In the Bag
A fabulous handbag says (and does) it all without saying a word
Inexpensive but cool
As a boutique that actually boasts handbags under $100, it's a no-brainer why South End's Eileen is the top pick for inexpensive (yet totally chic) handbags. You'll mostly find larger shoulder bags and totes (love the Melie Bianco patent satchel for $74, above) all übercute (and übercheap) when paired with dark jeans and a cropped jacket, or one of Eileen's adorable printed tops and dresses.
1800 Camden Rd., 704-372-1002
PaperSkyscraper is so much more than its name. Besides the creative birthday cards, distinct hostess gifts, and thank-you notes, you'll find quality handbags to help you carry it all. Eye-catching prints and metallic totes, wristlets and satchels by Shiraleah (such as the Catalina tote, $59.95, above) along with durable travel bags by Milano make this Dilworth shop an easy place to buy the perfect everyday handbag.
330 East Blvd., 704-333-7130
Just about everything in Capitol feels upscale—what with YSL, Stella McCartney, and Zac Posen filling the racks. But it's the SouthPark boutique's tailored selection of handbags that you'll really be coveting. Though the supple leather satchels by Chloé (such as the Heloise large bugatti bag, $1,670, above) are a customer favorite, choose from other designer chic offerings by Kotur, Celestinia, and Devi Kroell.
Phillips Place, 6815-C Phillips Place Ct., 704-552-8987
Baby and diaper
News flash: babies come with lots of stuff—heavy, bulky stuff—and there's not much you can do about it. What you can do is haul all of Baby's accouterments in a to-die-for red patent leather tote by Amy Michelle or strap on a gorgeous giraffe-print bag from OiOi ($160, above). Mia Bossi has designed a leather bag with brass hardware that's so chic it actually converts into a laptop bag so you can keep using it after Baby's had a few birthdays. When Dad carries the load, he can do it in style (and incognito) with a nylon satchel from Skip * Hop.
6401 Morrison Blvd., 704-334-1701
Evening bags are tricky—either you need one to match your outfit, or you want one that will make your outfit. Nordstrom has the best of both worlds. Their house-name label offers boxy baguettes (such as the woven silk frame option, $88, left), plus find La Regale's vintage-inspired beaded clutches. For extra impact, try Susan Farber's gold metallic leather bag with a glam bow detail for $260.
Now men have the pleasure of lugging their lives around daily with a new collection of practical bags from the ultimate purveyor of designer duds: Neiman Marcus. No longer a simple briefcase or messenger bag, the “man bag” is so much cooler. Now bankers and metrosexuals alike can choose from Tumi zip pouches ($350), Prada backpacks ($795), faux velvet Ferragamo gym bags ($1,300), and classic Gucci totes (such as the GG Messenger, $545, left) without looking too, um, feminine.