 June, 10.30am to 7.30pm. Prices pounds 10 - pounds 1,000.

Robin Dutt

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