Desperately seeking bags of room in good leather


STYLE CLINIC:The last two bags I bought on the high street have broken within weeks (no, I didn’t keep the receipts). I don’t necessarily want to buy designer, and I certainly don’t want to spend a month’s wages, but where do I look for a quality leather bag that will withstand the strains of carting my whole life around with me on a daily basis? We’re talking iPad, big work journal, diary, giant wallet filled with all of the coppers in the world (but no notes), book, make-up bag . . .

– Emma, by email

As tempted as I am to launch into a cautionary tale about keeping one’s receipts (not to mention storing one’s coppers), it might be more productive to just get to it. But before I do, I will say: any leather handbag will buckle if it’s being filled with all your worldly belongings, and no manufacturer will guarantee its products against same, so you would be advised to at least try to pare down your daily must-haves.

Do you really need to bring a make-up bag everywhere? Have you considered keeping non-essentials – cards and coppers – at home? Asos’s studded leather shoulder bag (€104.18) is big enough to fit an iPad (or 13in laptop), book, (small) make-up bag and more, and its handle is pretty sturdy. And it’s also available in a beautiful bottle green. The shoulder strap is a nice touch, although I’d caution against using it before you do a good clear-out.

This barrel bag by Radley at Arnotts (€309) is another good option that should hold most of your bits ’n’ bobs without buckling under the pressure. Its slightly vintage style means it should be relatively timeless and, again, it boasts a shoulder strap, although caution is always advised. The handles are stitched rather than attached by means of another piece of hardware, which means they will be quite hardwearing.

Another option is this cream leather bowler bag from River Island (€87). The cracked leather means it won’t easily get damaged by being treated, shall we say, roughly – and its short handles are good and sturdy.

Find me a fascinator more Ascot than 'Dallas'

I have a summer wedding coming up and I’d really like to wear some kind of headpiece. Is there anything out there that wouldn’t have me banned from Ascot but isn’t getting into Dallas territory? I got my dress secondhand so I have a bit of cash to spend. I won’t be stretching to Philip Treacy but maybe €200 or so for something I’d wear again.

– Sian, by email

Fascinators have got a terrible rap – perhaps owing to the fact that they became popular among the footballers’ wives crowd, with the result that the moneyed set didn’t quite fancy having much in common with the hoi polloi. Good old-fashioned snobbery aside, there’s nothing wrong with a beautiful piece of headgear. Just avoid anything that’s going to be distracting (so birds hanging off strings are out) and Swarovskis.

You haven’t said what colour your dress is, so we can’t be too specific, but this hairband by Jenny Packham at Debenhams (€55) is beautiful and understated, and would suit a wide variety of colours. If you fancied being a little creative, you could remove the bronze flower and replace it with one that worked better with your dress – but it is lovely as is, and well within budget.

For something a little more unusual – and the smug feeling of supporting Irish designs – this piece by Sophie Hunter (€210 at is inspired by the princess and the frog fairytale, with shocking pink lilies and a glass frog detail. It’s really bright, so may not suit muted shades of dress. Sarah Stephens is a relatively new name in Irish millinery, and this nautical-inspired piece (€125) would be great with black, white, navy or red.

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