For many, the cell phone has become as much a fashion statement as a communication device, and there is a large market for decorative covers and carrying cases. But the truly techie fashionista might get a bigger charge out of new accessories that are not just for looks, but also for staying connected. Doctoral student Joe Hynek and colleagues at Iowa State University in Ames have used lightweight, flexible solar panels from Iowa Thin Films Technologies Inc., also in Ames, in the construction of a purse that allows one to recharge phones, PDAs or other handheld electronic devices anywhere, anytime. The panels transfer electricity to batteries via a cord and circuit to keep one wired even after the sun goes down. The researchers, who are also at work on a hat, are seeking to strike a balance between functional technology and appealing, wearable design. Ultimately, they foresee becoming technical consultants to textile and clothing companies — not actually manufacturing the apparel themselves. Meanwhile, their prototypes may edge out duct tape for must-have geek chic.