Carola Long: 'A welcome breeze of practicality is blowing through the collections'

Handbags have been the focus for some of fashion's least ergonomic moments. The oversized clutch was a prime example; when filled too full it looked like a large, lumpy haggis, while the lack of strap made everyday metropolitan activities such as swiping one's Oyster card while swigging a latte almost impossible. Then there's the tiny shoulder bag; purportedly big enough for such girl-about-town essentials as a lipstick and mobile, but in reality barely big enough for a Sim card.

This season, however, a welcome breeze of practicality is blowing through the collections. Not only is the mid-heel back, but many of the major designers showed takes on the hands-free satchel.

These ranged from the boxy and structured – such as Chloe's tan satchel and Dior's statement alpha-female briefcases – to slouchier styles at Chanel and Louis Vuitton.

Forget images of Just William – the satchel has come out of the playground and grown up. For a sophisticated Seventies look, wear the strap straight down, or style it across the body for a sportier, more utilitarian vibe as seen at Louis Vuitton. Et voilà – two looks for the price of one.

Marc by Marc Jacobs has come up with a typically quirky satchel – the Sasha – that's definitely in the slouchy category, and has two sweet little metal birds on the front that resemble peace doves, or maybe they're swallows; I'm not much of an ornithologist (£420, net-a-porter.com). There's also a good high-street version in soft toffee leather by Oasis (£75, asos.com).

When Mulberry has bought into a bag you know it's a bona-fide trend. One of the label's key designs for the season, the Alexa, is a happy fusion of boxy and slouchy. The bag is named after Britain's current no 1 fashion export, Alexa Chung, and according to Mulberry it's a "twisted take" on their classic Bayswater. The medium size (pictured, £695, mulberry.com) is nice and light, has a conveniently long shoulder strap and is a carefree interpretation of that dressed-down, breezy, Jane-Birkin-meets-Paddington-Bear thing that Chung has perfected. This season, it's hip to be square.

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