Clutch Bags in Fashion | Radley London

Any style-conscious woman will know that you can make or break a carefully put-together outfit with your accessories. So, don’t leave it as an afterthought – explore our collection of designer clutch bags that can add the perfect finishing touch to your evening look. Crafted from the finest leather, our ladies clutch bags have timeless appeal. From boxy shapes to pretty pouches, elegant wristlets and detachable shoulder straps, our designer clutches are incredibly versatile.

Available in a range of wearable colours and designs, you can find the ideal accompaniment to your outfit, whether that’s a classic envelope clutch in crackled bronze, or a sophisticated flapover clutch with a leopard print accent. If your diary is filled with weddings, birthdays or other special occasions, a leather clutch bag will be likely to become your evening wardrobe staple, so explore our beautiful collection of stylish clutch bags here at Radley.

What is a Clutch Bag?

A clutch bag is a slim, flat handbag that doesn’t have handles or a strap. It is carried by hand, and usually used on formal occasions and often only has enough room for a few essentials such as a phone or lip-gloss. It is considered more of an evening bag than a day bag.

Modern clutch bags can come in all shapes and sizes and any colour, the distinguishing factor that classes it a clutch bag is the lack of a handle or strap. Majority of clutch bags are usually quite small and as a result the user must be selective over what they carry. The reason for the more petite size is because they are carried by hand, so the smaller and lighter the bag is, the easier it is to carry. Oversized clutch bags are increasingly popular and are designed to be carried under the wearers arm.

Where did Clutch Bags Originate?

There isn’t an exact date for when the first clutch bag was created. However, it is known that clutch bags were used by women across history to carry valued possessions around with them.

The oldest known clutch bag dates all the way back to 14th century and is currently displayed at the Courtauld Gallery in London. Some suggest that this clutch bag may have originally been a saddle bag and that the user just modified its use. Its origin is Northern Iraq, more specifically, the city of Mosul.

Guest Curator at the Courtauld Gallery- Rachel Ward, believes that the 14th century clutch is a beautiful example of how talented the Northern Iraq’s metalworkers were. The brass, gold and silver clutch bag was intricately decorated with traditional scenes from the presumed upper-class owners’ life.

Many believe that the clutch bag is a more modern term used to describe the first handbag which was also more petite. Terminology changed and the handbag emerged as women needed more space to fit the increasing number of daily essentials they travelled with. Whilst designs have changed, and new terminology was created it is still believed that the clutch bag was the original handbag for women. However, whilst women seek larger bags, the clutch bag remains a popular evening staple especially amongst celebrities attending red carpet events.

Global Clutch Bag Trends

Clutch bags have always been a popular choice of bag for women to use as an evening bag. The reason for the evening clutch bags popularity is that whilst they’re petite, you still have enough space for your essentials- phone, keys and money. Another reason for the evening clutch bags popularity is as opposed to a larger handbag the nature of the clutch bag is its small size and as a result it does not take away from your outfit.

As trends and consumer tastes change so will the clutch bag, from design to it’s function the market is always growing. One day you might see leopard print clutch bags everywhere and the next a more glamourous embellished clutch bag will have taken its place. History of course plays a part in the trends and it is clear to see that the 14th century original bags design has influenced the more modern silver and gold metallic clutch bags which are so popular today.

In the past, bags became much less popular, for security reasons women would hide their daily valuables in secretly sewn pockets or if we look further back women had no money of their own and as such had no need to carry their belongings. As we move forward in history, we see the clutch bag enter, it was designed to be small so that women could easily hide it but even then, only the wealthiest would have a clutch bag. It wasn’t until the late 18th century, when fashion began to change, and it became hard to hide bags underneath layers of skirt. As a result, the clutch bag became a popular choice of bag for women to wear, as it was stylish yet small and easy to hold.

Today’s classic clutch bag was not designed until the mid-1920s and its sole purpose was for practicality, the design was kept simple to ensure it would not distract from the wearers outfit. It wasn’t until later when Tiffany and Co changed the game and produced a beautiful gem embellished clutch bag, which was designed to be a standout accessory. The embellished clutch bag was designed to make an outfit, rather than the previous trend which was outfit first and a simple clutch next. Again, thanks to the beautiful gems on the embellished clutch it became a sign of wealth amongst consumers. It was not until after the Second World War, when materials and fabrics became more accessible that the clutch bag became more of an everyday accessory due to the release of designs and styles at a lower price point.

Popular Clutch Bags throughout the years

Clutch Bags have been around for years and will continue to do so, they are still often being voted the most popular bag of the year.

