fashion: A haaandbag

The essential accessory for this season has top handles. Photographs by Kate Plumb
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Red bag with adjustable strap, pounds 295, by Katharine Hamnett, 20, Sloane Street, SW1, enquiries 0171-823 1002; lizard-print red bag with metal clasp, by Next, 189 Oxford Street, W1, and branches, enquiries 01162-849424

Yellow PVC patent bag with metal ball clasp, pounds 35, by Dollargrand, from Dickins & Jones, 224 Regent Street, W1, enquiries 0171-794 3028; lemon Kelly bag, pounds 195, by Osprey, 11 St Christopher's Place, W1, enquiries 0171-935 2824

White Kelly bag wih clear perspex frame, pounds 100; black-and-white Kelly bag with metal clasp, pounds 120, both by Dollargrand, as before

Above, clockwise from top left

Lime green coast bag, pounds 185, by Osprey, as before; cream handbag with large leather buckle, pounds 245, by Russell & Bromley, 24-25 New Bond Street, W1, and selected branches, enquiries 0171-629 6903; mint green puffa bag, pounds 160, by Bill Amberg, at Space NK, 41 Earlham Street, WC2, enquiries 0171-924 4296; acid green and yellow patent bag, pounds 195, by Gucci, 18, Sloane Street, W1, enquiries 0171-235 6707

Spring is the time to pare down. Throw away your sagging nylon rucksack: save it for the supermarket. This season, handbags really are for hands. There's no question of slinging it over one shoulder or clutching it under the arm. The current trend for ultra-simple silhouettes means that the bag must be carried away from the body so as not to spoil the clean and perfect seams of your designer clothes.

There are new versions in most high-street designer stores, and they are all a version of the Kelly bag, with which your grandmother would have been familiar. These are built to withstand a bit of rough and tumble.

For his current collection, Graeme Ellisdon at Osprey has concentrated on structured "top handle" (ie hand- held) bags. Debbie Christopher, the accessory buyer for Fenwicks, has opted for them too, declaring that, "The handbag is the essential accessory for simple, lady-like clothes." They are also a good way to give a traditional outfit a much-needed lift.

So here are the bags we recommend, in colours that should match the bold, citrus hues of spring. And, remember, paring down is good for the soul - like spring cleaning