Large handbags in a range of colors are de rigeur for today's work or play. But when the sun goes down, dress-up and evening bags also have a distinctive look that defines them as au courant.

"The evening bag of the moment is a clutch," declares Che, a Los Angeles designer and stylist for celebrities, who also works on large commercial campaigns. "Exotic skins like crocodile, washed lizard and python are popular right now."

"Patent leather is very popular," adds Daria Hines, personal stylist to Fergie, solo star and member of the multi-platinum-selling group Black Eyed Peas. "People want shiny—and colorful." She also agrees that skins, like snakeskin, are in great demand.

The reason clutches are in style, fashion experts contend, is that they look adorable, they're lightweight and easy to carry, and they don't detract from an outfit. Yet the reason they are so beloved—their small size—is also their biggest drawback. "A clutch doesn't hold very much," admits Che, referring to some of today's smallest clutches. "Just keys, money, I.D. and lipstick."

The good news, of course, is that Whichever clutch you choose, you can always remind yourself that what your purse lacks in size, it makes up for in style.

Here's a look at some of the dress-up evening bags of the moment:

For those who can spend a large amount   of cash on a small purse, the top-of-the-line designers offer a myriad   of choices. Chanel (www.chanel.com), Yves Saint Laurent (www.yvessaintlaurent.com) and Fendi (www.fendi.com) all offer amazing—and expensive—
clutches   in alligator and python, lambskin, calfskin, and patent leather.

A Fendi favorite is the crossword patent   clutch, left ($920). Black patent panels have oversized coated leather   Fendi letters (mirror-like in appearance) woven over the zip-top bag,   which has a satin lining.