It’s been a unique year. And it’s looking like that uniqueness is going to permeate into the handbag trends and fashions of 2020. A handbag is one of the most functional tools you have in your wardrobe.
It can enliven a range of existing outfits or create a sense of contrast that was otherwise missing in an outfit with more muted colors. Some winter trends seem to stay the same forever, but as quarantine conditions run into the cooler months, we’ll definitely be seeing some more flamboyant fashion statements, and handbags will be leading the pack.
Chances are that we won't be seeing trends take on with quite the heat they normally do this time of year. But the effects of the pandemic haven't slowed things down completely— and they sensibly give you an opportunity to pick up last season's or last year's handbags on clearance without falling too behind on the current trends. And if runway designers are going to define the shape of 2020's fall fashion, here's what you need to know.
Keeping Things Loud
Vivid, chunky, and flamboyant were all ways to describe last year’s fall fashion. Hobo bags, giant handbags, and animal print ended up being some of the most defining characteristics of the fall.
Maybe the state of affairs has us thinking we always need a bug-out bag with us whenever we step out the door, but big bags will continue to be a dominant presence in the handbag market. And there's a boldness to the design here that goes beyond size alone. Designers are opting for single tone bags with unconventional coloring. Think pastels, richer hues, or less commonly emphasized shades of the existing fall color scheme.
But some specialized designs come to be defining fashion icons. Take bucket bags, for instance. They may have been initially created less than a century ago for the explicit task of carrying champagne, but those same qualities put them directly in line with some of the more popular trends of the season. They offer some of the roomiest interiors of any handbag, and that open, round design means that you can make more efficient use of your space too. And the flat, rigid bottom that's a defining feature of bucket bags is great when you need to go rooting around for something specific.
Playful And Sophisticated Textures
One thing that got a lot of play on the catwalk was leather. But that's to be expected. What's more interesting is the wide range of textures that were utilized by designers— both with leather and with other textures. Meticulously woven and braided bags each have a personal sense of identity, and the same is true for the grain of uncured leather. Expect to see more braided and woven textures and see more handbags that highlight the raw craftsmanship that went into its creation.
Part and parcel with the transition to unusual textures is the transition towards saddlebags. The fringed leather edges and canteen-style cross-body shape that was so popular in the 1970s could be coming back in a fierce way, but it's definitely a playful alternative to a more traditional bucket bag.
We’re seeing a lot of creativity with textures, but if there's one winner in fabrics this season, it's got to be shearling. There's something warm about the instinctive need to bundle up and get comfortable when the cooler weather or autumn starts to roll in, and there's no better way to stay warm than with shearling. But while this fabric— made from the tanned hide of a sheep that's only been shorn once— is eminently soft and warm, it's getting incorporated into handbags as well.
Obviously, that means you can expect to see a lot more shearling-lining, but that's only half the story. The looks here are pretty creative, and shearling is being incorporated into some pretty smart elements of handbag design. Painted in gaudy colors, paired with suede, or presented in a traditional brown or beige, it's a great surface that's soft to the touch without being too ostentatious— unless you want it to be.
Plush And Comfy
Shearling is just the best example of a pleasant ongoing trend towards the comfortable. If you have ethical concerns about the use of shearling or you simply want a different feel, there's going to be no lack of options for thicker, softer, and more inviting textures and fabrics. Quilted bags really suit the season, and they also suit the cozier and bulkier design that's coming into fashion right now. Quilting may not be something new for fashion (and particularly fall fashion), but the softness and sense of luxury in the latest quilted textiles are worth your attention.
Lots And Lots Of Chains
For some in the fashion industry, chains wore out their welcome in the early 2000s. But even those who are dismissive need to pay attention to the new and innovative uses of chains in handbags this year. As with bags themselves, chains are tending towards the chunkier end of things— with some models managing to make the chain itself the centerpiece thanks to either bold gloss and color or the sheer size and apparent weight of them.
Chains have been gaining momentum in the jewelry industry for a few seasons now, both in their prevalence and in the breadth of their creativity. That's just now bubbling to the surface in handbag design, but it's building off those lessons and developments at the same time. Thicker, bolder, and more angular chains are definitely couture, and they can lend a sense of slick hyper-modernity to the right handbag. But there are still plenty of handbags that make use of more delicate and delicately crafted chains. One way or another, if you like chains for their practical uses or simply as adornments, you'll have the pick of the litter.
If there's one constant in seasonal trends, it's that there are always going to be exceptions to the rule. While the consensus in late 2020 seems to be that bigger is better, you can't discount how good some of the smaller and more petite bags being introduced look.
"Lady bags," or petite and minimalistic satchels, are a good conversation starter to spruce up a casual or semi-casual outfit. Seek out bright colors to spruce out a less lively outfit or something more monochromatic or autumnal for a business look that will really pop.
When you're holding a clutch, you're giving up the versatility of a roomier and less demanding bag in favor of the opportunity to make a statement. This year, designers did a great job of showcasing that showiness inherent in the clutch design. Complex adornments, elaborately stitched together materials, and bright and peppy patterns are available in abundance. The logic is that if you're going to have to hold your handbag all night, it might as well be a showcase item.
Clutches are also getting bigger, to the point that some are becoming impractical as anything more than a way of showcasing a clever outfit. That's not a bad thing at all, but you'll want to keep in consideration the potentially limited use cases of some of the clutches on the market right now. They might accessorize perfectly with your outfit now but face more limited opportunities to match with outfits outside of that particular ensemble.
We said fashion is getting loud for the fall, but nothing's louder than the bold choice for runway models to pair outfits with equivalently patterned bags. Matching patterns across your whole style scheme is about the boldest choice you could make, but it's a trend fitting with the topsy turvy nature of the past year. And while the full patterned outfits will look cool this fall, you can later repurpose them individually with other patterns or solid colors to extend their versatility.
Fortunately, there's a lot of cool patterns available, and a lot of them exude a thrift store sensibility that pairs well with the solid pattern look. Keeping in line with the move towards sustainability, some designers have put out clothing made from repurposed fabrics and messily matched snips of fabric. So feel free to get eclectic with your patterns this season, and don't be afraid to experiment with some more vibrant or more flamboyant combinations.
More Muted Options
Just because things are a little different this year doesn't mean that all the rules are out the window. This year's high fashion has gotten a bit more muted with their overt branding. While fall is often a season to show off and flaunt brand names, they're conspicuously more low key this year. That's definitely a good thing for people who don't prefer to get too ostentatious with it.
For that reason, this could be the season to make an investment in a nice bag for your long term collection. From the saddlebags to the more quirkily patterned pieces out there, some are light on branding and a little more timeless in terms of design. That means they'll have staying power even when autumn transitions into winter and eventually spring.
Fall is an exciting time for accessories. The added opportunities for layers and heavy fabrics means that you can get a lot more creative with layering, and it means that your handbags can express a lot more with less effort. Of course, the trends on the catwalk only represent a portion of what's happening in the fashion industry. They may be the guiding lights, but the trends are ultimately going to be defined by what people like.
Ultimately, the word that best describes 2020's fashion will likely be "unique." There's the opportunity for a lot of different styles to thrive, but the goal this year is to make an autumnal outfit that really expresses who you are. As we all start to emerge from quarantine measures to reenter the world, our outfits - and our handbags - will help maintain a sense of continuity. And that the present seems focused on comfort and convenience could be a relieving sign of things to come.