Dudes are so lucky. Everything they need fits inside of a folded piece of leather that fits in their pockets. Also--they always have pockets. Not true for the ladies, as evidenced by our ever-present need for a bag. On a weekday it might be a tote, or large purse, so that we can haul everything from makeup to laptops to kiddie gear, but even when we're traveling light--date night, yet another gala fundraiser, or the red carpet events to which we receive an endless stream of invitations--we still require a bag for stashing our stuff. You see, very few of our very pretty dresses come with pockets ... and sometimes the ones that do come with pockets just make us look like squirrels who stash nuts in our hips.
During award season we hear a lot about dresses and designers, and a little bit about shoes, but often the handbags get lost in the shuffle. On the red carpet, the occasional celebrity remembers to give a shout-out to her handbag designer ("Oh, and my bag is by Jimmy Choo/Rebecca Minkoff/Judith Leiber.") but other than that, the evening bag gets short shrift. Let's correct that.
For those of you paying attention, you'll probably agree that Judith Leiber is the current Reigning Queen of the Evening Clutch. Her story is compelling--born in Hungary, a Jew who escaped the Holocaust to come to America and design couture handbags for the crème de la crème of American "royalty": first ladies and celebrities. Her personal story is compelling--check out Judith's legacy on her website where they claim that since 1953, all but two first ladies have carried her bags to the Inauguration Ball.
Of course today most major fashion houses have designer evening bags (as well as day bags and luggage, of course--anything they can stick a brand on, basically). Peruse the Neiman Marcus or Dillard's evening bag collections online and see bags by everyone from Gucci to Lanvin, from Alexander McQueen to Valentino. Try not to die when you see the price tags start around $300 and end up in the $2,000+ category. Yes, that's right--$2,000 or more for a bag barely big enough for a cell phone, a lipstick, and a $20 bill. Or a theoretical twenty dollar bill, assuming one has money left after purchasing a handbag that costs as much as a used car.
For those of us without deep pockets, who find ourselves in need of a handbag (see what I did there?!) there are far more affordable options. Although the selections are much smaller, Loehmann's and Chloe Dao have adorable evening bags at very affordable prices (we're talking well under $100 each). If your budget is a smidge higher, you can shop department stores and local boutiques, like Elaine Turner. Dillard's has bags by BCBGMaxAzria, Kate Landry, and Nina Bridal in the under-$200 range. Turner--whom you can shop online, or at her local boutiques--has clutches ranging from about $60 to $325.
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Vintage is always good, when you can find it. If you want to purchase a vintage evening bag, be picky--inspect the lining for tears and stains, and check the beadwork carefully (a few missing beads is okay but more than a few is a pass). If you purchase, take it to a professional for repairs and cleaning.