If ever you want to embarrass a woman, just ask her to list out the contents of her handbag. It’s guaranteed that she’d have her entire life packed within the diameters of a few inches of leather.

Partially why, the idea of carrying a petite clutch frustrates most women. Especially when they’re not attending an award function. The most analysed argument is that you can’t stuff an extra pair of shoes, on-the-go toiletries kit, daily planner, seven-varieties of technological devices and a hundred million lip products in a clutch. You just cannot!

Taking these legitimate factors into consideration comes this trend report of an oversized, box-shaped Gladstone bag that has been modelling itself on celebrities’ arms for quite some time. Over the years, the shapes and sizes have changed on a monthly basis, but just recently it’s found to have stabilised itself and be classified as an accessory trend for 2012.

Whether you make it part of your strategically planned curated wardrobe or the contrary, the Gladstone bag holds a position stronger than what might be shunned for being just another statement accessory. Luxury brands have now placed this bag on the frontline of runway fashion.

Fashionising.com has sifted the best for you, only so that your accessory closet stays updated with the latest and the best. Read all about the history of the Gladstone bag (which also has another fancy name), its runway inspiration and styling tips right after the break.

And, as always, if you like the trend let us know by clicking the ‘Like’ button below. And don’t forget, if you’d like to keep up to date with all the latest fashion trends and how to wear them, you can subscribe to Fashionising.com’s newsletter or RSS feed.

Click the thumbnails for full pictures
The doctor calls
The doctor calls
The doctor calls
The doctor calls
The doctor calls
The doctor calls

What is the Gladstone bag?

The Gladstone bag, commercially known as a doctor’s bag, dates back to the 19th century. Men in mainstream professions, for that era at least, such as doctors, lawyers, electricians and plumbers primarily used the bag during the war. And it got its alternative name, Doctor’s bag, for obvious reasons.

This light-handed luggage with two hinged compartments was deemed to be a smaller and much more convenient alternative to a suitcase, ideal for overnight train travels. Its single magnetic clutch in the centre made it user-friendly in public spaces, unlike a bulky suitcase. It could be easily stored in limited spaces and was spacious enough to carry tools, papers and a set of extra clothes.

As time passed, the purpose for carrying the Gladstone evolved, which subsequently altered the shape of the bag. Smaller suitcases replaced the Gladstone’s rigid shape, however doctor’s continued to carry its more compact version.

As this efficient trimming took place, the fashion industry got its cue and tailored the doctor’s bag to adhere with luxurious fashion’s standards. From high-quality leather, silk trimmings to studded metallic features, what used to be a workingman’s asset, today has become a woman’s arm-luxury, stamped with a legendary logo.

celine doctors bag spring 2012
Celine S/S 12: the doctor’s bag with a modern twist.

The Gladstone bag on the runway

A bag with the potential to be minimalist, classic and statement-worthy, all at once, is by default considered a part of Celine’s equally sharp uniform. In their Fall 2011 runway show, models marched with the Gladstone tucked under their arm. The original-doctor’s-bag-shape was maintained; small handles, a sturdy rectangular base and a magnetic-centre with the trademark floppy feature. As we progress into the New Year, Celine’s latest offering for spring 2012 promises a modified version of the Gladstone. It’s got corporate sophistication with hints of perky colours, giving the trend another opportunity for an appraisal.

On the other hand, Louis Vuitton presented an oversized version of the Gladston in their theatrical S/S 2012 show in Paris. The brand is known for making the most distinctive luggage carriers, however for this one, they steered clear from using the stereotypical LV fabrics and instead designed a cleaner and crisper variety. To compliment the candy-hued clothes, all the Gladstone bags in Louis Vuitton’s spring 2012 show were in muted shades of sorbet yellow, grey and moon white.

louis vuitton gladstone bag
Louis Vuitton S/S 12 Gladstone bag.

How to carry it

For a bag with such a prominent shape, it’s important to note that it has the capability of overshadowing all other accessories that are part of an outfit. Despite the colour you choose, Gladstones are predominantly the leader of the pack and you have to give them the credit they demand. Hence, here are a few things to keep in mind, before you tuck in this baby under your arm and walk out of the house:

  • It’s not a typical shapeless tote (with zero compartments) that eventually becomes a part of your outfit. Gladstones are to be treated like a classic vintage piece that need to be styled in the most trusted fashion. They’re bold, smart and ooze confidence.
  • The most wonderful aspect of the Gladstone is its dual-usability. One day it’s a carry-to-work bag, and another day it’s the perfect travel companion. Don’t undervalue its space, and pick one that suits your lifestyle.
  • Due to its boxy shape, be mindful of what you’re teaming it with. It works as well with cigarette pants and a blazer, as it does with a ‘60s-style midi-length shift dress. But don’t carry it with overflowing blouses, or to the beach, for instance.
  • When choosing a colour, go for an all-season variety. One that will last you all through winter and into spring 2012. Some classic shades that’ll always work: tan, reddish brown, charcoal black, navy and plum red.

For a few more examples of the doctor’s bag / Gladstone bag on the runway, click on the thumbnails and peruse the gallery.

Of course, you’ll be able to carry it with any number of 2012 fashion trend statements – follow that link for more detail about the year’s other trends.

Runway images: Imaxtree.

Share some style:

Want to keep up with fashion?

Once a week, we send out an update with the latest fashion trends, styles and collections.
Get yours direct in your inbox and keep ahead of fashion.

Our newsletter is spam free and your email address will never be shared or sold.