Bad things about being a woman: unequal pay, period pains and, later in life, the inevitable hairy chin.

Good things about being a woman: lovely hair, nice smell and the ability to carry a handbag at all times without ever feeling even remotely blowsy.

While for seasons, and even years, the unfailing mantra of fashion credibility and indeed status all round was "the bigger the bag, the better", now we're expected to carry one barely big enough to fit a mobile phone (an itsy bitsy one that ensures no-one over the age of 11 will take you even remotely seriously), a lipstick, a change purse and a credit card. Forget about anything as useful as a diary, say, favourite scent, make-up bag, change of clothes, book, iPod, small dog or – heaven forbid – packet of Marboro Lights. Those with anything as pedestrian as a life, then, need not apply.

The advantage of such small but perfectly formed accessories is, of course, that they are easy to carry (no visit to the osteopath is ever likely to be blamed on them), they have the appeal of jewellery being, by nature, bijou (no need to buy any costly trinkets) and, last but not least, so long as they're not crocodile/python/designed by Judith Leiber, they're likely to be less expensive than their more roomy big sisters. This season, Chloé's are small and square, Fendi's are mini shoulder bags – the large, glittering gold clasp of which threatens to upstage even the most jewel-like colours – D&G's are flowery and Mulberry, never a brand to miss a trick, has attached its mini bag to bigger bags of the same design, a bit like Kanga and Roo. The cutest and campest designs come courtesy of Chanel (tiny, little quilted gold confections) and at Hermès (pictured) a Birkin the size of a purse is attached to the wrist by a band of leather (the finest, most desirable leather in the world, of course).

In the end, for all not in possession of a chauffeur, a bigger, more practical bag will need to be carried alongside, which perhaps begs the question, why not just buy that in the first place. Whatever, to this end, and in fashion circles, the dead simple Celine shopper is favoured.

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