We're entering the home stretch for the biggest party ever, and it's time to get your hands on a bag that will hold your essentials for an evening out (cash, keys, cell phone -- and a miniature flashlight, just in case). So please, try to find one that doesn't look like that sorry leather satchel you carry your life around in. The season's funkiest party options have a sweet, homespun feeling or a sharp disco edge. Either way, they look expensively embellished, but you can get them on the cheap -- under $50, if you follow our leads.
For hippie, happy embroidered bags at unbelievably low prices, check out the Fashion Express brand, sold at J. Chuckles and Strawberry. The Indian-made handbags come in bright pink (pictured), turquoise, royal blue, silver, or black and cost $15 to $20. Bloomingdale's private label has choices ranging from simple satin clutches to sparkly beaded versions, like a groovy, shoulder-slung navy pouch (pictured, $38) and a pretty olive green, bugle-beaded tote ($35, pictured).
Glitzier disco-style bags are available by the dozen at For Grace. Metal or metallic-trimmed styles are all under $50; the best are pewter-toned mesh ones ($45, pictured). For serious pizzazz (if you dare), venture out with Macy's tiny, gold, heavily sequined tote ($34, pictured). Your only worry is how to pare down your belongings to the few things important enough to carry.
J. Chuckles, 321 Madison Ave. at 42nd St. (212-867-3771); Strawberry, 38 E. 14th St. (212-353-2700); Bloomingdale's, Lexington Ave. at 59th St. (212-705-2000); For Grace, 990 Sixth Ave., at 36th St. (212-967-5327); Macy's Herald Square (212-695-4400).
Picks of the Week
Shoshanna's first sample sale features plenty of her coveted clothes (shapely strapless dresses, classic ball skirts, and faux-fur-trimmed tweed day styles) as well as knits, handbags, and sexy thong underwear. Prices are all about half off, from $10 for thongs to $150 for a long strapless dress. Sizes 2-10. 231 W. 39th St., Suite 1012 (212-719-3601); A.E., M.C., V.; Mon.-Fri. 8-7, Sat. 10-5; 12/15-12/20.
Phyllis Leibowitz makes dazzling accessories and home stuff from vintage Indian embroidered fabric (she recently sent a stash of bags for viewing to a group of fashion editors -- who sent back a check for the lot). Her bags are sold at stores like Anna Sui and Bond 07; at the sale, prices are 40-60 percent off: Bedspreads are $250-$375, bags are $26-$117, antique saris (great for make-your-own bedspreads and curtains) are $175-$290. Michael Colobos Showroom; 131 W. 35th St., fourth floor (for information, call 212-627-1436); A.E., checks; Thurs.-Sat. 10-6; 12/16-12/18.
Gene Meyer's colorful, modern winter clothes for men (available at stores like Saks Fifth Avenue) are about half off at the sample sale: Trousers are $75-$95, sweaters are $60-$110, leather jackets are $190-$250, and ties are $25-$35. Sizes S-XL. 730 Fifth Ave., near 56th St., eleventh floor (212-980-0110); A.E., M.C., V.; Wed.-Fri. 8-6:30, Sat. 10-4; 12/15-12/18.
Stuart Weitzman is clearing out many fall shoes and boots (everything from classic leather pumps to crystal-beaded evening shoes). What you save depends on how much you buy: 30 percent off for the first pair, 40 percent off the second, 50 percent off the third. Original prices were from $165 for calfskin pumps to $495 for suede-trimmed riding boots. 625 Madison Ave., near 59th St. (212-750-2555); A.E., M.C., V.; Mon.-Fri. 10-6:30, Sat. till 6, Sun. noon-5; 12/13-12/31.
Amy Chan's glamorous evening bags and street-chic day styles are some of the season's best. At the sale, most are half off, from $50 for a sparkly, mosaic clutch to $135 for a brushed-suede shoulder bag. 247 Mulberry St. (212-966-3417); A.E., M.C., V.; Mon.-Sat. noon-7, Sun. till 5; 12/16-12/23.
Olive & Bette's, a top source for youthful, trendy clothes and accessories (pictured, right) from designers like Fiorucci, Vivienne Tam, and Autumn Cashmere, is unloading fall stock at 40 percent off. Prices are from $32 for tees to $220 for thick cashmere sweaters; accessories are $15 or less. 155 W. 72nd St., fourth floor (212-712-9761); A.E., M.C., V.; Thurs.-Fri. 8:30-7; 12/16-12/17.
Throckmorton Collection's ornate 22-karat-gold jewelry (encrusted with diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires) sells at Language, Bond 07, and Fred Leighton, and has been snapped up by the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Kim Basinger. At the sample sale, all pieces are half price: Small pendant necklaces are $120- $800, simple ruby- and sapphire-bead necklaces are $1,200, and the heaviest ones are upwards of $10,000. ABH Designs, 153 E. 61st St., third floor (212-688-3764); M.C., V., checks; Mon.-Fri. noon-6; 12/13-12/17.
Georgia Hughes Fine Millinery's imaginative, structured winter hats (including plenty of cozy, fur-trimmed cashmere ones) are sold at stores like Henri Bendel. At the sale, samples are about half off, from $165 for a velvet-and-faux-beaver Breton style to $350 for a mink-trimmed picture hat. Selected spring styles are on sale, too. 45 E. 89th St., Suite 21D (212-996-5183); cash only; Mon.-Sun. noon-6; 12/13-12/19.