Hermès Kelly 101: Styles, Sizes and Prices

Did you know that the Hermès Kelly has been around for way longer than the Birkin? The history of the Kelly bag dates back to 1892, when the first ever prototype of the bag was released. Initially, this bag was meant to serve as a saddle holder and was known as “Haut à courroies”. In 1923, the prototype was first redesigned into a simple bag for Hermès’s wife Julie. However, it was in 1930’s, when Robert Dumas, a son-in-law to Monsieur Hermès, redesigned the bag into the more glamorous “Sac à dépêches”, the bag that we know today as the Hermès Kelly.

In 1977, “Sac à dépêches” was renamed after the famous Hollywood actress and the Princess of Monaco, Grace Kelly. There is a large misconception going around that the Kelly bag was designed specifically for Grace Kelly. It’s, actually, not true! In 1954, Grace Kelly was given the bag to wear it in the “To Catch a Thief” Hitchcock movie. However, she ended up enjoying the bag so much that she continued wearing it regularly, even during her marriage to the Prince Rainier of Monaco. Interesting fact: Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier met in the French Riviera while she was there for the filming of “To Catch a Thief”.

In 1956, the “Sac à dépêches” shot to international fame, when the now Princess Grace Kelly was photographed holding it over her stomach in efforts to hide her pregnancy from the press. This photograph ended up on the front pages of magazines all around the World. As a result, people began to refer to the “Sac à dépêches” as to the Kelly bag. However, it wasn’t until 1977, that Hermès decided to officially rename the bag.

Today, the Hermes Kelly is one of the most sought after designer bags in the World. Whether you are considering to add a Kelly to your collection or simply want to learn more about the iconic style, consider this blog post your complete guide to the bag.

Hermes Kelly Design

Most defining features of the Kelly bag include: a trapezoid shape, a single top handle and a shoulder strap. Funny enough, for these three features is how most people differentiate between the Kelly and the Birkin. Unlike the Kelly, the Birkin bag features no shoulder strap. Actually, when it comes to choosing which bag to go for, the shoulder strap on the Kelly bag is often a deal breaker. Admit it: today, we all love a bit of versatility. The shoulder strap on the Kelly gives us an option to wear the bag hands free. Not only is this feature super convenient, but it’s also great for travel. 

Hermes Kelly Styles

If you’ve ever browsed for the Kelly on the pre-loved sites, you must have noticed, that there are two styles of the Kelly bag out there: Kelly Sellier and Kelly Retourne. Before we dive into discussing the sizes that the Hermes Kelly comes in, it’s important to raise a distinction between these two styles.

What’s the difference between the Kelly Sellier vs. Retourne?

First of all, it’s important to state that both the Kelly Sellier and Kelly Retourne are made exactly the same way. The only difference is in bag’s stitching. The Sellier Kelly’s have stitching on the outside, while the Retourne Kelly’s are stitched on the inside.

A sure way to differentiate the Retourne from Sellier is by looking at the edges of the bag and stitching. Sellier Kelly’s have sharp edges and visible stitching, while Retourne Kelly’s don’t have visible stitching, but rather piping. The Retourne style is also often called “Souple”.

If to judge the bag purely by its looks, then the Kelly Sellier appears to look more formal and lady-like, while the Kelly Retourne has a more casual feel to it. Nonetheless, both styles of the Kelly bag are equally iconic.

Hermes Kelly Sizes

At the moment, the Hermes Kelly bag comes in eight sizes: Kelly 15, Kelly 20, Kelly 25, Kelly 28, Kelly 32, Kelly 35, Kelly 40 and Kelly 50. The Kelly 15 and 20 are known as mini Kelly’s, while Kelly 40 and 50 are considered to be best suited for travel. When it comes to the sizes of the Hermes Kelly, it’s important to notice that a number in bag’s title refers to the width of its base. Thus, a Kelly 15 has a base width of 15 cm, a Kelly 20 has a base width of 20 cm and so on. See a further breakdown of the Hermes Kelly sizes in the table below.

Hermes Kelly Bag Style Size (cm) Size (inches)
Kelly 15 15 x 11 x 5 cm 5.9” x 4” x 2”
Kelly 20 20 x 16 x 10 cm 7.8” x 6.3” x 4”
Kelly 25 25 x 19 x 9 cm 10” x 7.5” x 3.5”
Kelly 28 28 x 22 x 10 cm 11” x 8.5” x 4”
Kelly 32 32 x 23 x 10.5 cm 12.5” x 9” x 4”
Kelly 35 35 x 24 x 12 cm 14” x 9.5” x 4.7”
Kelly 40 40 x 28 x 16 cm 15.2” x 11” x 6.3”
Kelly 50 50 x 34 x 25 cm 19.6” x 13” x 9.8”

When it comes to Hermes Kelly, the Kelly 25 and 28 and considered the most popular sizes of the bag. Both sizes are great choices for everyday wear. They pack a bunch of essentials, but Kelly 28 has slightly more room. However, Kelly 25 is probably the more versatile of the two. Because of its petite silhouette, the Hermes Kelly 25 transitions effortlessly from a day to night bag. In addition, the Kelly 25 is small enough to take it to formal occasions or wear it casually, crossbody.

