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Grown-up bags

Target's faux leather Melie bag features contrasting pockets and a drawstring top -- it cleans up with soap and water; $59.99 at target.com.

NEW YORK — The kids are off to school with their backpacks — the Ninja Turtle, Hello Kitty variety.

But this fall, the backpack is the must-have bag for fashionable grown-ups, too. Stores are bursting with utilitarian-gone-swanky bags — many reimagined in interesting materials and shapes for on-the-go types.

And better still, they’re available for less than $50 to way, way up there.

At Henri Bendel, where there are backpacks aplenty and even more coming out for the holiday season, creative director Pina Ferlisi says, “It’s obviously a big trend, but what I try to do with ours is make it more of a luxury piece.” Status-symbol details include glossy gold-tone hardware accents, spotted hair calf, leather trim and convertible straps that do triple duty, changing up the backpack to a crossbody and even a satchel. “What I love about ours is that there’s a top zipper, and we’ve added pockets for cellphone and Metro Card access,” she says of the new, more convenient configuration.

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Adam Glassman, creative director of O the Oprah Magazine, is a backpack fan as well. “I would say that nowadays someone carrying a backpack is a cool girl, but a few years ago you were a dork.” Functionality is key, he says. “I like the notion that you are hands-free and running around town, and you don’t have to worry about your bag.” How to work the look? “Most people think of a backpack as outdoorsy or for the weekend, says Glassman, “but I think the juxtaposition between the utilitarian and dressed-up works very well.” He suggests pairing your backpack with a chic dress and heels or one of fall’s chunky knits and a mini.

Not only do backpacks look good, Terry Eagle, a chiropractor from ProHealth Care Associates in Lake Success, says they are better for you than a big, heavy pocketbook, which can cause pain in your neck, upper back and shoulder. But “don’t make your backpack too heavy,” she says, “and make sure the straps are adjusted properly so they don’t pull.”

Eagle has nixed traditional pocketbooks and has used a backpack for about 20 years. She’s delighted, to say the least, by the current popularity of the pack. “Every year I go into the stores with my fingers crossed that somebody is going to make a nice-looking backpack.” This season, well, she hit the lottery.

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Associate Editor

Chris Etling is a copy editor and paginator at the Arizona Daily Sun. He's worked for the Daily Sun since November 2009.

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