How to Carry a Satchel Handbag With Grace and Style

On a typical morning, the average woman stuffs everything she needs for the day into her handbag, drapes it over her shoulder, and heads out the door. It’s fast, it gets the job done, and requires little or no thought during the busy morning routine. But as tempting as it may be to pack and carry your bag this way, please don’t.
Not paying attention to the way you carry your handbag? Well, it’s just an automatic invitation to handbag hell, where you’re not just losing out on style points but actually causing yourself bodily harm.
And if you’re carrying a satchel-style handbag? The likelihood of committing style and health crimes against yourself is even higher. You’re about to learn why. And if you read on, you’ll also find an in-depth guide for carrying a satchel handbag the right way. Oh, and along with this essential style guide we’ve included everything you need to know about the satchel handbag, including why it stands out among its more dainty, ladylike cousins in the handbag world, and what role it plays in the style ecosystem of the 21st century. Ready to be the foremost expert in all things “satchel” on your block? Let’s get started.
First, do you know what a satchel is? Let’s make sure we’re talking about the same thing. 

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What is a Satchel Handbag?

In the world of handbags, the satchel is the all-purpose, can-do bag found in almost every woman’s closet. No bag can do it all, but satchels do more than most. They’re often large enough to handle a laptop but stylish enough to keep you from looking like you’re carrying a gym bag.

So let’s talk structure.

Typically, satchels have a rigid structure— it’s their schoolbag DNA — and an optional shoulder strap, plus two top handles for carrying. It’s those two top handles that scream “satchel” and give the distinctive, tailored look. These top handles also lend a certain versatility of carrying styles, which we’ll go over in just a bit. 

As for the single, long strap, women use that to carry the satchel as a cross-body bag. Otherwise, you can use the two top handles. Both approaches to carrying your satchel come with potential pitfalls so later on, when you get to the part about how to carry a satchel handbag, is where you want to put on your focus cap and pay attention. But for now, let’s explore why women love satchels, why they make a good investment piece for your wardrobe, and show some examples of iconic satchels of the past three decades.

The Timeless Allure of the Satchel Handbag

There are three qualities a handbag should have if it’s to be considered a worthy investment piece:

  1. It should possess some degree of sex appeal
  2. It should have reached at least some degree of “It” bag status at one point in time
  3. It should come from a known and respected house of style… we’re talking names like Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Furla

1. Satchels are Sexy

If you’re a fan of the satchel, then you already know what makes it special. So scholarly and prim, yet so cute and yes — dare we say, sexy? Satchels, if they are to be categorized, fall squarely into the “menswear” area of fashion, along with oversized, flowy blazers, fedoras, and the classic trench coat. Ever since Katherine Hepburn donned a gorgeous, flowing menswear suit in the 1935 film Sylvia Scarlett, women have understood the powerful sexiness they feel when they wear menswear-inspired fashion.

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So yes, the satchel is sexy. But the trick is knowing how to carry it. Just as there’s a right way and a wrong way to wear a menswear suit, there is a similar fork in the road for carrying satchels. Do it right, and you exude grace, style, power, and sexiness. Go down the other road and do it wrong, and you could end up looking like you’re carrying a sack of kitty litter. Either that, or someone could mistake you for a repair technician carrying your tools to a job.

2. There Have Been Famous “It” Bag Satchels in History 

But have satchels really reached “It” bag status?

Luxury satchel bags arrived on the scene around the time Millennials were hitting their style stride. In 2001, Balenciaga came out with the Classic City AJ satchel bag, which is now considered one of the top iconic “It” bags of the past thirty years by none other than the editors at Vogue. Around that time, Alexa Chung, the Millennials’ answer to Diane Keaton for quirky menswear style, was about to make it big. Considered a fashion expert and queen of cool, Ms. Chung set the pace in the early aughts for trendy, quirky and yes, menswear-inspired style.  In 2010, the famous handbag line Mulberry created the “Alexa” — a satchel, of course. 

And everyone knows the Birkin Bag by Hermes, possibly the most coveted bag in history. It’ll set you back tens of thousands of dollars and yes, it is indeed a satchel.

Other iconic satchels:

  1. Michael Kors’ “Selma” Top Zip Satchel
  2. Coach’s Leather handbag style #F28993 with removable shoulder strap
  3. Micheal Kors’ “Kellen” Leather Satchel Bag 

3. Gucci and Furla Make Fabulous Satchel Bags

Need we say more? If House of Gucci, which dressed Princess Grace of Monaco, Sophia Lauren, and Jackie O, can dedicate its creative resources to creating satchels, then yes, we have pieces that are worth investing in. Same goes for Dolce & Gabbana, recently worn by Kate Middleton and loved by celebrities ranging from Blake Lively to of course, Madonna. D&G make a wickedly gorgeous dainty number in leather with a detachable shoulder strap.

