When planning an evening’s outfit the tiny sequined bag forces the most painful decision; which to take, perfume or make up? Because slotting both inside this silky envelope would be out of the question. With no room for all the usual handbag clutter, and heaven forbid trying to squeeze a hefty purse into its cramped interior, the clutch bag remains an impractical, yet highly desirable accessory.
For years designers have seen the clutch bag as the perfect canvas to create their most beautiful and quirky designs, and this year is no exception. Star scattered and gem encrusted at Yves Saint Lauren, a ruby red quilted Chanel, Fendi’s bold flower and rainbow design, cheeky circus print from Mui Mui, Balenciaga’s bold floral concoction, a hippy boho pattern from Stella McCartney... the list goes on. Designs that would overwhelm on a bigger scale look perfectly proportioned on a clutch.
Nowadays a clutch bag implies the luxury of a life free from unwanted baggage - no bulging diary or guilty mars bar wrapper lurking in the darkened depths amongst a grotty tissue and emergency hairbrush. Instead the space is reserved for a single perfect lipstick, tiny bottle of heavenly scented perfume and a Platinum card.
However, the clutch bag has not always had this dreamy significance. Although the first real clutch bags or ‘reticules’ of the 1800s were created for ladies to carry money, smelling salts and a dainty handkerchief, the clutch didn’t experience fame in the 20th century until the first world war, when it became the perfect accessory as it required less material for manufacture. Perhaps it is ironic that now clutch bags are only really used for evening or special occasions, and are flaunted in all their shimmering, studded or sequined glory.
And it’s all in the name. ‘Clutch’ implies a favourite possession gripped for dear life, something precious and exquisite. What other bag forces the same sort of reverence? A handbag you can sling over an arm or shoulder, the clutter bulging bag knocked and jostled by tube-goers. And when you return home a handbag can be thrown ruthlessly onto the floor or piled on a chair among coats and newspapers. On the other hand the clutch merits pride of place in the hand’s tight grip, embodies elegance and demands attention.
Despite the connotations of luxury and elegance, a clutch bag is still surprisingly accessible for most people. Perhaps not the Balenciaga, Chanel or Dior one we all dream of, but good quality, expensive looking clutch bags can be found on the high street too. Shops like Monsoon, Warehouse and Topshop offer an accessible alternative to the high end fashion houses. Come prom season girls my age flock to Accessorize to pick out the perfect clutch bag, waitress or shop assistant wages handed over in exchange for a tiny slice of beaded beauty. Perhaps individuality does go out the window, but the clutch bag proves that classic style can be offered to anyone.
It may be small, it may be a nightmare to carry, but the clutch bag is still the perfect stylish accessory. And when it comes down to it, when you find that perfect bag, who needs a strap or handle, when you can grip glamour tightly in your fingertips?