Wearing Jewelry with Messenger-Style Bags

I am a fan of messenger-style, cross-body bags and am delighted that they are very much back in vogue. Being able to wear a bag rather than carry it leaves my hands free, essential when traveling and very convenient at other times, too, such as when I’m shopping. The best-designed bags also fit close against my body, not adding bulk where I don’t want it. A messenger-style bag can be both stylish and efficient, yet may present some styling issues when it comes to jewelry. Let’s take a look at how cross-body bags are combined with jewelry in the fashion magazines. Notice which combinations work well, and which may present practical issues that may result in damage to, or loss of, a piece of jewelry.    

From the March 2011 issue of Elle is this complex styling that illustrates how jewelry might get tangled up in messenger-style bags. Here the model wears two bags with chain straps, one from Chanel and one from Mulberry. The straps are quite short, and pull across her layers of clothing. Under those purses she is wearing five layers of clothing:  a dress from Roberto Cavalli, a silk-blend blouse from Marc by Marc Jacobs, another blouse in chiffon by Proenza Schouler, a cardigan by Boss Black and a jacket from Dries Van Noten. Accessorizing those layers of clothing and worn around her neck are a silk scarf from Louis Vuitton and a crystal pendant from Lanvin. The metal straps seem to cut across the crystal pendant, which might scratch the jewelry or potentially tangle with it and break it. The model also wears gloves from LaCrasia Archive Gloves, leather cuffs from Hermes, tights from Emilio Cavallini and shoes from Prada. The best fix for the jewelry problem here would be to eliminate the crystal pendant and, if desired, to replace it with a sturdier, less fragile necklace. There is so much going on that the omission would hardly be noticed.

The April 2011 issue of Lucky shows a model wearing a potentially troublesome combination of cross-body bag and jewelry. The bag, from Brahmin, is worn over the shoulder of the model’s cardigan on the same side as which is pinned a “pearl” flower brooch from Ben-Amun by Isaac Manevitz. She also wears a large hat from Scala Collezione and a bracelet from rachelleigh.com. The dress is from Emporio Armani and the cashmere cardigan is from White + Warren. The strap of the bag could hook onto the brooch and dislodge it; the metal strap might also scratch the “pearls” on the brooch. There is an easy fix: The model can wear the brooch on the opposite site of her cardigan, so that the strap does not potentially rub hit against the brooch. Of course, she’ll still need to take off her hat in order to remove the bag.

The April 2011 issue of Elle pictures a model wearing a Chanel cross-body bag over a tunic by Salvatore Ferragamo that has a deep vee neckline and breast pockets. She accents her look with a bright belt from Burberry, trendy large drop hoop earrings from Dolce & Gabbana, a leather cuff from Hermes and a pair of gold watches, one yellow gold and one rose gold, from Cartier. With her massive curls, it may take some doing to remove the bag from her person without getting the chain strap caught in her hair. She will also need to be careful in removing the bag without catching the earrings.

In this photo from the April 2011 issue of Lucky, a Chanel cross-body bag sits on the model’s shoulder next to the multiple strands of a “pearl” necklace from Carolee. So long as the chain strap of the purse doesn’t rub against the “pearls,” this styling presents no issues. The model wears a jacket and skirt from Carven with a sheer jacket from Thakoon layered over a bow-tie blouse from Jill Stuart. She also wears button earrings from suzannadai.com and a gold-plated watch from Movado.

This ad from Kate Spade that is running in the March 2011 issue of Lucky shows the model wearing two cross-body bags accompanied by a large-scale bright pink necklace, small pink stud earrings, and a set of bangle bracelets, all of which work to take a basic beige polka dotted dress and beige pumps from classic to interesting. Notice that the straps of the two bags are thin enough to rest side by side on the model’s shoulder, and to fit between the necklace and the tie detail of her dress. The necklace looks to be substantial enough not to be potentially affected if jostled by the straps.

In another current ad for Kate Spade, again two bags are worn one on top of the other. This time they are slung over the shoulder of a dress, under the collar. A short necklace lays inside the collar, separated from the purse straps. Again the model wears stud earrings. The straps of the bag do not interfere with the model’s jewelry.

When wearing a cross-body messenger-style bag, whether large or small, the key consideration is whether the strap of the bag may jostle or tangle up with jewelry. It might be helpful to think of cross-body bags, especially those with chain straps, as essentially pieces of jewelry themselves. The April 2011 issue of Lucky magazine comments about small cross-body pouches: “Blissfully hands-free, these essentials-only bags double as jewelry.”  Take care in your choices of necklaces, earrings and brooches, and pay particular attention to the size and placement of the jewelry relative to the straps of your messenger bags, so that your jewelry selections will not be negatively affected when you wear a hands-free purse.


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