The Kelly and Birkin bags from Hermès are some of the most iconic and in-demand handbags in the world, but what’s the difference? This Hermès Kelly vs Birkin article will explain everything.
Hermès is one of the top luxury fashion houses, with a wide range of beautiful ready-to-wear clothing, handbags, shoes, and accessories. The Hermès Kelly bag and Birkin Bag are two of their most famous and best-selling pieces that any handbag enthusiast really needs to know about.
From afar, both of the bags may seem similar, but as you take a look at them in more depth, you will see significant differences that will help you to decide which one to add to your own bag collection. This Hermès Kelly vs Birkin article will explore the history of both bags and their differences before, looking at some of the Hermès Kelly and Birkin bags that are available now!
If you are looking to add one of these handbags to your wardrobe, or just want to find out a little more about these famous bags, then you are in the right place.
Hermès Kelly vs Birkin
The History of the Hermès Kelly Bag
The Hermès Kelly Bag was first known as the Sac à dépêches and was added to the Hermès collection in 1935. Robert Dumas, who designed the Sac à dépêches sought inspiration from the Bugatti handbag, the first women’s handbag created by Hermès, and decided to create a more spacious bag, ideal for travel.
The bag was a popular choice when it was released because it was larger than many other luxury bags available at this time, but it was in 1954 when the Sac à dépêches really shot to fame. Alfred Hitchcock allowed costume designer Edith Head to buy a Sac à dépêches for Grace Kelly to wear in ‘To Catch A Thief’ and the actress instantly fell in love.
Kelly continued to wear this Hermès handbag after the film finished shooting and when she became Princess of Monaco in 1956. When Grace Kelly was pregnant, she used the handbag to hide her baby bump from the paparazzi – these photographs were then featured in Life magazine.
The Sac à dépêches was now one of the most popular handbags and became commonly known as the Kelly bag before it was officially renamed in 1977.
The History of the Hermès Birkin Bag
The Birkin bag was created much later than the Kelly bag, after a chance meeting between Hermès chief executive Jean-Louis Dumas and the British actress Jane Birkin. In 1983, Dumas and Birkin sat next to each other on a flight, and after the contents of her straw bag fell on the floor, Birkin noted how hard it was to find a good leather weekend bag.
Dumas took it upon himself to then create this leather weekend bag – he based the design on the Haut à Courroies which was first designed by Hermès in 1900.
The very first Hermès Birkin bag was sold in 1984 and the bag was gifted to Jane Birkin, perfectly fitting her aesthetic with clean lines and a lock on the front to secure all the belongings inside. However, it wasn’t until the 1990s that the Birkin bag became its bag, and it has remained incredibly popular ever since.
Differences between a Hermès Kelly and Birkin bag
The silhouette and design of the Kelly bag and Birkin bag look similar, with the same trapezoid shape, belted front, and top handle for a sophisticated look, but there are significant differences between each of these Hermès handbags.
Let’s begin with the design differences. The most obvious difference is the fact that the Birkin bag has two top handles whereas the Kelly bag only has a single top handle – this is the surefire way to differentiate between these handbags.
Both bags have the same belt closure that holds the front flap in place, but the design of each differs slightly. On the Kelly bag, you will see that the belt holds down a simple front flap, whereas on a Birkin bag, the belt is threaded through little loops and the front flap has little cutouts so the top handle can slip through.
These design differences also mean that the bags are meant to be worn differently, the Hermès Kelly is designed to be closed all the time for an elegant look, while the Birkin bag is more like a tote bag that is intended to be worn unlocked.
The last main difference is the Kelly bag features a shoulder strap so you can style the bag on your shoulder or across the body, while you do not have this option with a Birkin bag.
There are also differences when it comes to the size of each of these Hermès bags. The Hermès Kelly bag is available in 15, 20, 25, 28, 32, 35, 40, and 50 – the 20, 25, and 28 sizes are the most popular options. If you are looking at Birkin bags, you will see that they are available in 25, 30, 35, and 40, with the smaller two as the most popular and easiest to carry around as an everyday handbag.
As you can see, the Kelly is available in more sizes and the small sizes are the most in-demand, while there are only 4 sizes of Birkin bags available, and the 25 and 30, are the most common because they are great everyday handbags.