  • In 1974 suede clutches and crocodile print clutch bags were incredibly popular. These materials were used in a shaped that resembled a clam, hence the name clamshell clutch was developed.
  • In 1976 it was all about neutral, tan clutch bags or nude clutches were seen everywhere.
  • Moving into the 80s we saw metallic hues. As a result, sales in gold clutch bags or silver clutches rose.
  • 1983 saw the envelope clutch. Its popularity could be down to actress Diane Chambers and her character on Cheers? Diane Chambers’ Shelley Long was rarely seen without her beloved envelope clutch.
  • In 1985 it was all about black, black clutch bags were seen everywhere. Sigourney Weaver even chose to wear a printed black clutch to the Tony Awards that year, of which she was a nominee for her role in the dark comedy- Hurlyburly..
  • Enter the long clutch, the bag was a popular feature amongst celebrities at red carpet events in the 1990s.
  • In 1996 it was animal print mania. Every print from Leopard Clutch Bags to Snakeskin Clutches were carried by everyone, everywhere.
  • When Princess Diana- the queen of clutches wore a baby blue satin clutch bag the world stopped. Almost overnight people were desperately searching for their perfect satin clutch bag to emulate the chic and stylish look Diana portrayed.
  • In 2000, everyone was talking about the saddle bag. Technically not a clutch bag, the reason it’s listed here is because the original purpose of the first clutch bag is believed to have been a saddle bag.
  • 2004 was all about sequins. Designs started changing and diamante clutch bags were popular.
  • After a brief gap when everyone seemed to want to carry luggage sized bags, the clutch bag made a return in 2011. The flat clutch was a stable of many people’s wardrobes, Zoe Saldana was even seen wearing a black flat clutch on the red carpet.

Today, the clutch bag is a staple in the fashion world, with women across the world opting for different styles to complement their evening attire.

Radley Clutch Bags for Women

Clutch Bags for Weddings

Bow Hill- Small Zip-Top Clutch Bag
The Bow Hill Clutch bag is minimalistic and the perfect investment piece. The zip-top fastening has an organised interior that will be able to hold all your daily essentials from your phone to lip gloss. The addition of a handy delicate wrist strap means you can go hands-free and dance the night away.

Diwali Pouch- Medium Zip-Top Wristlet
The Diwali zip-top pouch was created to celebrate the festival of light. The sparkly clutch is a stylish and practical way to elevate any outfit. The smooth leather exterior and metallic tassel exude luxury. This beautiful clutch is a must have for every occasion.

Evening Clutch Bags for Women

Bell Court- Small Zip Around Clutch Bag
A nod to the Tiffany statement clutch, the beautiful black embellished clutch bag is sure to make a statement. The addition of satin mixed with beautiful beading leaves a luxurious feel to the statement clutch.

Selby Street- Small Zip-Top Clutch Bag
In need of a statement embellished clutch? Look no further, the bronzed sequin detail gives a contemporary twist on a traditional shaped clutch bag. The bag comes with adjustable removable straps so the choice is yours whether you want to wear it off the shoulder or as a clutch.

Waterloo- Mini Flapover Clutch Bag
A modern take on the clam design, this faux lizard print clutch bag is the perfect accessory for every evening occasion. The leather design combined with the rich port colour is so sleek and stylish, everyone will be wondering where it’s from.

Everyday Clutch Bags for Women

Artisan Road– Medium Tech Pouch
A more oversized clutch bag design, perfect for fitting a bit more everyday essentials such as your tablet. The design is a beautiful grainy leather which offers a stylish finish to an everyday clutch.

Bow Hill- Small Zip-Top Clutch Bag
The Bow Hill clutch design is one of a kind, the front features a beautiful bird applique with feminine scallop fringing. A stylish and practical clutch thanks to the beautiful design and adjustable wristlet strap.

Radley Clutch Bags for Men

Whilst traditionally the clutch bag is a female focused design, more men are realising the need to carry more than just a wallet in their back pocket.

Cannon Street– Medium Zip-Top Laptop Case
The Cannon Street leather Laptop Case is the perfect ‘bag’ for men who need to carry more but don’t quite want a full backpack. The individual interior compartments mean never having to rummage around for your phone or keys and the padded pockets means your laptop or tablets remain protected. This laptop case is definitely the 21st century clutch bag for men.

Different Type of Clutch Bags

Classic Clutch

A classic clutch bag is usually more petite and squarer in design with slightly rounded edges. The classic clutch bag has no crossbody straps and the user would usually just hold the bag from the top. In terms of style the classic clutch is usually more simple, but elegant with a zip top or a magnetic clasp fastening.

Envelope Clutch

An envelope clutch, quite simply, is a clutch bag that looks like an envelope. It is square or rectangular in shape, but also flat and feature a fold of material shaped like a triangle over the top of the bag. It is the triangle top fastening that gives it the name- the envelope clutch.

Clasp-Top Clutch

A clasp-top clutch bag can come in any shape, size or design. Its name comes from the unique fastening at the top of the clutch. The stand out clasp at the top features interlocking parts which lock the bag when pressed together. Traditionally this clasp would be a simple metallic block, but designers have become increasingly creative and you could see Clasp-Top Clutches with a ring detail at the top which makes holding your clutch incredibly easy.