Definitely Worth Investing In

Satchels meet all the requirements for qualifying as great investment pieces. They’re sexy, there are some iconic styles that last through the ages, and luxury brands give them the thumbs up by devoting resources to creating exciting new styles every season.

But what about you, personally? Should you really consider investing in a luxury handbag with a satchel style? Will it have enduring allure for you? Yes, and definitely.

Here’s a little more perspective on the beauty of the satchel.

Make no mistake — satchels are direct descendants of the leather school bag. Think British kids in years gone by. Think Japanese kids off to grammar school with their satchel-like leather bags converted to backpacks but easily carried by a parent because of the two handles. This connection to grammar school may be why it’s surprising at first to think of the satchel as a sexy “It” bag.

But there are satchels that have reached “It” bag status, which is why we find ourselves here and now. Women who want to appear stylish and sexy in a powerful sort of way often invest in good quality luxury satchel handbags. The problem? How to carry it with grace and style. Keep reading if you want to get to the heart of the matter and learn how to carry your satchel the right way.

Carrying Your Satchel the Right Way: For Health Reasons

Think about the way you carry your bag every day. Do you usually sling it over your shoulder, throw it across your body, or grab it by the handle? If you answered “all three”, then you are on the right track. Women often complain of neck and back pain after carrying their heavy handbags too long or too far. It’s quite common for them to blame themselves — they put too much in their bag and it’s too heavy.

Every woman has that bag, the one that’s roomy enough to handle everything she needs for the day. And when that day includes a 6 AM workout, a laptop, and a different set of shoes for after-work drinks well that is a lot of weight. Carry it all on one shoulder and your spine and neck will feel the pain. Carrying the weight crossbody style helps a little but you’re still pulling your spine out of alignment with every foot-pouding step you take.

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Alternate Sides

The trick is alternating the way you carry your bag so it doesn’t create unbalanced tension in your body as you walk. You may not even feel the tension but it adds up throughout the day and can be detrimental to the quality of your evening (and your sleep).

Use Your Core

The next trick is using your core muscles to keep your body in line. If you carry your satchel using the long crossbody strap, walk with your abdominal muscles taught and your back straight. This way, you’re not only making a style statement: you’re getting in a mini workout, too!

These two tricks work if you’re carrying your satchel by the top handles, too. Simply switch arms from time to time and keep your torso taught and pull your shoulders back as you walk. Carrying your bag this way has added benefits: you’re not just carrying your stuff around: you’re working on your grip strength! Not that you should use an iron fist — use a light grip and let your arms swing naturally. Feel it in your lats, ladies, for yet another mini workout.

Cradling the bag in your elbow can be a good way to alleviate the body tension of carrying a heavy bag but this has its pitfalls, too. Too much weight for too long can pinch the nerve endings in your forearm and cause fatigue in the muscles of the forearm. Unless you’re curling 20 pounds regularly at the gym, this can become a source of friction and pain.

Another pitfall: when you carry your bag in the crook of your elbow, you might find yourself hunching over to support the weight. Women who work at desk jobs peering at a computer screen all day are especially prone to this bad posture habit. Breaking free of the office and striding out into the fresh air with your incredibly beautiful satchel is a good time to work on your posture, breathe fully into your lungs, and seize the day with a confident stride and a straight back.

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Carrying Your Satchel the Right Way: For Style 

Finally, while we want everyone to have healthy spines, there’s the matter of style, too. Satchels are the perfect bag because they are so versatile — carry it different ways on different days and according to your mood du jour. For example, if you’re feeling...

  • Carry your satchel as a crossbody bag with the bag behind you when you’re feeling powerful and strong. You’re armed for action and nobody gets in your way because you are hands free and you’re wearing the fashion equivalent of an ammunition bandolier.
  • Carry your satchel in the crook of your elbow when you’d like to exude status and position. You dedicate one entire arm to carrying your bag because life is easy and doors are opened for you, so who needs to be hand-free? Show the world your investment piece by featuring it right out in front of you, much like a low-slung shield for all the world to see and admire.
  • Carry your satchel with two handles down by your side if you’re ready to get down to business and tell everyone who’s boss. It’s not a briefcase but you’re carrying it like one to signify that you have very important things going on in your life and you came to give the ultimate presentation.
  • Wearing your satchel as a crossbody bag but with the bag in front of you gives off an entirely different vibe than if it’s worn in the back. You are protecting something, holding it close to your womb, much like a kangaroo with a joey in the pouch. Want to hide from the world? Use your satchel like armour.

And there you have it. Everything you ever wanted to know about the satchel, including why it makes an incredible investment piece that you’ll love for years to come. Whether your satchel gets you to the gym, to work, out for a date, through the weekend, or sees you through your entire week, you’re going to love carrying it. Carry it well!