Hermes Kelly Materials & Hardware

Common materials that the Kelly Bag comes in include:

  • Togo leather. One of the most popular Hermes Leathers, Togo, is a scratch resistant leather with a soft pebbled finish.
  • Clemence leather. A soft, textured, scratch resistant leather with a matte look.
  • Epsom leather. Hard, but also lightweight, fine-grained and scratch resistant, the Hermes Epsom leather is very durable and easy to clean.
  • Swift leather. Usually used in lighter, brighter colors for the Kelly, swift is a soft leather with fine grain.
  • Chevre. A lightweight and scratch resistant goatskin leather.
  • Box Calf. Hard, but also extremely smooth leather with a glossy finish. Most commonly used in Vintage Kelly bags.

Hermes uses harder leathers, like Box Calf or Epsom for Sellier Kelly’s and softer leathers like Togo and Clemence for Retourne Kelly’s.

When it comes to hardware, majority of Kelly bags come with either palladium-plated or gold-plated metal hardware. Palladium-plated hardware has a silvery finish to it, while the gold-plated hardware features a bright and glamorous shine. Usually, for the Gold-Plated hardware, Hermes uses the 18k gold. However, on rare occasions (in special order bags or rarer styles) the 18k gold is substituted with the 24k gold.

Talking about the rarer styles… In addition to multiple sizes of the Kelly bag, Hermes carries on to produce limited edition versions of the style year after year. The most desired limited edition Kelly, is without a doubt, the Himalaya Kelly. The bag is made of the skin of the Nilo crocodile, rendered in a subtle coloration that resembles the images of the magnificent Himalayan mountains. 

Hermes has produced both Himalaya Birkin’s and Kelly’s. However, the Kelly wins in terms of rarity. A very limited number of Himalaya Kelly’s have been made. Obtaining one is a dream of most handbag collectors in the World. The Himalaya Kelly is truly a symbol of status and exclusivity. Needless to add that these bags also appreciate in value. Just recently, a Himalaya Kelly 25 was sold at an auction at a whopping price of $382,000!

Hermes Kelly Prices 2020

Okay, so we’ve learnt about the history of the Kelly bag, the difference between the Sellier and Retourne styles, the sizes and materials that the Hermes Kelly bag comes in, but how about the prices? See the latest prices (Dec.2020) for the Hermes Kelly Sellier and Retourne bags in the table below.

Hermes Kelly Bag Style Price (USD)
Kelly 25 Epsom Sellier $10,300
Kelly 25 Togo Retourne $9,350
Kelly 28 Epsom Sellier $10,700
Kelly 28 Togo Retourne $10,200
Kelly 32 Epsom Sellier $11,600
Kelly 32 Togo Retourne $11,000
Kelly 35 Epsom Sellier $12,700
Kelly 35 Togo Retourne $11,800

From the prices listed in the table you might notice that there is a significant price difference between the Kelly Sellier and Retourne styles. For example, a Retourne Kelly 25 in Togo leather is priced at $9,350, while the same size Kelly in Sellier, but Epsom leather would cost you $10,300. That’s a whopping $950 difference between the two bags! Wondering why? There is actually a pretty logical explanation for why the Kelly’s in Sellier are more expensive than Kelly’s in Retourne. And that’s the bag’s shape. A rigid and structured shape of the Kelly Sellier requires more hours to complete. You probably heard that every Hermes bag is crafted by a single artisan. It takes an artisan anywhere from 18 to 24+ hours to complete one Kelly bag. In short, the additional labor and craftsmanship is what makes the Kelly Sellier pricier across all sizes.

However, the fact that the Kelly Sellier is more expensive than Retourne doesn’t mean that the Kelly Retourne is a bad investment. Both Sellier and Retourne Kelly’s hold their value very well and even sell for a premium on the resale market.

You might ask, which bag you should go for? The Kelly Sellier or the Kelly Retourne? My best advice is: go for the bag that fits your lifestyle best. If your style is more formal or you prefer more structured bags, get the Kelly Sellier. On the other hand, if your style is more relaxed and casual, the Kelly Retourne might be a better choice!

XOXO

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