It's official: We've reached the point of the year when we watch the clock count down to the final moments of 2023. While some might be solely focused on what the future holds for them in the coming year, it's not a bad idea to take a moment to reminisce. Sure, it's more exciting to think about opening a new chapter in our lives—whether that looks like plans to travel more, adopt new trends, get back into a workout routine, or update your beauty regimine. Being able to look back can also help us navigate how we want to move forward into the future, even if what we're mulling over is something as frivolous as the fashion trends that defined the year. After all, there's no better time capsule for what has happened in the culture than the trends that have found their way into our closets!
Our clothing can tell us everything we need to know about how things have changed over time, therefore, taking a moment to take stock is a worthwhile use of time in the last moments of the year. Of course, there are many things one can look back to as indicators of what happened this year (e.g., celebrity style, television shows, viral runway looks), but none in our minds quite encapsulate time like accessories. Hear us out. Not every trend can translate from the runway to our real lives, but bags? That's a different story.
Although the influence of this accessory may seem small compared to the larger ready-to-wear trends, that's far from the truth. On a grander scale, handbags have always acted as an entry point into the luxury space for many who might not always be able to access it otherwise. Plus, the shapes, sizes, and specs of trending bags speak to larger cultural sentiments of the time. It's not a stretch to say that popular handbags carry more weight to them than one might think. To prove that point, we dug through the archives of spring/summer 2023 and fall/winter 2023 runway collections to identify the biggest handbag trends of the year.
To ensure each trend carries the influence we claim, we cross-referenced them with street style imagery from Instagram to ensure that each of the seven trends listed is popular. Rest assured, you'll see everyone carrying these bag trends for the rest of the winter.
If the fashion trends of 2023 were going to be summarized into a single ethos, it would be this: It's all in the details. It's an idea influencing everything, from the rise of the old money aesthetic to the buzziest trends of the year. While the collective shift was evident everywhere, designers' attention to detail was most pronounced in the broad adoption of classic handbags with unique hardware through their spring/summer 2023 and fall/winter 2023 collections. It was as if designers had all decided to make a run to the hardware store before assembling their bags, as many featured prominent ornaments in the form of buckles, turn locks, chain straps, and logo hardware.
Although it might seem like a small detail, the addition of hardware to otherwise classic bag shapes adds a sophisticated touch—something that has not been missed by the fashion set. With so many people widely embracing every form of this bag—from clutches adorned with chains to handbags with turn locks, it's safe to say this trend had the year on lock.
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Debuted on the brand's F/W 23 runway, Ferragamo's Hug Bag has quickly become the must-have item among fashion insiders.
Although minimal, the buckle detail on this bag epitomizes the trend perfectly.
Hardware can make any bag look 10 times more expensive. Case in point? This affordable Mango one.
Renowned for quality hardware, Mark Cross's Grace Lungo Bag makes for the perfect long-term investment.
Besides hardware, texture was a detail that designers honed into this year. Across the board, we saw labels play with textiles in a downright tantalizing way, but no more so than with them snuggling up to furry handbags. Most might think that using fuzzy materials for bags can be a faux pas, but this past year, we saw designers make plushy handbags that were actually posh. How so? By taking traditional bag shapes and making them soft to the touch. For example, in Burberry's F/W 23 collection, a classic tote bag came in a midnight black. In A.W.A.K.E. Mode's F/W 23 collection, its signature Borsa bag came in dark-brown faux fur. And then there were numerous clutch bags covered in fur and carried down the runway as if they were their own form of plushies—see Jil Sander's S/S 23 and David Koma's F/W 23 shows. It's the application of this material to archetypal shapes that's made it so appealing beyond the runway.
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Swap your childhood teddy bear for this cute clutch.
Warning: You may want to snuggle with this Coach bag.
It's giving Oscar the Grouch, but in the best way possible.
You'll wear this with all your winter ensembles.
Hardware and textiles weren't the only defining features of this year's biggest handbag trends—we saw one color become the shade of the season: red. While the first hints of saffron and crimson red surfaced in spring/summer 2023 ready-to-wear collections, we saw this color heat up the accessory department in the fall too. We saw red bags come in every shape, size, and style imaginable, but the unifying element of each was that each iteration had something that made the color even spicier. For example, the classic flap shoulder bag at Chanel was bright red with a floral appliqué. At Miu Miu, the crescent-shaped Wander Bag came in a vibrant red with its signature matelassé leather pleating technique. And then there was Gucci's F/W 23 collection, which brought back the Horsebit clutch bag with its signature oversized hardware, detachable straps, and darling hues, including red. While this color may have been what initially caught the fashion set's attention, it is each designer's ingenuity that's made this accessory the hottest of the season.
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Featuring an adjustable strap, this Poppy Lissiman bag gives you the option to have two different types of purses for the price of one.
Add a dash of spice to your all-black ensembles with this small red clutch.
