Mirror, Mirror | Bag-and-shoe combos take a womanly turn

Fashion continuity is returning this spring, as matching dressy bags with shoes makes a comeback.

Leaf through any fashion magazine this month and you'll notice a bevy of glossy ads from high-end favorites such as Valentino, Marc Jacobs, Chanel, and even Jimmy Choo carefully pairing pumps with similar-style purses.

"This spring . . . in the immediate fashion future, it's all about a clutch, a hand-held satchel, and a shoe that has the same essence," explained Lincoln Moore, vice president and divisional merchandise manager for handbags at Saks Fifth Avenue.

"For example, we'll see spectator shoes with a great red bag. Or a camel pump with a brown structured bag. Everything is getting a bit more fussy."

On some level, this new fussiness is a good thing. Many of us have forgotten what it's like to dress like women - as opposed to girly-girls. During the last five years, we've opted more for teal oversized, grommet-covered purses and gold lamé ballet flats instead of a classier chocolate-brown alligator purse with matching pumps.

But with more feminine bag-and-shoe combinations devoid of loud hardware and garish logos, this spring promises to be softer, ushering in a new fashion era, said Karen Giberson, executive vice president of the Accessories Council

"We'll be seeing white and bone bags with sharp pumps. There won't be so much boldness as there was before," Giberson said.

Other accessories that celebrate womanly details rather than girly accoutrements are worth noting.

Nancy Pelosi's fondness for translucent sea pearls, demonstrated during the fall elections and her induction as speaker of the House, has catapulted the classic style back into our contemporary fashion consciousness.

Earlier this month, Oprah Winfrey wore diamond earrings as she addressed the audience during the groundbreaking for her South African school, showing young women that they can be strong and feminine at the same time.

While these are solid examples that fashion may be taking a turn to a more conservative palette, business and marketing are also driving the trend.

In the last 10 years, accessories have grown from being extras to the pieces that entire outfits are built around. As a result, the Kate Spades, Hugo Bosses and Diors of the world introduced multiple items to their product lines, from bags to jewelry to sunglasses.

So it's no wonder that designers - and the stores that sell them - are promoting entire looks.

"Ten years ago, these licenses didn't exist," Giberson said. "Many companies are getting into categories that just didn't exist before, giving people more choices and more options . . . the shoe-and-bag combo is going back to the old roots."

How far back to the old roots will we go? It's not clear.

The days of Carrie Bradshaw's haphazard - yet expensive - mishmash style of dressing are coming to a close. Yet it's doubtful we will return to the fashion exactness of previous decades, when a woman's cotton-candy-pink Chanel suit perfectly matched her solid-colored clutch and shoe.

Moore agrees.

"Too matchy-matchy is too Mommy," he said. "Instead we are going to see accessories like pearls and diamonds and great gold jewelry accented in shoes and bags."

The bag-and-shoe combination hasn't been a part of my life since childhood, and that was only at Easter (white patent leather with a matching white purse). Throughout my 20s, I wore black Mary Jane shoes and carried a black bag, if only because those standard accessories went with everything I owned.

But I'm excited about the return to a more classic look - not because I want to buy expensive bags but because it will require that I pay careful attention to the details.

Or maybe my affinity for the emerging look is the subliminal result of advertising. Who knows? Nonetheless, I look forward to buying accessories that others refer to as "investment pieces."

Maybe it's about time that what's in style makes us feel mature, not girly.

Mirror, Mirror |

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Contact fashion writer Elizabeth Wellington at 215-854-2704 or ewellington@phillynews.com. Read her recent work at http://