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ROAD TEST

Handle with care-free spirit

June 15, 2008|Rosemary McClure; Susan Spano; Vani Rangachar; Diane Wedner; Rosemary McClure; Jane Engle; Mary Forgione; Catharine Hamm

Lighten up the next time you board a plane. Black or other dreary carry-on totes are as dated as the terminals at LAX. Each new fashion season brings a broader selection of colors, shapes and styles from the travel accessories industry. The new crop of women's bags, many designed by women, come in bright and light colors; some add fun illustrations, polka dots and other lively prints to the mix. Six women from The Times' staff teamed up to test some of the new models. Here's what they thought.

-- Rosemary McClure

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SNAKE YOUR BOOTY

First look: This roomy Perlina Studio bag will hold a newspaper, a magazine or two, a paperback book and a change of clothes. Or you can tuck a laptop inside. (The bag is 15 inches wide by 16 inches deep and weighs 1 pound, 7 ounces.) The soft leather tote comes in snake prints, black, cashew, off-white and wine. There are five roomy organizer pockets and a small, removable zipper pouch. There are zippers and snaps on outside pockets and at the top of the bag.

Likes and yikes: The bag, especially in the eye-catching reptile prints, adds an attractive wardrobe element. Because it's lightweight, flexible and soft, you can fold it up and stick it inside a suitcase when you don't need it. Its size may be daunting for a small woman, but it holds a lot.

The 411: Perlina Studio, $178; available at www.perlina.com, www.nordstrom.com and www.zappos.com or call (718) 788-2838.

-- Rosemary McClure

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BRAND-NAME COOL

First look: Made by Milan, Italy-based Bric's, the Sportina is a not-too-big, not-too-small, durable nylon bag that comes in bright orange, red and yellow as well as drabber blue, olive green and black. It has a removable interior pouch, zippered pocket on the side and handles that can be converted from pocketbook style to shoulder-style.

Likes and yikes: It's pricey for what it is, but the Sportina is well-made, especially the reinforced handle attachment. It can be folded up and packed for use once you reach your destination. And the Bric's label has brand-name allure.

The 411: $120; Bric's Boutique, Century City Mall; (310) 229-0025, www.brics.it.

-- Susan Spano

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PARISIAN, BUT PLUMP

First look: Rian Bag's Tower Tote is eye-catching. Big, bold and red, it has a Parisian Eiffel Tower scene with moms wheeling across the front, sides and back. Other bags come with images of New York's Times Square and San Francisco.

Likes and yikes: I loved this well-made, sturdy leather tote and the fact that several women complimented me on it. The bag has a roomy interior with nooks to stash stuff inside -- pockets for water and a folding umbrella, a tab for keys, a place for wallet and passport. It has a magnetic closure and small studs on the bottom so it doesn't have to rest on the ground. But it has weight and price issues. Empty, it's a hefty 2 pounds, 7 ounces. Once I filled it, I walked lopsided, and it doesn't have straps to sling it across your chest.

The 411: $305 at www.rianhandbags.com and www.ebags.com, (800) 725-8229.

-- Vani Rangachar

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LADYLIKE LUGGING

First look: The Ogio International Dobby Tote is practical for women who want to haul their must-have daily items around town. (The bag is about 14 by 19 inches and weighs 1 pound, 10 ounces.) It features four outside pockets, two of which are fastened with magnets, and a satin-lined interior space large enough for a laptop, a book and even some groceries. It also has an extra zippered pouch with slots for pens. The tote comes in several colors, including brown pinstripe, which has an embroidered floral design on the front pocket with the company logo appliqued on the flower.

Likes and yikes: The tote is lightweight and has comfortable shoulder straps, but with no zipper or snap atop the opening, it's ripe for embarrassing spillage at the airport security screening and handy for pickpockets.

The 411: About $60, www.ogio.com.

-- Diane Wedner

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OVERNIGHT SENSATION

First look: The Cats and Dogs sleepover bag from Sydney Love features a whimsical print that's a favorite with adolescent girls. The vinyl bag would also make a good traveling bag for Fido or Tiger. It has a shoulder strap, carrying handles, a couple of outside pockets that zip shut and three inside pockets. (The tote is 12 inches by 17 inches by 7 inches and weighs 2 pounds, 3 ounces.)

Likes and yikes: This bag, which also comes in smaller and larger versions, looks inexpensive (and is), but it's packed with fun. The dogs-and-cats print includes pet names, and there's a matching polka-dot lining. On the downside, the bag we tested was slightly difficult to reach into because of a short zipper on top.

The 411: $50; available from www.ebags.com or call (800) 725-8229.

-- Rosemary McClure

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CORNERS THE MARKET ON CUTE

First look: In perky green with orange-and-brown silhouettes of birds, Yak Pak's Lucille Bowler is cute. It's also functional, with 13 pockets and measuring 16.5 inches by 15 inches by 4 inches.

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