I've always been something of a bag lady.
I'm usually packing oddball items in my handbag like binoculars or a big pack of Wet Ones right alongside the Stila lipstick.
So I have a long history of using bags that can hold alot, like the Louis Vuitton bucket bag in the '80s and the ubiquitous black nylon backpacks of the early '90s.
The past few years, however, fashion hasn't been too kind to the big bag, fancying instead little snakeskin clutches and fancy baguettes.
So I am thrilled with the latest movement to oversized bags; now I can actually get back to carrying around all the stuff I really need.
The style I chose to test for the big bag trend was a spacious black leather doctor's bag (see photo, above) that measures in at 17"W X 8 1/2 H X 5" D.
It lacks the preciousness of a beaded little under-the-arm number.
It doesn't scream "status" like a logo-sprinkled tote. And it isn't exactly demure.
Instead, an oversized bag smacks of serious fashion: sort of the sartorial equivalent of tortoise shell glasses or sensible pumps. Only much, much hipper.
This Fall everyone from Prada to Hogan is pushing larger, structured bags in shapes from bowling bags to satchels to totes and doctors' bags.
What to wear it with
It's really hot where I live, so I've been wearing it with still-summer things like sleeveless black sweaters, black flare and sandals.
As the weather comes cooler, it will look great with pantsuits, boots, sweaters and knee-length skirts.
It's a very versatile bag and it looks great with almost every daytime look. Some exceptions would be wardrobes based on ultra-feminine (florals, sheers) or vintage styles. And the bag's really too bulky to make the transition to evening.
How it to carry it
I thought I'd load this thing to the brim, but reverse psychology must've kicked in and I ended up only taking along a few things with me the first few times (although the collection is growing)
One decision you'll have to make with a bag like this is exactly how to carry it.
Do you place it in the crook of your elbow and walk around with swanky bent arm? Do you risk frumpiness and actually use the provided shoulder strap? Do you simply carry it by the handles?
I do a little of all three (choosing the shoulder strap only when I'm carrying other stuff or I'm tired of lugging it around).
-You could live out of this purse -- it carries everything you need.
-The purse's outsized proportion actually can make you look smaller. (But would be overwhelming on a petite woman).
-Really versatile -- looks as good with a business suit as it does jeans and a sweater.
-Feels more like small luggage or a briefcase than a handbag (although the cool thing is that it's so big that it can double as both)
-Hard to be graceful when schlepping this big thing around. I hit several doorways with it.
Best comment I received about the bag
Seven-year-old son says: "That's one great black bag. Mom, I can't even tell you how great it looks."
The style I bought was a $158 number from J. Jill in black calfskin (also available in brown distressed leather).
I love this trend and think it will be a big hit with real women everywhere.
Although there are some very expensive variations of this look, there are plenty of affordable big bags on the market.
If you want to try this trend for yourself, check out online resources or your local department stores which often interpret trends at a good price.
About "Trend Test"
Cynthia Nellis actually buys and tests the items in these regular reports -- just like any consumer would, so you can find out ahead of time what to expect from certain trends, and what to look for in a comparable product.