Hermès Bags Face off: Birkin Versus Kelly - A Comparison

Hermès Bags Face off: Birkin Versus Kelly - A Comparison

Initially, the Hermès Birkin and Kelly may seem quite similar. Let's start by examining their differences in a Birkin versus Kelly comparison. Following that, we'll delve into a detailed analysis of each bag's structure before concluding with a glossary outlining their individual components.


Both the Birkin and Kelly bags share a trapezoidal shape, yet the Kelly boasts a more defined angularity. The Kelly bag embodies a true trapezoid structure, featuring precise lines, angled sides, and an impeccably straight top edge. In contrast, the Birkin's sides align more squarely with the top and bottom, while its upper edge gently curves. Additionally, the Birkin offers a wider dimension, providing increased storage capacity.

The Kelly bag comes in two distinct styles:

Sellier, characterized by external-stitched side seams, exhibits sharp, structured edges and a more angular design with a rigid construction.

Retourne, in contrast, presents a softer, rounder variation with internal-stitched side seams, showcasing gentler edges and a more relaxed, slouchy appearance.


Both the Birkin and Kelly bags cater to various preferences with an assortment of sizes. Their sizes are denoted in centimeters, representing the length of the bag's base. For instance, the Birkin 25 measures 25 centimeters (9.8 inches) across its base.

The Birkin is crafted in sizes ranging from 25cm, 30cm, 35cm, 40cm, to travel sizes.

In contrast, the Kelly offers sizes such as 20cm, 25cm, 28cm, 32cm, 35cm, 40cm, and 50cm.

Additionally, limited editions of Birkins have been introduced in 15cm and 20cm variations, while a limited edition of a 15cm Kelly has also been released.


Newcomers often notice the handles as the key difference when comparing the Kelly and the Birkin by Hermès. Both feature rolled leather handles, yet the Birkin, functioning as a tote, includes two handles and can be carried openly like a traditional tote bag. Conversely, the Kelly has a single handle and is meant to be carried closed to avoid the risk of items slipping out. Importantly, neither bag's handles are designed for shoulder wear, requiring them to be carried by hand or in the crook of the arm. However, the Kelly provides a detachable matching strap as an accessory.

Front Flap

Both the Kelly and Birkin bags share a distinctive top flap secured by two straps and a turn lock. However, there's a nuanced difference in their flap designs. The Birkin's front flap features two finished slits, enabling the front handle to pass through and stand upright. In contrast, the Kelly exhibits a straight front flap that harmonizes seamlessly with the bag's overall lines, mirroring its shape without additional openings for the handle to protrude.


The prices for both bags fluctuate based on factors like leather type, color, and production year. Despite these variables, Birkin and Kelly bags are highly sought-after globally. Typically, Birkin bags command higher prices compared to Kelly bags when bought from an Hermès boutique. However, in the secondary market, a Kelly bag can surpass the price of an identical-sized Birkin, depending on factors like supply and demand for that specific leather type and size.

The Story


Hermes Birkin Bag

The iconic Birkin bag by Hermès has a legendary origin story that's as captivating as the bag itself. It all began in the early 1980s when actress and singer Jane Birkin found herself seated next to the then CEO of Hermès, Jean-Louis Dumas, on a flight from Paris to London. During the flight, Jane Birkin lamented about the lack of a practical yet stylish bag for everyday use.

This conversation led to a collaboration between Birkin and Hermès, resulting in the creation of a handbag tailored to Birkin's specifications. She sought a spacious yet elegant bag suitable for daily life but still exuding sophistication. Thus, the Birkin bag was born—a luxurious and functional accessory that seamlessly blended practicality and style.

Crafted meticulously by skilled artisans, each Birkin bag undergoes hours of handiwork using premium materials like leather or exotic skins. Its design features double handles, a flap closure secured by a lock and key, and a spacious interior with pockets for practical use.

Since its introduction, the Birkin bag has become a symbol of wealth, luxury, and exclusivity, coveted by fashion enthusiasts, celebrities, and collectors worldwide. Its timeless design and limited availability contribute to its allure, making it one of the most sought-after and prestigious accessories in the world of fashion.


Hermes Kelly Bag

The Kelly bag, another iconic creation by Hermès, has an intriguing history that traces back to the 1930s. Originally known as the "Sac à dépêches," it gained prominence and its iconic status through a serendipitous encounter between Hermès and Grace Kelly, the American actress who later became Princess Grace of Monaco.

