Sleight of Hand

Designers are giving vintage-style bags a new angle by adding sleek metal handles.

Fashion took a decidedly flirtatious turn for spring. And designers no longer seemed afraid to send accessories down the runway, especially in a season full of fluid, colorful feminine shapes. Vintage and retro-inspired handbags, of course, have been around for several seasons now, but for spring, they've been updated with sharp metal handles.

"The pouch is a very antique shape from the beginning of the century, but what gives it its romance -- in a modern way -- is the metal handle," says Rosemarie LeGallais, creative director for Daniel Swarovski in Paris. "The combination is something of a precedent, actually."

Though decidedly more structured than last spring's mesh drawstring pouches and hobo style shoulder bags, these newcomers are still a far cry from the top-handle and box bags of the Fifties and Sixties. "Timeless materials sculpted with a modern edge," is the way designer Nancy Barcich explaines the difference.

"Copying a retro design strictly just doesn't seem fresh anymore. And the clean lines of the ladies-who-lunch-style bags are just too severe -- not romantic enough. This combination of old and new is the perfect mix."

-- Anne Slowey