July 16, 2001 12:00 PM

Punchy Bags

Is your wardrobe on life support? Then take a hint from stars like Camryn Manheim, Elizabeth Hurley and Teri Hatcher and revivify it with a fun and funky bag. The hip, often humorous totes, which come in a vast array of vivid patterns and bold graphics, “can make or break an outfit,” says Almost Famous’s Zooey Deschanel, who recently wore a Christian Dior purse decorated with a red license plate. “Who wants a boring handbag?” No one, says London designer Lulu Guinness. “After the minimalism of the ’90s, people want to be more frivolous,” she says. Plus, adds Jennifer Tash, owner of the sassy Isabella Fiore handbag line, which includes the camouflage purses that Teri Polo (Meet the Parents) and Jennifer Blanc (Dark Angel) carried at a party last week, “customers will not let go of things that make them stand out.” Monica Lewinsky, who sells her own line of purses, agrees. “Handbags are the best way to describe your personality,” she says. Or just fill a simple need in a snappy way. Of her Krishna-emblazoned tin tote, Manheim says, “it’s not a purse, it’s a lunch box. You never know when you’ll need an apple.”

with Karen Brailsford and Linda Shin in Los Angeles and Liz Corcoran in London

behind the seams

Comeback alert: I hear that ’80s megamodel Linda Evangelista, who hung up her catwalk-prowling stilettos in the late ’90s, is this close to inking a deal to become a spokes-model for Estée Lauder. The hush-hush

move has Evangelista set to shoot test pictures for Lauder with photog Steven Meisel in L.A., and word is Vogue, heralding the return of lovely Linda, may feature her on its cover this autumn….

Portraying Mexican artist Frida Kahlo in the upcoming big-screen bio Frida, Salma Hayek had to re-create Kahlo’s don’t-come-near-me-with-tweezers unibrow. Not about to let her own perfectly arched brows go un-

groomed, Hayek elected to have faux brows glued on daily. Though each hair was individually pasted on, they took only about 10 minutes to apply—and even less time to take off: Once each day’s filming was done, the glamor girl said hasta la vista to the bushy brow with a quick peel-off solution….

Courtney Love had cuticles on her mind as she sat on an L.A.-to-New-York-City flight last month. So she picked up the air phone and rang Buff Spa at Bergdorf Goodman with a request to have a nail technician meet her later that afternoon at her Manhattan digs. The rock queen ended up splurging on a—gulp—$450 service that included a manicure and extra-special diamond pedicure, using real Harry Winston diamond chips to decorate her toes….

Seen: Kate Hudson and her rocker hubby, Chris Robinson, spending three hours shopping for sheets recently at ABC Carpet & Home in Manhattan before settling on a set of luxurious linens by Frette of Italy.

star talk

Not all buys are for the best. What style purchase do you regret most?

Jennifer Tilly “I bought a long, padded leather coat from Gucci. I never wore it and probably can’t wear it next year and it was thousands of dollars. It’s totally shapeless and totally last season.”

Holly Robinson Peete “One of those rhinestone belts. I’m so over it, and I bought mine too late.”

Lea Thompson “An expensive pair of really high spiked-heel Dolce & Gabbana boots. I never wore them.”

Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio “Sofas. I’ve done it twice now, bought things that are totally inappropriate for the house and then thought, ‘I have to get rid of this now.’ ”

Melissa Joan Hart “Last year in Australia I bought a tight pleather dress with little straps and green zebra stripes. It’s cute, but I can’t find the right event to wear it to. Maybe the Animal Planet Awards or something? It really stands out and it’s a little bizarre.”

presto change-o

To ease summer’s sizzle, model Amber Valletta sheared off her golden locks. “I wanted my hair off my neck,” she says. But whenever she pulled back her longish short mane, “it was like a little dog tail.” Her fix? A shaggy cut by Manhattan stylist Mike Lundgren that she calls “kind of surfer boy.” “I love it!” says Valletta. “It feels really free and sexy.”

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