The story goes that in 1956, Grace Kelly, already a renowned actress, was photographed using the Sac à dépêches to shield her baby bump from paparazzi while she was pregnant. This photo sparked immense public interest, leading to a surge in the bag's popularity.

In appreciation for her inadvertent promotion of their bag, Hermès renamed it the "Kelly" in honor of Grace Kelly. She became an ardent fan of the bag, frequently seen carrying it, further elevating its status and association with elegance and sophistication.

The Kelly bag is characterized by its structured silhouette, a single top handle, and a signature turn-lock closure. Crafted meticulously by Hermès' skilled artisans, the bag boasts impeccable craftsmanship and is made using high-quality materials, ranging from fine leathers to exotic skins.

Since its introduction, the Kelly bag has become an enduring symbol of timeless style and luxury. Its association with Grace Kelly and its reputation for exclusivity and craftsmanship have made it a highly sought-after and prestigious accessory, coveted by fashion connoisseurs, celebrities, and collectors around the world.


Celebrities, heads of state, royalty, and fashion-forward women worldwide all covet both the Kelly and the Birkin bags. These iconic accessories have earned the nickname "Holy Grail" due to their immense desirability and the challenge of acquiring them. Securing a Birkin or Kelly directly from an Hermès boutique is notoriously challenging. As a result, collectors, both established and aspiring, often turn to reputable independent resellers, such as Vogue Agent, to acquire these coveted bags.

Birkin Bag

The Birkin boasts a rectangular, tote-like shape with a gently curved top and dual handles designed for hand or arm carrying. Many Birkin users often tuck the front flap inside the bag against its interior back wall, relying on the handles to keep it securely closed when held together. When the handles are separated, the bag opens easily, allowing convenient access.

For a more casual look, the front flap can be slid over the front handles. For added security, fastening the flap with the front straps and toggle closure is an option. Although the bag includes a padlock with accompanying keys, it's primarily used for decorative purposes. To maintain the bag's value, it's advisable not to attach the lock to the toggle; instead, it's recommended to place it on the tiret alongside the clochette. Placing the lock on the toggle might cause it to move back and forth, potentially creating a permanent indentation known as a "smiley," which cannot be removed and could diminish the bag's value.

Kelly Bag

The Kelly distinguishes itself with a more pronounced trapezoidal shape and a singular top handle, unlike the Birkin. Due to its single handle, the Kelly must always be carried with its flap securely closed, unlike the Birkin, which offers the option of an open or closed flap. The sangles, or shoulder straps, can be styled over or under the flap, with many Kelly enthusiasts preferring the under position for easier access to the bag.

Originally designed for hand carriage, the Kelly now includes a detachable strap, providing enhanced versatility. This adjustable strap allows for shoulder or crossbody wear, catering to various moods, styles, and functional preferences, a departure from its initial design intended solely for hand carrying.

Birkin or Kelly – Which Bag Suits Your Style Best?

Choosing between the Kelly and Birkin can be challenging, as both hold their unique place in wardrobes. Most collectors eventually acquire both, even if they have a favorite between the two.

Traditionally, starting a collection with a Birkin was common due to its widespread recognition and ample space compared to the Kelly. However, as Hermès gains popularity globally, especially among younger audiences, the Kelly has surged in demand. Kelly enthusiasts often highlight the versatility brought by the optional shoulder or crossbody strap, with the trendy Kelly 20cm further elevating its appeal among younger collectors.

If faced with a choice where all options—size, leather, color, and price—are equal, which would you choose?

For an elegant, practical everyday bag with easy interior access, the classic Birkin is recommended. If a shoulder strap is essential, the relaxed Retourne style of the Kelly serves as the ideal everyday companion.

The Sellier style Kelly is ideal for a more formal, sophisticated appearance—perfect for business events or upscale occasions that demand a polished look. If the style resonates but you prefer a Birkin, consider the Sellier Birkin, introduced recently. It combines the formal, structured aesthetic of the Sellier Kelly with the accessibility of double handles seen in a Birkin. Crafted from the same leathers as the Kelly, it embodies that refined, sophisticated allure.

Hermes Birkin versus Kelly Bag

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