antonio calanni/associated press


At Fendi’s women’s autumn 2007 show, models carried massive clutches.

When Coco Chanel designed the iconic quilted purse with the gold chain strap, the 2.55, so named after the date it came out — February, 1955 — it was a quiet revolution for women’s bags.

It freed women’s hands. With their bags safely dangling from their shoulders, presumably they could hold a cocktail, a canapé, a cigarette and look chic.

But it appears that women have once again shackled themselves to clutching a purse — and boy, what a purse. It’s big and bold.

High Fashion Handbag in navy blue, $125, Town Shoes.

Generally handbags are booming, in business and size. These past few seasons designers have shown bags that were not only positively gargantuan and festooned with hardware but suspended on shoulder straps, they could very well send the carrier to physical therapy.

The return of the clutch is in this spirit: go-big-or-stay-home. At Prada, they were as big as a folded broadsheet newspaper. At Louis Vuitton, they can stash a small laptop. Fendi’s went so big and pouchy they could hold the proverbial kitchen sink.

keith beaty/torstar news service

Roots’ slouchy green clutch

When these clutches first came down the catwalk, they raised the question, would real women hold such a big clutch in their hands? Haven’t they come a long way, when all that is required for a night on the town is a credit card, compact and keys?

Well, women might have come a long way baby, but it appears they need to carry a heck of a lot more than three essentials.

Stylist Loretta Chin, at a Holt Renfrew party in November to fete designer Olivier Theyskens of Nina Ricci, was gripping an elongated sleek black patent leather purse from Acne.

Satin clutch, $159, by Club Monaco

“I’m a woman on the go and I carry stuff,” she admits. “Sometimes I can’t pare down. There is also a comfort zone — I can have my stuff with me at all times.”

At more than 12 inches long, the bag contained all the things she needed for that night: Keys, wallet, powder press, lipstick, reading glasses and her long gloves.“I love the drama of it,” she says of the purse she bought at Corbo Studio this season.