Fashion History: Kelly Bag by Hermès

Fashion Series #5: Because of that iconic day, some new sites unintentionally referred the bag as ‘the Kelly bag’

Photo by Chi Lok TSANG on Unsplash

The history behind The Kelly Bag is quite interesting because it went through some transformations before it was popular. It’s hard to detect where the original Kelly came from but we can assume that it began in the 1890s.

According to Xupes, the earliest known sample of the Kelly was in 1892 when it was designed to hold a saddle (2018). In the 1920s, the bag was transformed into the “Bugatti”.

The Bugatti was a compact bag made specifically for Julie Hermès (Emile’s Hermès wife). According to Xupes, Mrs. Hermès wanted a bag that was easy for transportation and to fit into car doors. As for the design, the bag was inspired by a Bugatti car in the 1920s (via Bonhams). One can assume that this bag was only a custom bag for Julie Hermès more than it was an “older version” of a Kelly.

However, the Bugatti didn’t last long and it was transformed into the “Sac à dépêches.” It was designed by Robert Dumas in the 1930s. According to Wikipedia, The sac à dépêches is a travel-friendly bag that’s small and flat. It also has a similar resemblance to envelopes. People say that it’s the closest style to “The Kelly Bag” that we know of today.

Alfred Hitchcock, Princess Grace Kelly, and The Kelly

According to Wikipedia, Alfred Hitchcock had a role in why the sac à dépêches became ‘popular’ in the 1950s.

In 1954, Hitchcock allowed his costume designer (Edith Head) to purchase some Hermès accessories for the film, To Catch a Thief. Apparently, Actress Grace Kelly saw the sac à dépêches on set and fell in love with it.

In the late 1950s, sac à dépêches gained an unexpected recognition. Grace Kelly had stepped out with the bag and she used it to hide her pregnancy. Because of that iconic day, some new sites unintentionally referred the bag as ‘the Kelly bag.’

Later in the 1970s, Hermès officially changed the name from sac à dépêches to “The Kelly.”Since then, the bag has expanded its collection into other styles. However, the classic Kelly bag is still one of the most popular bags at Hermès.

Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

What does the Kelly bag look like?

According to Hermès, the bag is described as a “trapezoid shape with two triangular gussets with a cutout flap.” Compared to its sister bag, The Birkin, the Kelly has a sophisticated style. It is purposely made for special events and for formal occasions. However, many people these days have started to use the Kelly bag for everyday usage.

The Kelly can also be customized according to the clients’ wants and needs. They can change the leather and the color of the bag.

How long does it take to get ‘The Kelly?’

A common question that consumers tend to ask is if the Kelly is “easier” to obtain than a Birkin. Unfortunately, the Kelly is just as difficult to buy as it is to get a Birkin.

The Kelly takes roughly 18–25 hours to make because it is handcrafted by one person. Also, the bag is customizable. So, it may take additional time to get the right details, leather, and style for the consumer (via Pursuitist and Vogue UK).

To continue, the Kelly is open for availability until all of the spaces are filled up at Hermès. It’s unclear whether Hermès has a waitlist or not. So we can assume that it’s a “first come, first serve” situation. Once the slots are filled up, Hermès won’t accept anymore orders.

However, it is possible to purchase a Kelly bag at an Hermès store. Unfortunately, you cannot bring it home immediately. Once again, you must order it, wait for the bag to be created, and then you can take the bag home.

Some people have also claimed that it’s easier to purchase a Kelly and a Birkin at a second-hand store.

Photo by Etienne Boulanger on Unsplash


Like the Birkin, the Kelly is one of Hermès most expensive and high-valued bags. Since Hermès is an ultra-luxury brand, it will not be affected economically even during hard times.

Therefore, the value of a Kelly bag can increase through time, and/or it can stay at a competitive price. It’s good to note that it depends on the rarity and the leather of the bag.

According to Sign of the Times, the Kelly bag can range between $7,000 to $12,000 (2017). Whereas, CodoGirl Journal claimed that the Kelly bag ranges from $9,000 to $40,000. However, a standard leather Kelly bag may range between $4,000 to $9,000 (2020).

So, it’s safe to say that a Kelly bag can range (more or less) $4,000 to $40,000 depending on the leather and where you choose to buy the bag.

Overall, the Kelly is one of the most iconic bags at Hermès. Even though it is hard to obtain, it is a classic bag that will never lose its style and value.

Sources: Bag Hunter |Bonhams |CodoGirl Journal | Hermès |Pursuitist| Sign of the Times | Vogue UK | Wikipedia- Kelly Bag | Xupes

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