Scroll to Top
Win a luxury 2-night sparkling Sussex break with Pride of Britain Hotels

The ultimate guide to handbags: Know your clutch from your holdall


Are we ever fully dressed without a handbag? Handbags are as much about accessorising as they are about practicality. Since the rise of the ‘it bag’ in the nineties, when luxury labels such as Gucci and Prada reigned supreme, the handbag has evolved from supporting actress to leading lady.

Whether compact, cute and clutched in hand or worn across the body, there’s a handbag for every occasion.

Whether compact, cute and clutched in hand or worn across the body, there’s a handbag for every occasion

Traditionally a bag worn with evening wear, there’s no reason why you can’t shake up the rulebook and use a clutch during the day. Dressed down with distressed skinny jeans and a white tee, the clutch can add a hint of finesse to an otherwise casual look. Juxtapose your ‘off-duty’ outfit with an embellished clutch from Coach. If choosing a clutch for a formal, evening outfit, choosing a contrasting colour or style can add a contemporary twist. Karen Millen’s supple leather clutches are versatile enough to be worn day or night. Be sure to edit down your daily essentials, there’s no room for the kitchen sink in these little bags.

Otherwise known as the everyday staple, the cross-body bag is a faithful friend come work or play. Its design is rooted in the satchel, but today’s cross-body bags come in all shapes and sizes. Compact styles are a great evening alternative to the clutch, leaving you hands-free to enjoy your night. Marc Jacobs’ much loved Camera Bag is just big enough for your purse, phone and lipstick. Wear with an elegant evening dress as an alternative to the traditional clutch bag; your look will be less formal, more fun. For a work-appropriate cross-body bag, choose a design with room for all the daily essentials. A traditional satchel from The Cambridge Satchel Company ticks all the boxes. This niche brand have redefined the satchel from school uniform to street style must have. Alternatively, Fossil’s tailored bags in muted colour palettes are structured and deceptively spacious. Wear with tailored separates and understated jewellery; your bag should be the focus here.

There’s nothing like the feeling of a new designer handbag

If you’re heading for an idyllic countryside break, a holdall is one essential you can’t leave home without. Less cumbersome than a suitcase, but with plenty of room for a weekend wardrobe, it’s a travel must-have. Complete with kitsch floral motifs and adjustable strap, a holdall from Cath Kidston is the ideal choice for a weekend staycation. Pair with country appropriate attire; unpredictable British weather calls for a lightweight cashmere pullover, Hunter boots and a waterproof padded jacket from Maje. For an investment that’s perennially on trend, choose a leather holdall from Smythson. Crafted from the softest leather in a range of timeless shades, Smythson holdalls make even the most laidback travel outfits look sophisticated. If a long flight beckons, keep luxury loungewear from The White Company in your holdall to relax in after take off.

The style advice was given by Bicester Village in celebration of Bicester Village’s partnership with etiquette experts Debrett’s and the launch of the Guide To British Style, a beautiful pocket-guide to the season, dress-codes and much more.