Okay, clutch bags aren't the newest bag style to hit the block. After all, they're one of the types of bags that remain ever pertinent. But that doesn't discount the fact they made their form of a comeback this past year. We first saw this bag style resurface in the spring/summer 2023 collections, with iterations ranging from more traditional with slight modifications to novel shapes. For the former, the best example of classic clutches with cool updates could be found in Versace's S/S 23 collection, which included a fold-over clutch adapted into a half-moon shape made from black crocodile leather and adorned with hardware. Similarly, at Y/Project's F/W 23 show, a model sauntered down the runway in an oversize coat, a bodysuit, and baggy jeans while holding onto a sleek accordion clutch bag. And then there were the more whimsical approaches to this bag, which ranged from drawing inspiration from nature to playing with proportions. We saw the Ukrainian label Bevza send egg-shaped clutch bags down its F/W 23 runway, and at Brandon Maxwell, the clutch bag was elongated to exaggerate the silhouette. With so many designers reimagining the clutch bag in their collections this past year, the revival was bound to happen, but it's how quickly the fashion set has bought into it that's made it one of the biggest trends of the year.
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Forget Botticelli. This Brandon Maxwell bag is a work of art in its own right.
Adopt two major bag trends in one fell swoop by buying this hardware-adorned clutch.
In addition to clutches, handbags stood out this past year. We know what you're thinking. "Handbags? Groundbreaking." Yes, the top-handle bag has been around for a millennium, but that doesn't discount the fact that it feels particularly relevant to this period. Undoubtedly, that sentiment change lies with how designers managed to make this "dated" bag silhouette feel modern again in their recent collections. In the past, the prominent feature of this bag was its handle, but newer iterations focused far more on structured shapes with touches of novelty. That was evident through the buttoned-up feel of these bags that featured '90s-inspired elements, including sharp angles, minimal hardware, and demure pops of color. Possibly the best examples of this shift were found in the fall/winter 2023 collections, including Prada, where the handbags came in a compact rectangular shape with prominent hardware. Similarly, we saw a Boston-shaped handbag come in rich oxblood at Dior. There was also Staud's F/W 23 collection, which took the classic box handbag popular in the '50s and modernized it by offering it in shiny patent leather and cobalt-blue suede. Each was a reminder that anything can feel as if it were brand-new with a slight adjustment.
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Ever since our editors spotted this handbag on Prada's F/W 23 runway, we've been unable to stop speaking about it.
Hear that sound? It's this bag whispering for you to slip it onto your shoulder.
As we mentioned, specific bag shapes, shades of red, and shiny hardware have been huge trends carried into this winter. But size was an even larger looming presence that we'd be remiss if we didn't acknowledge. Playing with the portion of purses this past year was incredibly popular with designers, most notably in the form of supersized carryalls. While we initially saw large tote bags make their return in the fall/winter 2022 and spring/summer 2023 collections, they didn't become big among the style set until this past fall. One could argue that it took a minute for baby bags to be ditched for carryalls because designers weren't embracing the adage "Go big or go home." With the release of the fall/winter 2023 collections, the trend finally became a larger part of the zeitgeist. Part of that growth had to do with how many more collections across the board featured supersized carryalls, including Loewe, Proenza Schouler, and Lanvin to name a few. It's also because there were specific bags that reached cult status among celebrities and influencers alike. One only needs to reference all of the images of stars like Hailey Baldwin Bieber and Jennifer Lawerence donning Bottega Veneta's Large Andiamo Bag and The Row's Margaux Tote Bag to get the gist. The surge in popularity of this trend over the past few months proved that it's not just the size of the bag that matters. Rather, it must have an outsized presence to make a sizable impact.
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We've already seen this bag worn by A-listers like Rihanna, Bieber, and even Jacob Elordi.
Wait until you see the black version of this bag—you just might want to buy both!
Consider this your sign: It's time to upgrade your commuter tote.
The final defining trend of the year isn't necessarily a particular type of purse. Rather, it's a way of carrying every kind of bag. Historically, we'd wear this accessory in the intended design function—e.g., a shoulder bag goes on the shoulder, a handbag is carried by hand, and so on. This year, however, we saw that cardinal styling rule broken on the runway and in real life. No longer was it about carrying the bag as you "should" but rather holding onto every type of bag as if it were a clutch bag. You saw that reflected in how a crimson-red shoulder bag was embraced close to the chest in Valentino's F/W 23 runway show. Similarly, we saw a '90s-inspired baby-pink shoulder bag carried sideways during Eudon Choi's F/W 23 show. If that weren't enough, look to Tod's F/W 23 runway show, in which structured handbags were cocooned in the arms like a baby. Possibly the best example of this was in Ferragamo's F/W 23 collection, in which variations of its Hug Bag were snuggled tightly beneath the arms of many models—giving literal meaning to the bag's moniker. Although carrying bags in this fashion might not seem like a legitimate trend, it speaks to a larger movement in fashion. So much of the cultural canon has been influenced by high inflation, including fashion. It's why we've seen the quiet-luxury movement boom. In times of economic uncertainty, it's more pragmatic to hold onto what we love a little bit longer… even if that thing is just a bag. As the year closes, it's a reminder that we don't have to move on from what's in the "past." We can simply find a new way to carry it into the future.
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The metal hardware adds just the right amount of structure to this otherwise slouchy bag shape.