Trendy and affordable

Liana Aghajanian

Next to shoes, handbags are probably the greatest accessory a girl can buy. As the seasons come and go, however, they bring with them a multitude of trends that shouldn’t be ignored. This season, rich colors, textures and embellishments grace the fall lineup of handbags to please even the most fickle buyer.

Red makes a comeback this season, emerging in everything from clutches to tote bags. Since fall colors are deeper and darker, crimson hues fit right in. Banana Republic now has a blood-red small leather shoulder bag with a buckle flap closure that transitions nicely from business to casual($158) If you’re looking for a more casual (and cheaper) option, American Eagle Outfitters’ striking red graphic tote for $19.50 should do the trick.

Knitting isn’t just for your grandmother anymore. Braided, knitted and crocheted styles have resurfaced and they aren’t going anywhere soon. The Gap’s new braided fabric satchel comes complete with leather trim canvas exterior ($98) and handmade cable knit totes with chocolate brown leather straps ($235) from Margaret Nicole (http://www.margaretnicole.com) have caught the attention of magazines such as InStyle and Cosmopolitan. Trying to save some money to buy next semester’s books? Target offers a cable knit sweater hobo bag from Xhilaration. At $16.99, it’s too good of a steal to pass up.

Always a classic and simple choice, leather never disappoints. This year, however, it comes to us in an extra-soft form. Butter-soft leather, the new texture of the season, slides its way on our list as a hot trend for fall.

Luce’s relaxed butter-soft leather hobo bag ($138) with the slightest hints of gold trim costs much less than a new Coach bag you’ll forget about in 3 months and has the power to return season after season as a keeper. This bag, offered at http://www.6pm.com, even has outstanding high reviews from customers who have purchased it. If you’re looking for something more affordable and you’d rather love animals than wear them on your shoulder, head on over to www.mattandnat.com, which offer a popular vegan line of handbags made with high quality synthetic leather. They look and feel so soft, you won’t be able to tell the difference.

The messenger tote, another fall find, works for students who like to mix in style with their studies. Big enough to carry books, the messenger tote is perfect for school or work. Old Navy’s version is made of soft faux leather, and has removable handles and printed woven cotton interior. At only $24.50, it would be a shame to pass this up. Urban Outfitters also offers a couple variations on the messenger tote, from a black two pocket shoulder bag with a variety of details included rivets and buckles for $48 to a parcel canvas coated messenger that is bound to go with any outfit for $38.

Handbags also tend to be exploring different textures such as tweed and suede for the upcoming season.

Although trends for seasons are fun, stylish and cutting edge, there have been a number of fads over the years that all smart shoppers should avoid for eternity. The biggest offender is probably be the mock designer bag. Coach, Fendi and Gucci have fake counterparts running around on every cart in the mall. Please, steer clear. Not only do they look completely fake ( you’re not fooling anyone), but they completely defeat the purpose of carrying around a designer bag. To put it simply, if you can’t afford the real thing, then you shouldn’t be buying it’s fake counterpart.

Logo assault, an epidemic started by high end fashion retailers such as Yves St. Lauren, Gucci and the more moderately priced Coach, should be buried in the depths of fashion mishaps. Carrying around your favorite tan-on-beige signature Coach logo purse with your Coach tennis shoes and hat only says one thing about you: You want everyone to know what you’ve bought. This overload of logo, however, only screams one thing: tacky.

In the recent year or so, large, oversize bags have become popular. The large handbag is not only a usually stylish choice, but it’s great for convenience, as you’re able to store your life in it. The oversized bag does become a dangerous don’t, when it engulfs your entire body frame the minute you hang it on your shoulder.

No matter what your personal style, the trends of fall 2006 have a diverse collection to choose from. When looking for the next great bag, remember that color, material, functionality and overall structure play an important part. From deep hues, textured fabrics and lots of space for stuffing your entire life in a handbag, there are options no matter what your price range is.