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The Definitive Guide to the Hermès Kelly

Everything you meed to know about the perennially popular Kelly Bag

The Hermès Kelly is arguably the most classic and fashionable handbag of all time: with a naturally accommodating and elegant-yet-useful design, produced over the years in a variety of materials and in two structures with various iterations, the Kelly has been consistently covetable and a perennial “It Bag” for the past few decades if just slightly less popular than the Birkin.

Time for a deep dive into this amazing bag (which also happens to currently be my favorite).

The History of the Kelly Bag

The Kelly bag is, of course, named after Princess Grace Kelly, who famously used her handbag to hide her pregnancy in 1956.

At the time she was one of the most famous women in the world, having left her American movie star life to become the wife of Prince Ranier of Monaco. The paparazzi photos of her shielding her baby bump with her bag ended up everywhere, including Life Magazine, thrusting her Hermès bag front and center into pop culture.

The bag became increasingly popular and was renamed in her honor.

However, years before it was popularized by Grace Kelly, it was just a simple, practical design; as explained by the Hermès website, it was created in 1935 by Robert Dumas and called the Sac à Dépêches, which in itself took design elements from the older Haut à Courroies (HAC) bag, which was designed in the 1850s; the Monaco bag was also influential over the Kelly design.

The Anatomy of the Kelly Bag

Like all Hermès bags, a Kelly is assembled by hand by one craftsperson; the Kelly takes about 18 hours of work. Most Kellys are lined in chevre (although some are lined in swift, depending upon the exterior leather or if a different leather is selected via Special Order). There is actually a specific process for putting the bag together, as explained in this wonderful article.

As a general description, the Kelly is a north-south trapezoidal top-handle bag, featuring a strap (called a sangle) near the top of either side which is woven through the sides of the bag to close over a front flap, which can further be secured with a provided lock (cadena) and key.

The hardware includes four bottom feet, plaque on the front with a turnlock (touret) over which the sangles are secured, and a double ring at the base of each side of the handle for a shoulder strap. The strap has been provided with the bag since the mid-to-late 1980s, but before 2000 there was only one ring on each side of the base; the second ring was added to enable easier use of the strap.

The Two Kelly Structures

The Kelly comes in two structures: Sellier and Retourne.

Sellier

The Sellier structure features external structural stitching of the separate leather parts of the bag and provides a firmer shape.

This, in addition to the fact that Sellier Kellys are usually made with Epsom, Chevre, Box, Tadelakt or exotic (Crocodile, Alligator, Ostrich, Lizard) leathers which are generally firmer and tend to hold their shape very well, provides the bag with a pronounced structured appearance (previously, this structure was also known as Rigide).

The Sellier bag is unlikely to slouch, although it will also have a slightly boxier and more formal appearance.

Hermes Kelly Sellier Anemone
A 28cm Kelly Sellier in Anemone.

Retourne

The Retourne structure features internal stitching of the leather parts and has a more relaxed shape.

It is usually produced in Togo, Clemence, Swift and Evercolor (note that Togo has also been an option for Sellier via Special Order, but is not currently), which are softer, more supple leathers.

Retourne Kelly bags tend to be or become slouchier and have a more casual appearance.

Available Kelly Hardware

Currently produced Kelly bags are made with Gold, Palladium or (more rarely) Permabrass hardware.

Special Order Kelly bags may also be made with Brushed Gold or Brushed Palladium Hardware. Certain very special Kelly Bags are made with Diamond Hardware. Rarely in the past, Kellys were also sometimes produced with Ruthenium (black) or Guilloche Hardware. Rose Gold Hardware has not yet been an option for the Kelly bag, although it has been used for some Kelly iterations, such as the Pochette.

With all of these options, it can sometimes be tricky deciding which size or structure to get!

Tips On Purchasing a Kelly

The Kelly is considered a Quota Bag by Hermès. The purchase of Quota Bags is generally limited to two bags per year per customer – although actually getting one may be another story.

The Different Kelly Sizes

Each bag’s size is determined by its base’s length (so, for example, a 25cm bag has a 25cm long base). The Kelly sizes that are currently in regular production are 20 cm (“Mini”), 25cm, 28cm, 32cm and 35cm. 40cm, 45cm and 50cm Kellys are harder to find and are rarely (but sometimes) available.

Each Kelly bag has a matching strap that is 85cm long, however straps in lengths of 70cm, 105cm and 120cm may be ordered. Kelly bags which are larger than the Mini (20 cm) size also come with a clochette, lock, pair of keys for the lock, and a rain jacket.

There are many available on the secondhand market.

How Much Does A Kelly Cost?

Due to the additional amount of specialized work involved in the Sellier structure’s production, the Sellier Kelly’s price is more than the price of the Retourne; this price difference has generally hovered around the $1,000 mark. Of course, prices also vary depending upon the type of leather used.

However, the prices of both structures and all versions of the Kelly bag have increased greatly over the past few years. For example, a 25cm Box Sellier Kelly’s retail price nearly doubled, from $6,900 in 2009 ($9,530 in 2022, adjusted for inflation) to $13,500 in 2022. A 32cm Togo/Clemence Retourne increased in the same time frame from $7,300 to $11,100, an increase of 52%.

