Review: 11 Inch Classic Cambridge Satchel


One of the first bags I ever bought when I moved into the city was this beautiful pastel Cambridge Satchel. As a poor college grad, I was too scared to pull the trigger since I couldn’t fathom spending that much money on a handbag. Much less a purple one! But for my birthday that year, I decided to stop drooling over my keyboard and buy it.

Now that I’ve had this bag for a few years, I think it’s appropriate to give you guys the full spiel. This is a bag I tried very hard to love since it was my first *adult* purchase but there are just too many things that keep it from being a favorite.




This bag is truly dysfunctional. I want to love it (I really do!), but there are just SO many things that don’t work. First things first, the shape and structure of the bag dictate the amount of stuff it can hold. I knew from the get go that it was a small bag but, holy cow, I can literally only fit flat, narrow items less than 10″ long and 3″ wide. Anything more than that will cause the bag to protrude outward and look deformed. I’m not joking, the only things I really ever put in here are my small card wallet and iPhone 6.


You may be thinking, “No way! It can definitely hold other things right? Like Chapstick – that’s tiny!”

Let me tell you – no. You can’t. Not because it doesn’t fit but because those things fall out the side of the bag. The bag is shaped so that the top flap lays over the body of the bag, creating a small 1 inch hole on both sides. Chapstick? Keys? Nope. They’re TOO small!


Now, not only do I have to make sure I’m not over stuffing the bag, I have to also make sure the things I’m putting in aren’t too small either. I don’t have time to play Tetris with my handbag every morning or hide-and-go-seek with my keys on the city streets. Literally within the first week of using this bag, I lost my keys. This was a HUGE disappointment for me. Handbags are accessories but their main purpose is to carry things! Furthermore, these clasps are incredibly hard to undo. It takes me so long to get them open so I can actually reach in and grab the stuff I need.

With all these limitations, the only time I truly get to use this bag is when I’m running errands for short periods of time. I will only pack my phone and wallet and keep my keys in my pocket. But to be honest, there are so many other bags in my collection that can fulfill the same need. This is why, unfortunately, this purple number doesn’t get a lot of love.

I am deducting two and half stars for this satchel’s numerous limitations.


Don’t get me wrong though, I truly think Cambridge Satchels are classic and beautiful. The structure is timeless, but the assortment of sizes and colors offer a little something for everyone. I personally picked this lilac color out of the line-up because I loved how the pastel tones added a feminine flair to the harsher structural lines on the bag. On the flip side, because I chose such a ‘spring-y’ color, I can only truly wear this bag for a couple months every year. But I love the purple too much to care.


I would, however, ideally like for this bag’s strap to be slightly thinner. Because it is made out of leather, the strap does look a bit too clunky for my taste. I am deducting half a star for the width of the strap.

BUILD: ☆☆☆☆☆

Although quite dysfunctional, this satchel displays immense craftsmanship. All of Cambridge Satchel’s bags are made in Great Britain by hand. Their website also shows the end to end process of how an entire satchel is made. Impressive!


The construction of this bag was stellar: the seams are even, the leather is extremely smooth and holds the satchel’s shape really well. I never need to put stuffing into the bag and when I set it down on its feet, it doesn’t topple over! Every step was carefully thought through and meticulously executed.


That being said, there is one thing I’ve noticed and have not been too happy about. The paint used in the leather treatment has started to crack. On the top of the bag where the flap lays over the body, I can see miniature rifts.


Normally after owning a bag for so many years, I wouldn’t be bothered by something as little as cracking paint. However, because I rarely ever take this bag out for use, it does bother me that the cracking happened! I can even understand the paint fracturing near the clasps, since that’s where the most strain on the leather occurs. But I wouldn’t have expected it to start having fissures on the top of the bag! How odd – for this, I am deducting one full star.


VALUE: ☆☆☆1/2

The entire Cambridge Satchel collection is very affordable. They are truly high quality leather goods for a decent price. This bag retails for $195 and frequently goes on sale!


However, while this satchel wasn’t necessarily pricey, the number of functionality issues really detracts from how much value I truly get from this bag. The cost per wear is much higher than some of my more expensive bags.  I am deducting one and a half stars for the high cost per wear.



The Classic Cambridge Satchel features fully functional clasps as the main enclosure for the bag. Cambridge Satchel now offers the same bags with magnetic closures ($210, 11 inch).

This particular lavender color is no longer offered in their main collection – but seasonal variations do rotate frequently. Other current pastel offerings: Cambridge Blue ($300, 11 inch), Nude ($140, vegan leather, 11 inch).

You can find a pre-loved version of this lavender satchel here for $45.



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