The Hermes Kelly is typically considered as Birkin’s younger sibling. This, however, is not true, as the bag has been around for way longer. In fact, there’s way more to know about the iconic style. And that’s exactly why today I am bringing you the ultimate guide to Hermès Kelly, featuring everything from the bag’s history to its latest retail prices.
Hermès Kelly History
So, let’s start from the very beginning. The history of the Hermès Kelly bag dates back to 1892, when the first ever prototype of the bag was released. Initially, the bag was meant to serve as a saddle holder and was known as “Haut à courroies”. However, in 1928 Robert Dumas redesigned the bag into a more classy and elegant “Sac à dépêches”, which at the time was meant for transporting important papers and files. But well, that was only until the early 50s.
In 1954, Grace Kelly, a renowned American actress and the late Princess of Monaco, was given “Sac à dépêches” to wear in the “To Catch a Thief” Hitchcock movie. However, she ended up enjoying the bag so much that she continued wearing it regularly, even after she married the Prince Rainier of Monaco. And that’s when the story of the Hermès Kelly Bag that we know today begins.
In 1956 Princess Grace Kelly was photographed holding it over her stomach in an effort 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 it.
Hermès Kelly Design
Most defining features of the Kelly bag include: a trapezoid shape, a single top handle and a shoulder strap. Funny enough, these three features are 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, for many people, the strap on the Kelly bag is often a deal breaker. I guess we all love a bit of versatility these days. And that’s what the strap on the Kelly bag gives us – the opportunity to wear the bag many different ways, incl. over the shoulder.
Hermès Kelly Styles
If you’ve ever browsed for the Kelly on the pre-loved sites, you may 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 bag comes in, it’s important to raise a distinction between these two styles.
What’s the difference between Kelly Sellier vs. Kelly 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 the 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 referred to as “souple”.
If you 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.
Hermès Kelly Sizes
At the moment, the Hermes Kelly bag comes in seven sizes: Kelly 20 (also known as Mini Kelly), Kelly 25, Kelly 28, Kelly 32, Kelly 35, Kelly 40 and Kelly 50 (Voyage). The 20 is known as mini Kelly, while Kelly 40 and 50 are best known as travel bags. Hermès also used to make the Kelly in a smaller 15 size, but that has since been discontinued.
When it comes to the sizes of the Hermès Kelly, it’s also important to notice that a number in the 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 Hermès 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”|
The Kelly 25 and 28 are generally considered as the most popular sizes of the Hermès Kelly. However, recently, the demand has also been growing for the smallest version of the bag – Kelly 20. Blame it on the mini bag craze, or the general trend for smaller bags right now.
Actually, out of all Hermes Kelly bags, Mini Kelly currently resells for the highest amounts. At the pre-loved market you are basically looking at a minimum 200 percent premium.
Hermès Kelly Materials and Hardware
Common materials that the Kelly Bag comes in include:
- Togo leather. One of the most popular Hermès 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 Hermès 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.
Hermès uses harder leathers, like Box Calf or Epsom for the Sellier Kelly and softer leathers like Togo and Clemence for the bags in Retourne.
When it comes to hardware, the 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, Hermès uses the 18k gold. However, on rare occasions (in special order bags or rarer styles) the 18k gold is substituted with the 24k gold.
And talking about the rarer styles. In addition to multiple sizes of the Kelly bag, Hermès 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.
Hermès makes both Himalaya Birkin’s and Kelly’s. However, the Himalaya Kelly wins in terms of rarity. A very limited number of Himalaya Kelly’s have been made. Hence why obtaining one is a dream of most handbag collectors in the World. Truly, if any bag is a symbol of status and exclusivity, it’s the Himalaya Kelly. Needless to say that these handbags resell for insane amounts! Just recently, a Himalaya Kelly 25 was sold at an auction at a whopping price of $382,000!
Hermes Kelly Prices 2023
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 (Sep.2023) for the different Hermes Kelly bags in the table below.
|Hermes Kelly Style||Current price (USD)||Current price (EUR)|
|Mini Kelly 20 Epsom||$8,700||€6,700|
|Kelly 25 Togo Retourne||$10,500||€8,050|
|Kelly 25 Epsom Sellier||$11,300||€8,650|
|Kelly 28 Togo Retourne||$11,300||€8,650|
|Kelly 28 Epsom Sellier||$11,800||€9,100|
|Kelly 32 Togo Retourne||$12,000||€9,200|
|Kelly 32 Epsom Sellier||$12,500||€9,850|
|Kelly Pochette Swift||$6,500||€4,900|
|Kelly Danse Evercolor||$7,450||€6,250|
|Kelly To Go Wallet||$5,500||€4,600|
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 $10,500, while the same size Kelly in Sellier, but Epsom leather would cost you $11,300. That’s a $800 price 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 should you 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!
Kelly-inspired Hermès Accessories
The iconic status of the Kelly has paved the way for a range of Kelly-inspired Hermès accessories. From the classic Hermès Kelly Belt to the trendy Kelly Wallet To Go, there’s no shortage of stunning Kelly accessories available. Actually, some of them can be as difficult to get your hands on as the bag itself. Yes, I am talking about the Kelly Wallet To Go, which seems to be always sold out these days. It’s also worth mentioning the popular Kelly Pochette which constantly resells for premiums.
What is your favorite version of the iconic Hermès Kelly Bag and do you own any Kelly-inspired Hermès accessories? Let’s talk in the comments below!
*Disclaimer: prices in this article are listed for informational purposes only. Actual prices in boutiques may vary.