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By Samantha Critchell
Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
 

It can't be helped: After weeks of top designer runway previews of spring styles at marathon fashion weeks in New York, London, Milan and Paris, the eye started to wander and it caught the newest trends for handbags and shoes. For some shoppers, accessories are at the forefront of the catwalk news they're waiting for.

Accessories tend to be more widely available and affordable — although that's a relative term — and, more often than not, they fit.

And there's probably a handbag with a structured shape or a snakeskin shoe on the market already, so early adopters can look way ahead of the curve if they're paying attention.

“Accessories aren't as big of a commitment as apparel,” says Tracey Lomrantz Lester, women's editorial director at Gilt. “You invest less from both a financial perspective and a sartorial one. The idea of trying a new style of boot or a different handbag is less intimidating than readjusting your eye to an entirely new silhouette. You can always just take if off if you feel silly.”

Whitney Kessler, accessories editor of trend analysis firm Stylesight, says there are plenty of choices during this particular season, but few will serve as the all-purpose bag, shoe or piece of statement jewelry. “There aren't a lot of everyday bags and items, which is exciting for people who are really into fashion,” she says, “but if you are shopping designer collections, you'll need to buy more to satisfy your needs.”

She adds: “But they'll all look really good.”

Some options:

Boxy bags: The slouchy silhouette is on its way out, to be replaced by a stronger, smaller, more structured bag, predicts Leah Karp, accessories director at InStyle magazine. She thinks the shape to buy it in will be a cross-body bag. Consider one that features colorblocking but is otherwise clean-looking, with geometric, sophisticated hardware.

Erica Russo, fashion director for women's accessories at Bloomindale's, says a hand-held clutch or a larger envelope will work, too.

Time to shine: Metallics always have some presence on the catwalks, and they translate well to closets because they have timeless appeal, says Karp. “I have a silver bag I've had for 10 years. It's an old Celine bag that I can bring out time and time again — totally worth an investment.”

Because she already bought silver sandals this year, she'll be looking at gold shoes next year. You really need a pair of each, she says.

Snake surfaces: “Texture is more important than print,” declares Kessler. And there's no more sophisticated way to do that than with snakeskin in luxe shades, such as burgundy, navy and dark green. Real or faux: your choice — and your budget.

Karp says snakeskin in a pointy pump is the way to go.

Play with pearls: “I love the idea that pearls are not your grandma's pearls,” says Karp. And she loves that Nicholas Kirkwood sandwiched pearls between layers of some pumps' soles. A look like that can certainly come out sooner rather than later — and definitely for holiday parties. Try multiple strands and oversized beads.

Not-so-blank canvas: Artistry details replaced more obvious bling and chunky hardware. The Chanel show, with its art-gallery theme, was the standard bearer, according to Karp. The canvas versions of the house's classic bags — with spray-on “quilting” — were a “cool way to reinvent a classic.”

Kessler also noted the use of laser-cut leathers and weaving techniques to further explore artistry.

Backpacks: Bloomingdale's Russo thinks the right woman will pull off a smart backpack in style and says she is excited about the look — which seems very new. “It's so beyond back-to- school,” she says.

InStyle's Karp, however, isn't buying into them at a high price. It's one of those items that a more mass retailer can do perfectly well, she says.

Flat-out athletics: Sporty influences were among the season's biggest trends, in clothes as well as accessories. It's perfectly reasonable that you'll be wearing “a low-soled trainer” — think Nike Air or New Balance — in a trend-right color like coral with one of those pretty makeup-shade feminine dresses or even leather pants, Russo says.

Gilt's Lester observed a “noticeable shift” toward the street — and that might be where the sporty styles came from. “Loafers, sneakers, even Teva-esque sandals were everywhere in place of high heels. Visors and baseball caps have never been bigger, and the oversize clutch — the accessory of choice for street-style stars — is the new It bag.”

Samantha Critchell is the Associated Press Fashion Writer.

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