Flapover Clutch

The Flapover clutch bag is similar to the Envelope clutch in the sense that both feature a piece of material folding over the top of the bag which is used as the fastening. However, rather than a specific triangle, the material on the flapover clutch is just the same shape as the bag. Some flapover clutches have a single zip top fastening and is folded in half and clipped down to itself.

Day Clutch

The day clutch can be any colour or design what makes it a day clutch is its size. An everyday clutch is often bigger than an evening bag because most likely you’ll need to take more with you during the day than just your wallet and phone at night. With the larger size, this often means the clutch has more interior pockets to help keep you organised throughout the day.

Men's Clutch

Another term for a men’s clutch bag is portfolio bag. Men’s clutches are a more recent trend emerging from fashion forward runway shows across the world. Clutch bags for men or portfolio bags are a combination of a classic clutch and a laptop bag. In terms of style the men’s clutch is often flat with a zip top and has enough interior space to carry a laptop or tablet with even a small notepad or organiser too. The men’s clutch bag is a more fashion forward trendier option to the classic briefcase.

How to Choose the Right Clutch Bag for You

What are you using your Clutch Bag for?

Before buying a clutch bag think about what type of event or occasion, you’re wanting to use it for. If it is for an evening event, you’re likely to only need to carry a few essential items and as a result a more petite clutch bag style would be suitable. The type of event also determines the style, gold clutch bags, silver clutch bags and black clutch bags are popular choices for any evening events. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a day even, then you might want to go for a larger clutch bag so you can fit more inside. Clutch bags with pockets are also a popular everyday choice as it helps to keep you organised. A nude clutch bag is a safe everyday colour because you can wear it with most outfits, the same goes for a grey clutch bag or a tan clutch bag or even if you want to add a pop of colour try a brighter option such as an orange or red clutch bag.

How much will you need to put in your Clutch Bag?

This is an important point to think about because the more you need to carry with you the larger your clutch bag will need to be. Having said that clutches are designed to only carry your essentials so be careful to over fill them. However, should you need to carry more, there are plenty of oversized clutch bags available.

Try your Clutch Bag on

Take what you will carry in the clutch bag with you and try it out with everything inside. That way you can see how heavy the bag will be and if it will be comfortable to carry around with you.

Where are you taking your Clutch Bag?

If you’re going to have your clutch bag outside, it would be better to go for a waterproof clutch or even one that’s made of a water-resistant material to protect it from any rain or snow. Another reason to think about this point is if you are taking you clutch somewhere where it is particularly at risk of getting dirty opt for a darker colour such as a navy clutch or even a dark red clutch bag and avoid any pale pink clutches etc.

Carrying a Clutch Bag: How to Wear a Clutch Bag and How to Hold a Clutch Bag

  • Hold it from the underneath so that you have it secure.
  • Use the wrist strap if it comes with one for extra security.
  • If you’ve got a slightly more oversized clutch, then holding it underneath is more favourable because it still enables you to be hands free.
  • Hold it the traditional way with both hands in front of you

Fun Facts about Clutch Bags

  • The traditional way to hold a clutch bag is with both hands in front of you.
  • There are so many different types of clutch bags, from day clutches, evening clutches, envelope clutches, zip-top clutches, flapover clutches and more!
  • There are even clutch bags for men.
  • The clutch bag was originally designed as a small bag to hold your valued essential possessions.
  • Evening clutch bags are very popular because they are just big enough to hold your essentials without taking away from your outfit.

Clutch Bags as Day Bag vs Clutch Bags as Evening Bags

When going out in the evening, it is unlikely that you would need to take everything with you. Most women are likely to only take their essentials- their phone, credit card, keys and maybe some lip gloss to touch up during the night! As a result, an evening clutch bag is meant to be just a small accessory to either compliment or complete an outfit.

Popular evening bag styles:

  • Silver Clutch Bags
  • Gold Clutches
  • Metallic Detail Clutch Bags
  • Embellished Clutch Bags (Often with sequins or there is a trend now for Pearl Deatiled Clutch Bags)
  • Finally, you can't go wrong with a classic Black Clutch

Evening bag styles differ to everyday clutches because people often want their evening clutch to be smarter and most importantly add a bit of glamour to their outfit, hence the ever-popular pearl clutch bag.

A day clutch bag is a relatively new concept because in the past women have chosen larger totes due to the spacious interiors. Nowadays with the options of more oversized clutch, that enable you to both take more and thanks to the handy interior pockets you can stay organised throughout the day too. A recent trend sees women choosing day clutches as their work bags. The reason for this is it’s a more stylish and effortless way to carry around both your laptop and a few papers rather than carrying on overflowing shoulder bag which will often feature multiple items you don’t need and don’t ever use but are put in just because you have the space.