StyleBoxChevreEpsomTogo & ClemenceOther
25cm Sellier Kelly$13,500$11,400$10,600  
25cm Retourne Kelly   $9,900 
28cm Sellier Kelly$13,900$11,800$11,200  
28cm Retourne Kelly   $10,600 
32cm Sellier Kelly  $11,600  
32cm Retourne Kelly   $11,100 
20cm Mini Kelly $8,900$8,250 $28,500 (Matte Gator)
Kelly Danse    $7,450 (Evercolor)
$7,200 (Swift)
$15,300 (Ostrich)
Kelly Pochette    $6,050 (Swift)
Kelly Cut    $6,750 (Doblis)
$6,100 (Swift)

Current and Past Variations of the Kelly Bag

Hermès has arguably produced more iterations of the iconic Kelly bag than any other of its bag styles. The styles which are currently being produced include the following:

Mini Kelly II

Hermes Mini Kelly II
An Hermès Mini Kelly II in Rose Extreme.

Kelly Pochette

Hermes Kelly Pochette Bamboo
A Kelly Pochette in Bamboo.

Kelly Cut

A Kelly Cut in Fauve Tadelakt. Photo via TPFer @Enidrock
A Kelly Cut in Fauve Tadelakt. Photo via TPFer @Enidrock

Kelly Danse

A Nata Ostrich Kelly Danse. Photo via TPFer DDCHA
A Nata Ostrich Kelly Danse. Photo via TPFer DDCHA

Kelly Doll

A Kelly Doll bag. Photo via TPFer @LovingTheOrange
A Kelly Doll bag. Photo via TPFer @LovingTheOrange

Kellydolle Picto

Kellydolle Picto. Photo via TPFer @Meta

Kelly Picnic

Kelly Depeches 25 Pouch

Kelly Wallet

Kelly Compact Wallet

Kelly To Go

The versions which are not currently in production include the following bags:

Mini Kelly I

Kelly Longue

Kelly Ado

Kelly Lakis

Micro (15cm) Kelly

So Kelly

Kelly Limited Editions

Au Galop

Casaque

Candy

Candy Kelly. Photo via TPFer @Jadefor3st
Candy Kelly. Photo via TPFer @Jadefor3st

Ghillies

Kelly Ghillies. Photo via TPFer @boo1689
Kelly Ghillies. Photo via TPFer @boo1689

Lettre

Kelly Lettre (Letter T). Photo via TPFer @pretty99
Kelly Lettre (Letter T). Photo via TPFer @pretty99

In & Out

In & Out Kelly. Photo via TPFer @Birkinorbust2000
In & Out Kelly. Photo via TPFer @Birkinorbust2000

Shoulder (JPG)

Shoulder Kelly. Photo via TPFer @zenith
Shoulder Kelly. Photo via TPFer @zenith

Fringe Shoulder

Fringe Shoulder Kelly. Photo via TPFer @Lutz
Fringe Shoulder Kelly. Photo via TPFer @Lutz

Verso

A Kelly Verso. Photo via TPFer @California Dreaming
A Kelly Verso. Photo via TPFer @California Dreaming

Waffle (a/k/a Dwitch)

A Dwitch (Waffle) Kelly currently for sale at Fashionphile.
A Dwitch (Waffle) Kelly currently for sale at Fashionphile.

The Kelly bag has been famously carried for decades by movie stars the world over; musicians of every genre, from Lady Gaga to Cardi B; athletes, both female and male (don’t forget Floyd Mayweather’s Hermès collection!), and has been featured in many films and TV shows, including the following (no comment on whether the bag on the screen is genuine, although the one used in “The Royal Tenenbaums” has been discussed publicly as a replica).

The following motion pictures featured an Hermès Kelly prominently on the big screen:

