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Fashionistas Become Bag Ladies as They Double Up on Totes

By Serena Solomon | February 8, 2013 7:02am

LINCOLN CENTER — A single handbag would have been enough of a great accessory for Clair Sulmers' outfit at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Thursday — but two bags were twice as nice.

Sulmers, a writer and blogger who contributes to Vogue Italia, armed herself with a bright yellow Gigi iPad case and a small metallic plum Proenza Schouler bag.

"I like how this went with my outfit," Sulmers said of her choice to carry both purses, one as a clutch in her hand, the other slung over her shoulder.

Sulmers uses the flat yellow case like a briefcase, stashing her show tickets, business cards and her iPad — while the other bag is for more personal items including her lip gloss, wallet, and cellphone.

At Fashion Week and around town, women like Sulmers are embracing the functionality of multiple handbags as well as the added style that comes from having a bonus accessory.

"I like small clutches so you can easily get to your lip-gloss, your lipstick," said Shunda Lynch, a designer up from Atlanta to view the runway shows who grasped a snakeskin and white leather Judith Leiber clutch in one hand and held a huge patent leather black tote in the other. "Big bags are good for the fall and winter because of all your accessories — gloves, hats."

For Tracey Brown, a black Betsey Johnson handbag carried her quickly-needed essentials like money, I.D. and, yes, a small bottle of Belvedere Vodka, while her other leather tote stored more bulky items.

"Go to a couple of shows and I can have my own happy hour," said the San Francisco resident who has her own blog BlingBeauty.com.

The double bag trend was spotted all over Fashion Week's opening day Thursday, as everyone from photographers, bloggers and fashion journalists and buyers used the tag team to divide up their day's worth of equipment around from venue to venue into an organized system.

When it comes to going out after shows, partying uninhibited by a clumsy stack of equipment is important to Mai Le, a photographer for the Fashioni.st website. Come nightfall she will drop her backpack off — camera plus extra lens, gloves and hat included — at a friend's apartment before making off pounds lighter with just a Maison Martin Margiela for H&M handbag made from a single black leather glove. 

"It's my wallet, it's my handbag, it can be just a cool accessory and I can almost wear it as a necklace," she said.

Tracie Keesee, a journalist covering Fashion Week, keeps about 15 mostly leather totes she calls her "dump bags" to provide a match for her collection of hundreds of handbags.

"You get to pick two choices in bags," she said.

On the first day of Fashion Week, Keesee paired a woven black leather tote from Nine West with a structured and tiny Prada handbag also in black.

"This season is all about matching," she said of outfit trends.

Avoiding a big backbreaking bag while still carrying all her stuff in style is Keesee's goal when doubling up, she said. 

"I remember by mother carrying a small A-frame bag and all she had was change, tissues, and gloves," said Keesee. “She didn't even carry a wallet because my dad dealt with the money."

"I can't fit all this in an A-frame bag," she said, tugging out chargers, notebooks, electronics and hand sanitizer.

"I pulled everything out but a coat rack," Keesee joked.