Shopping for a new handbag can feel something like stepping into a fairy tale. Some purses are too big. Others, too small. But, if you're anything like Goldilocks, you may find one that is "just right."
You want the perfect bag to get you through the work or school day. Depending on your lifestyle, the perfect bag may be one to stash what you need for the kids, job, errands. Support you on your travels. Oh, and feel comfortable, look stylish and be flattering as well.
The woman shopping next to you may want something else altogether. Purses are personal. The style, size, color, material and price that work for one woman could all be wrong for another.
There are some trends this fall, and one may be right for you:
Style-wise, cross-body bags are popular among women who want to keep their bag close to the body and free up their hands while shopping, walking or toting children.
Shopper/tote bags, doctor's-style bags, structured satchels, daytime clutches and vegan leather (faux leather) bags are other styles highlighted in the October issue of ShopSmart magazine.
These and other styles are widely available from boutiques, handbag specialty stores, department stores and outlets, as well as online (Zappos, eBags, Piperlime, Macy's, Coach and J. Crew are just a few mentioned in ShopSmart).
At Clutch, 814 Elmwood Ave., manager Carrie Fitzgerald made an observation: Bags for fall are either small or big, with not so much in-between.
"They are either very small for carrying just a few things or very large for carrying everything they need ," she said.
Some people even carry a small bag inside of a big bag, so they can easily switch throughout the day, she added.
Gina Hammar, owner of Purse Sona, 4790 North French Road, East Amherst, noted some of the features women look for in a handbag: An inside clip for holding car keys. A cross-body style to lessen stress on shoulders. A darker color in the winter, so it won't show dirt as easily.
Hammar, who specializes in leather-alternative designer-style bags, said that these are a popular choice among women who find large leather handbags too heavy to carry or, depending on the label, too expensive.
No matter what style you choose, make sure the items you routinely carry - business folders, for example - fit into your bag, Hammar said.
And another thing: If you want the versatility of a shoulder bag and a satchel in one, buy a handbag designed with straps in two different lengths.
Here are just a few other traits women we talked to look for in a bag:
. Size: Big but not so big you're tempted to put too much in it or allow things to get too jumbled.
. Weight: Not too heavy, to avoid discomfort and pain to neck, shoulders, lower back. (The American Occupational Therapy Association includes, among its recommendations regarding handbag choice, to avoid heavily loading tote-style bags, which are worn over the shoulder. To select purses with built-in compartments to distribute the weight more evenly. And to choose a handbag that is proportionate to your body size and no larger than what is needed.)
. Pockets: Multiple pockets and compartments also create order and make it easier to retrieve items quickly, such as wallets and phones. If you carry one of the larger models, such as an iPhone, make sure it will fit inside the pocket. Some women prefer to carry their phone in a secure exterior pocket.
. Durability: Able to withstand being hung on door hooks, thrown into trunks, tossed on car seats, shoved inside desk drawers.
. Security: The bag needs to fasten securely with zipper or other hardware. On busy mornings, no woman wants to see her bag fall off the car seat or bus seat and spill its contents all over the floor.
Some mothers also look for a handbag that functions as a diaper bag but does not look like one, Hammar noted.
Signs of quality
Among the signs to look for in a quality, comfortable-to-carry bag, according to ShopSmart (shopsmartmag.org): Sturdy handles, neat finishing, easy access, lightweight material, feet (or nubs) on the bottom to help keep bag clean, quality lining (we saw bags around town with linings that were also quite pretty) and easy closures.
Finally, give the bag a trial ?run. Consider how it feels in ?your hand, on your shoulder, against your body, over your jacket. Look in the mirror and see how it looks with your height, shape, coloring, clothing style. If this is ?the bag you plan to use regularly, you deserve one that really carries you away.