  • 1955 Alfred Hitchcock’s “To Catch A Thief” with Grace Kelly includes a Hermès shopping scene.
  • 1957 “Une Parisienne” with Brigitte Bardot features a 35cm Kelly.
  • 1959 “The Journey”: Deborah Kerr carries a Crocodile Kelly.
  • 1960 Jean-Luc Godard’s “A Bout de Souffle (Breathless)” features a Sellier Kelly.
  • 1966 “Grand Prix”: Eva Marie Saint carries a Black Kelly.
  • 1994 “Intersection”: Sharon Stone carries a Gold Kelly.
  • 1995 Pedro Almodóvar’s “Flower of My Secret”: Marisa Paredes carries a Red Kelly.
  • 1996 “Shall We Dance” (Japan): Tamiyo Kusakari carries a Kelly.
  • 1996 Woody Allen’s “Everyone Says I Love You” features a crocodile 28cm Kelly.
  • 1998 “A Perfect Murder”: Gwyneth Paltrow carries a Black Kelly.
  • 2001 Wes Anderson’s “The Royal Tenenbaums”: Angelica Huston carries a (notoriously fake) Gold Kelly.
  • 2002 David Fincher’s “Panic Room”: Jodie Foster carries a Black Kelly.
  • 2002 Merchant-Ivory’s “Merci Docteur Ray”: Dianne Wiest carries a Kelly.
  • 2003 “Le Divorce” includes a scene where Kate Hudson is gifted a Red Crocodile Kelly.
  • 2003 Sofia Coppola’s “Lost In Translation” features a Black 28cm Kelly.
  • 2003 “House of Sand and Fog”: Shohreh Aghdashloo carries a Kelly.
  • 2003 “Nathalie” (France) features a Black Kelly.
  • 2003 “Being Julia”: Anette Bening carries a Crocodile Kelly.
  • 2004 “13 Going on 30”: Jennifer Garner carries a 32cm Kelly.
  • 2004 “The Clearing”: Helen Mirren carries a Red 32cm Kelly.
  • 2006 “Avenue Montaigne” (France) features a Black Kelly.
  • 2006 “Factory Girl”: a Kelly bag is featured.
  • 2008 Woody Allen’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”: a Kelly bag is featured.
  • 2008 “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”: Cate Blanchett carries a Kelly.
  • 2005 Pascal Thomas’ “Mon Petit Doight M’A Dit” and “Le Crime est Notre Affaire” feature Kelly bags on the film posters.
  • 2009 “My One and Only”: Renee Zellweger carries a Black Crocodile Kelly.
  • 2009 “I Am Love”: Tilda Swinton carries a Kelly.
  • 2010 “London Boulevard” (UK): a Black Kelly is featured.
  • 2011 “Transformers”: Frances McDormand asks for a Green Birkin (but the bag is actually a Kelly!).
  • 2017 “SPF-18”: Molly Ringwald carries an Etoupe Kelly.
  • 2021 “Die Unbeugsamen” (Germany): Kelly Bag prominently featured in the movie poster.
A Promotional Photo Still from "Le Divorce" featuring a Red Exotic Kelly Bag. Pjhot via Fox Searchlight Pictures.
A Promotional Photo Still from “Le Divorce” featuring a Red Exotic Kelly Bag. Photo via Fox Searchlight Pictures.
A Movie Poster for the French Film "Le Crime set Notre Affaire" Features A Kelly Bag.
A Movie Poster for the French Film “Le Crime set Notre Affaire” Features A Kelly Bag.

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Sexy Girl with an Eyepatch
Sexy Girl with an Eyepatch
1 year ago

I never cared for the Gaultier version. The proportions are just wrong. Though his RTW for Hermès was fabulous.

Max Brownawell
Max Brownawell
1 year ago

Great article! That Transformers scene always stuck in my mind! Searching for that “Le Crime set Notre Affaire” poster now……. must have!

Gemma
Gemma
1 year ago

Great article! What about Kelly Elan? I have it and was hoping to see it featured here.

Max Brownawell
Max Brownawell
1 year ago
Reply to  Gemma

Love the Kelly Elan! Its the chicest and sleekest Kelly in my opinion 🙂

Jane
Jane
1 year ago

How about the sellier mou Kelly?

Starr
Starr
1 year ago

Is the story that the Kelly is from sac a depeches accurate? Do you have a verified source?

I always understood that sac a depeches was a completely different bag (for men) and still is done for men today. JFK famously had a sac a depeches.

the story i heard from my Hermes sa is that it was a redesign from the HAC but it was difficult for people to pronounce at the time and Kelly made the redesign famous and therefore, people started calling it the Kelly bag and it was renamed later. There didn’t seem to be a link to sac a depeches.

Aspen
Aspen
1 year ago
Reply to  Starr

The Kelly was meant to fit in the side compartment of a Bugatti. The Sac a Depeche I believe was initially used to carry saddles also in the late 1800s and it was tweaked to be a handbag for Bugattis wife. it was a collar between an Hermes family member and Bugatti.

Starr
Starr
1 year ago

Thank you can you provide the source re sac a depeches?

Both birkin and Kelly took from hac

ZSG
ZSG
1 year ago

Thank you for the detailed, informative article on Kelly. I recently purchased a KTG, and I’m so in love!

FashionableLena
FashionableLena
1 year ago

The So Kelly looks like something I would carry. I like the retourne style as well. I live a casual lifestyle, and these would fit it.

However, my dream Hermes bags are still the Lindy and the Jypsiere. I like the Toolbox, but, unfortunately, I don’t think that they are no longer being made.

Maya
Maya
1 year ago

I LOVE my So Kelly. It was relatively “affordable”, and it suits my lifestyle. I live in a casual, west coast town so a regular kelly, as beautiful as it is, just would look out of place.

Gina Miller
Gina Miller
1 year ago

Great piece! Very informative. Could read H content all day long…or at least while I’m having lunch at my desk. 😉

Senta
Senta
1 year ago

What about the Kelly en désordre? So lusting after one of those!

Adangerousbeauti
Adangerousbeauti
5 months ago

i dont think they give rain jackets on these bags anymore or do they?

Adangerousbeauti
Adangerousbeauti
5 months ago

I want a kelly ado in exotic; and a bicolor ghillies. I hope they bring them back. Altho, im probably going to be at the bottom of the priority list when that happens lol