3. Different styles of Kelly and Birkin
You will also see that there are two different Hermès Kelly bags available, the Sellier style and Retourne style, while there is only one Hermès Birkin bag available at all times and the Hermès Birkin Sellier is only a limited edition option.
The difference between the Sellier and Retourne is the stitching – on a Sellier bag, whether that is a Kelly or a Birkin, the stitching is on the outside, giving the bag a more structured look. For the Retourne style, the stitching is hidden inside the bag.
The majority of Birkin bags have stitching inside the bag since the Sellier option was only available from Hermes boutiques in 2010 and 2020.
There is also a significant difference in the original price and resale price for each of these bags. Birkin bags start off as more expensive so they are then more expensive on the secondhand market. A new Birkin bag can range between $10,000 to $250,000 for the exotic leather options, while the Kelly bags range from $8,000 to $27,000 for crocodile or ostrich leather bags.
Since there is such a long waiting list to purchase these bags new, the resale price is often higher than the original price, so again Birkin bags are more expensive than Kelly bags on the secondary market, but this also means these handbags are fantastic investment pieces.
The Different Editions of Hermès Kelly Vs Birkin Bags
Here we have brought together some of the different Hermès Kelly and Birkin bags available, so you can take a closer look at the bags on offer to find the right one to add to your wardrobe! Both of these handbags are made in a range of different colors, from a plethora of luxurious leathers, and then finished with gleaming hardware so you are bound to find an option that perfectly suits your personal style.
1. Kelly Sellier
The Hermès Kelly Sellier has a more structured silhouette, as you can see from the bags pictured above, and is available in a range of sizes and types of leather.
The Hermès Box Kelly Sellier in the 32 size is a classic, practical option that will suit a wide range of outfits and is roomy enough for all your daily essentials. The smooth box leather has a luxe look and then the bag is finished with gleaming gold-plated hardware.
The Mini Kelly bag has become a must-have bag recently that has a super cute, totally irresistible look! This Hermès Mini Kelly II Sellier 20 is crafted from textured Epsom leather in a stunning pale pink shade.
The mini size has all the same features as the larger Kelly bags, with a single top handle, detachable shoulder strap, protective feet on the base, a goatskin-lined interior, and two pockets.
2. Kelly Retourne
The Hermès Kelly Retourne bags have a softer silhouette but with the same features. We love the timeless and sophisticated look of this Hermès Togo Kelly II Retourne 32, in a gorgeous tan shade and finished with gold-plated hardware for the famous Kelly lock – which you will see repeated through Hermès leather goods and jewelry.
The interior is lined with matching tan chevre goatskin and fitted with three pockets so it’s easy to keep all your must-have items well-organized.
If you fancy adding a little pop of color to your bag collection, you need the vibrant purple Hermès Evercolor Kelly II Retourne 28 in your life!
The smaller 28 size is just ideal for everyday use, and the rolled leather top handle and shoulder strap mean you can style this bag in many different ways to suit your look. The palladium-plated hardware really sparkles against the purple Evercolor leather.
3. Birkin 25
As already established, the Birkin bag is available in a range of different sizes, so we have brought together a couple of bags in the most popular sizes, the 25 and 30 for you to browse.
This Hermès Togo Birkin 25 bag is just gorgeous and so elegant in this dark beige chai shade, decorated with gleaming gold hardware. The double top handles sit perfectly in the crook of your arm.
The gold-plated hardware really pops against the smooth blue Swift leather on this Hermès Birkin bag! This striking bag will really make a statement and add an eye-catching element to your outfit.
The bag is finished with feet to protect the base of the bag and a matte blue leather interior. The 25 size is ideal for everyday wear, with plenty of room inside for everything you need on a day-to-day basis.
4. Birkin 30
You can never go wrong with a classic black Birkin bag – this one is made from grained Epsom leather and is complete with gold-plated hardware. The 30 size is a little larger and a great option for work if you have lots of items to carry with you.
The black Chevre goatskin interior is fitted with a zipper pocket and a patch pocket so you can keep all of your belongings organized.
This dark pink Hermès Birkin bag looks stunning and is a great way to add a little more color to a neutral-toned outfit.
This Birkin bag is crafted from textured togo calfskin leather, which is one of the more durable options available from Hermès, and features palladium-plated hardware for the turn lock, hanging clochette, and padlock, which really stand out against the pink leather.
We hope you loved this article analyzing Hermès Kelly vs Birkin bags! For more luxury fashion content, check out the links below.