Festive fashion can feel obsolete in a year like 2020. From ultra-intimate gatherings to virtual parties on Zoom, the idea of dressing up seems a little silly to me, despite my fondness for party dresses, jewels, and embellished heels. This year, themed pajama sets and knitwear feels more spot-on for yuletide celebrations like cooking, movie marathons, and FaceTiming family and friends. Yet, I’m finding myself pulled toward dressy evening bags — an ostensibly unnecessary accessory for the time being — including soft clutches, sparkly minaudières, and shrunken top-handles. Perhaps it’s my apathetic approach toward dressing lately that has me craving a lively little pick-me-up. Or my ordinarily innate positivity reminding me that I’ll eventually have occasions to dress for (like my wedding!), thus making an evening bag purchase a reasonable one.
Though my current use for an evening bag is mostly limited to staging an Instagrammable still life or outfit pic, the styles presently catching my eye are quite classic. It’s a broader trend Mark Cross’ creative director Sean Mathews is witnessing due to their inherent longevity. “This year, trends are really going back to the basics,” the luxury designer explains. “I think it’s less about what’s on-trend in this moment and more about classic beautifully made pieces.”
The appeal of party-attire companions like embellished clutches and crossbody continues as well — a trend The Outnet’s interim managing director Vikki Kavanagh says is always worth the investment. “We will get out of this unusual situation in time, and when that moment comes, you’ll want to know that you have a fantastic evening bag to rely on,” she reasons.
Whether you favor glitter, feathers, or a sculptural clasp, both insiders mention the magic of fashion and how a piece can spark joy when you wear it, which very much applies to a sparkly handheld or plush velvet clutch, in my opinion. Mathews says, “I think we can all agree that even if we don’t necessarily have extravagant events to attend, we still want to express our personal style every day.”
Versatility in styling also plays a huge part — a distinctive evening bag can instantly make a simple outfit extraordinary and inspire confidence as the ultimate finishing touch to formalwear. Kavanagh recommends timeless but unique-enough bags that feel true to your aesthetic but serve as conversation pieces.
“The bag you choose can have a major impact on your outfit as a whole,” she says. The Outnet director suggests an evening bag with straight-leg jeans and a well-cut blazer for casual, socially-distanced evenings and a flowing dress with heels once more formal events find their way back onto social calendars. “You have to choose something that you feel connected to and that works for a multitude of occasions,” Kavanagh adds.
Whether, like me, you’ve had handbags on the mind or are here for holiday gifting inspiration, ahead, discover five evening bag trends, with additional commentary from Kavanagh and Mathews.
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Evening Bag Trends: Clutches
Kavanagh tells TZR, “The classic embellished clutch is always a statement, but there’s also a new wave of softer, pouch-styles that bring a touch of minimalism to evening attire,” attributing the recent shift to the rise of relaxed clothing in 2020. Her favorite brand for splurging? Simple and timeless designs by The Row. “They’re not just reserved for evening,” she adds.
Evening Bag Trends: Top-Handle
Kavanagh says angular top-handle bags are coming into their own this season and into 2021. “In opposition to the success of the bucket bag, square and rectangular styles with defined lines and prominent edges such as those from Danse Lente and By Far feel very bold and fresh in this new age we’re living in,” she says. “Thankfully, they’re just large enough to hold all the essentials — including a mask and extra hand sanitizer.”
Evening Bag Trends: Crossbody
Crossbody bags are beloved for their hands-free ease, with elegant iterations abounding for evening — a trend Kavanagh says is on the rise. “For our spring collection launching early 2021, I designed a Susanna crossbody style, which will come in beautiful satins and raffia with intricately embroidered florals and gemstones,” Mathews says.
Evening Bag Trends: Statement-Making
Whether you’re looking to invest in a luxury handheld or seeking out an under-$100 mini, Kavanagh says statement-making clutches and crossbody bags are forever in style. “Judith Leiber and Edie Parker are some of my current favorites — their clutches are incredibly detailed and works of art in their own right,” she says. If you’re tempted to invest in a designer bag but fear it will sit on the shelf for some time, Kavanagh says, “you will get a lot of use out of it in the long run.”
Evening Bag Trends: Vintage-Inspired
Mathews says small bag styles have been popular this season, specifically the brand’s 1845 Mini Trunk. “It’s certainly an investment piece that harkens back to our DNA and the classic box shapes we have become known for,” he explains. “With the versatility of carrying it as a top handle or using the included gold plated chain strap, it serves as quite a functional style for evening or any occasion.”