Smaller Handbags Makes Big News

Small Size: Cross body handbag by Rebecca Minkoff

Small Size: Cross body handbag by Rebecca Minkoff

New York—Whether you credit the Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, for her penchant for handheld clutches, or the fact more women are suffering shoulder and neck soreness from lugging around a big tote, smaller sized handbags have been in the spotlight lately.

British designer Lulu Guinness made headlines recently when she credited Kate Middleton for popularizing the trend toward small bags since the mom-to-be almost always carries a clutch with her on all public appearances.

Now The Wall Street Journal has joined the chorus of small handbag proponents. In an article in its Thursday style section, the financial newspaper made the case for smaller handbags.

For instance, Dr. Karen Erickson, spokesperson for the American Chiropractic Association, argued that the idea of toting around a handbag “filled with the kitchen sink” simply isn’t practical. Handbags carried on a single shoulder shouldn’t exceed 5% of the wearer’s body weight, but most weight more than that.


Meanwhile, Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, said the trend toward smaller handbag silhouettes has created a market for “small bag occasions” such as weekend events or after work parties. “Monday to Friday, I’m surrounded by stuff. Let me be minimalist on the weekends.”

Brands, such as Coach, Guinness, Rebecca Minkoff, confirmed that smaller silhouettes are indeed selling. And while the retail price may be less than larger silhouettes, women tend to buy more than one to use for various occasions.

The NPD Group, Inc., the research firm, confirmed that sales of smallish cross-body styles, are up 39% to $541 million in the 12 months ended April—by far the fastest growing segment in handbags.

While smaller bags, such as cross bodies, may be finding more fans among women, they aren’t necessarily as tiny. (The Duchess after all has an entourage to accompany her everyplace).

They have to fit a wallet, small makeup bag, mobile phone, iPad or e-reader—the “essentials.” In other words, a woman has to edit down from the “kitchen sink” packed into large size bags.

The Black and White of It: Lulu Guinness' Verity cross body

The Black and White of It: Lulu Guinness’ Verity cross body

Now there’s a certain status in being able to travel light. “A small bag is a badge of being organized,” added Guinness.


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