While handbags and clutches are meant to be held in the hand or under the arm, shoulder bags, as their name suggests, allow a woman to keep her personal items close without occupying her hands. As such, shoulder bags are often the most visible accent to a woman's outfit.

Some of the designers who have made shoulder bags their calling cards include Coco Chanel, whose first shoulder bags in 1929 were made of the same jersey wool as her suits. More recently, in the 1960s, French designer Paco Rabanne updated the Edwardian mesh reticule with his chainmail shoulder bags. Across the English Chanel, Mary Quant fashioned pop-art purses that hung from long leather straps and shiny chains.

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