8 Things You Didn’t Know About the Kelly


Since our Birkin trivia post was such a hit, we thought it was time to give the other Hermès Holy Grail Bag some trivia love. When it comes to famed Hermès bags, the Kelly—unlike the Birkin—remains somewhat shrouded in mystery. Although it’s had a longer history than the Birkin, the Kelly’s enigmatic aura persists, and discovering new things about the timeless handbag proves harder than one might think.

Always up for a handbag-related task, no matter how tricky it might be, Pursebop dug deep this time around. After wading around knee-deep in Kelly material, we came up with eight facts about the Kelly that we think will be especially interesting to you Kelly lovers out there. Read on, and discover!


1. It wasn't always called the "Kelly"

In fact, the original name was a French one: the  Sac à Dépêches. Robert Dumas designed this bag—the same as the modern Kelly retourne—in the 1930s, and it was first sold at the Hermès boutique in 1935. Hermès has described the design as embracing a “purist aesthetic,” which rejected the embellished style in vogue at the time. It wasn’t until 1956 that the name changed…

Read more on Hermès history and its original bags:


2. Legendary Hollywood star-turned-princess Grace Kelly was the inspiration for its current name

What happened in 1956, you ask? If you haven’t already heard this story—it’s one of PurseBop’s favorites, so you might have come across it—these are the details. Grace Kelly had left Hollywood to marry Prince Rainier III of Monaco in the wedding of the century, after which cameras were on the pair at all times. Kelly used her Sac à Dépêches to shield the earliest signs of a baby bump from the paparazzi. Yet the bag wasn’t officially renamed until 1977.

Read more on Grace Kelly:

Photo courtesy: Howard Sochurek/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Photo courtesy: AP

3. Grace Kelly was first introduced to the Hermès bag on the set of To Catch a Thief

The story of how Grace Kelly had a Kelly in the first place is entangled with her successful Hollywood career. On the set of To Catch a Thief, the 1955 Hitchcock romantic thriller with Cary Grant beautifully shot on the French Riviera, the film’s costume designer bought various pieces from Hermès to dress Kelly, including  a Sac à dépêches in the original box leather. And, as the story goes, it was love at first sight.

Read more on box leather:

Grace Kelly on her last day on the Hollywood studio lot before her departure for Monaco. Photo courtesy: Life Magazine

4. There are two main Kelly styles: retourne and sellier

Unlike the Birkin, which only comes in one main style, the Kelly is available in retourne (the original style) and sellier. While retourne has softer corners and a more relaxed feel, the sellier is much more rigid, with sharp, modern lines. Generally, the Kelly retourne is considered more casual, and the sellier more formal. Sometimes, the type of leather determines which form the bag takes.

There’s always a big debate going on concerning which style is more preferable! PurseBop, who owns both, has written about them in the past:

Read more on the two styles:

Sellier vs. Retourne. Photo courtesy: featherfactor.com

Retourne vs sellier. @pursebop

5. The palace archives in Monaco house Grace Kelly's original Kelly

Now, Grace Kelly’s box leather Kelly retourne rests in the archives of the palace in which she once lived. Her Kelly was much beloved, as she used it for many years. Occasionally, it comes out of hiding in its scuffed beauty to go on display in museums. In 2010, it was at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London; in 2013, at a museum outside of Philadelphia.

Grace Kelly’s signature Kelly on display in Philadelphia. Photo courtesy: Robert DiGiacomo

6. The Kelly is less of a pop culture phenomenon than the Birkin

The Birkin is a symbol of not only Hermès excellence, but also the entire luxury industry and world of high fashion. Numerous books, tv shows, and films feature the Birkin prominently, and it’s often written about in the news. The Kelly, however, is more discreet.

While it’s just as exclusive as the Birkin, it maintains a much lower profile outside of the fashionista realm, though it still makes its way into some media. Take, for example, the 2003 film with Kate Hudson and Naomi Watts, Le Divorce. In the film, Kate Hudson’s character receives a red exotic Kelly—which Hermès had loaned to the director—which results in some drastic consequences…

Read more on the Birkin as a pop culture phenomenon:

The Kelly in Le Divorce. Photo courtesy: everythingjustso.net

7. A wide variety of lesser-known Kelly styles exist

Although the classic Kelly in either retourne and sellier may be the image that comes to mind when we think “Kelly,” a number of less popular handbags share the Kelly name. Though they’re generally in the same style, including the signature buckle, the profiles differ from the traditional Kelly and they’re not often considered “true” Kellys.

Over the years these have included the Kelly Lakis (a Kelly with zippers), the Kelly Shoulder (a slouchy shoulder bag), the Kelly Cut (a rectangular clutch), the Kelly Relax (a large slouchy bag), the Kelly Longue (a trapezoidal clutch), and more.

Read more on the Kelly Cut and Longue:

The Kelly Lakis. @7_g_sandy

The Kelly Cut. @panthere_instyle

The Kelly Shoulder. @tkloves

The Kelly Relax. @rezakhan

8. The Kelly is the most in-demand Hermès bag

Yes, you heard that right. At the present moment, it seems that the most desirable H bag—at least in terms of demand—is not, in fact, the Birkin. According to Collector Square’s LuxPrice-Index data discussed in The Telegraph, Kellys made up 24% of all Hermès bags sold at auction in the past decade, while Birkins made up only 20%.

The Kelly, apparently, has become especially popular in the past year. “The Birkin bag was the most in-demand Hermès bag, but the past year has shown a reversal of the trend, putting the Kelly bag in the spotlight,” explains Jérome Lalande, a leather goods expert at Collector Square.

What do you think? Have you noticed a Birkin to Kelly shift yourself…?


And that’s a wrap on PurseBop’s Hermès lesson of the day! Tell us: how do you feel about the Kelly? Have you learned anything new? Are you experiencing Kelly fever along with those of us at PurseBop? Do you own any Kellys yourself, or are you thinking of trying to score in the future? If so, are they retournes or selliers? Do you have any of the “additional” Kellys, like the Kelly Cut? Let us know all the details of your Kelly addiction below!


Published: March 24th, 2018
Updated: March 27th, 2018

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