When it comes to style the answer is in the (hand) bag

Throw out the rucksack and invest in a pretty handbag this winter
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Indy Lifestyle Online
FOR MANY, 1998 has been a year of "urban chic". Dashing to work in a pair of swanky trainers, running around town in a pair of stretchy capri pants and hitting the dancefloors in a pair of combat trousers has been de rigeur for the self-respecting fashion fanatic. Accessories, have followed much the same prescription and, where luggage is concerned, in ready-to-go rucksack shapes.

All this is set to change this winter, though, when the long dark nights give a girl the perfect excuse to dress up and discover her glam side again. But when the baby-doll around town is forced to leave those combats at home, where is she to put her sparkly lipgloss and fluffy filofax?

Until recently, I always associated handbags with my grandmothers. Theirs were practical affairs that matched the day's outfit and snapped out trespassing fingers with a solid clunk of a clasp. For some though, handbags are the makers and breakers of an outfit and there are some extremely pretty ones around at the moment. Carden Cunietti (0171 229 8559) sells dainty 100 per cent silk handbags by Double Happiness in two designs; a simple style with bamboo handles for pounds 75, and a drawstring style with miniature jade buddhas for pounds 120. Also in stock are crotcheted Ursule Beaugeste handbags for pounds 50, and reversible Japanese-style taffeta pouches by the same designer for pounds 70.

The Cross (0171 221 8616 for mail order) has this season's most fashionable handbag, Aatou's gold silk manjit bags for pounds 45 as well as Sacre Folee velvet handbags for pounds 105, and Jacksons embroidered handbags for pounds 72.

The party girl need look no further, though, than Olivia Morris (0171 221 8807) "Slag Bags" at pounds 90 each.

And, from 2 November, Grays Antique Market will be hosting an exhibition of 20th century handbags, many of which will be on sale from between pounds 45 and pounds 300. Ranging from the sophisticated Fifties American lucite plastic bag (left) to a rare Forties poodle bag by Walborg of Belgium, all the classics will be there. The exhibition has been curated by Linda Bee, and her collection of 80 handbags is in A Century of Style: Bags by Claire Wilcox (pounds 14.99, Apple Press).

Icons of Style in the 20th Century will run from 2 November to 24 December, from 10am to 6pm, from Mondays to Fridays, at Grays Antique Market, South Molton Lane, London, W1 (0171 629 7034)