Article Credit by: @PurseBop
What to expect in this reference guide:
II. Features – The Anatomy of a Birkin and Kelly
III. Pros & Cons
IV. Sizes and Comparisons
VI. Sparknotes – Main Differences between the Birkin and Kelly
VII. Instagram Eye Candy
Both the Birkin and Kelly are considered “it” bags, status symbols, great investments and the ultimate holy grail bags for some. Over the years, the overwhelming media presence of the B and K have helped the bags reach icon status. However, the unique stories and special women behind the bags are what first sparked their popularity.
Namesake: Jane Birkin
The idea for the Birkin bag was created after a rather anecdotal moment and forever changed the handbag game. In 1981, Jean-Louis Dumas sat next to actress Jane Birkin on a plane and realized she was struggling to keep her belongings together in the straw bag she was carrying. Birkin admitted that she couldn’t find a leather bag she liked. After that Dumas designed what we know as the “Birkin”, a bag that he considered stylish and practical enough for the busy woman to keep her life together.
Namesake: Grace Kelly
The Kelly Bag was made famous by actress Grace Kelly, but formerly existed in the Hermes collection as the “Haut à courroies” bag and later the “Sac à dépêches” bag. The Haut à courroies bag was first introduced in 1892 and meant to be used as saddle holder. Throughout the years, it was modified to be used as a handbag instead of just an equestrian bag. In 1930, Hermes’ son in law, Robert Dumas, redesigned the bag to be used as a travel bag and named it the Sac à dépêches. In 1956, Grace Kelly gave the bag a new association after the paparazzi photographed her using the bag to shield her pregnant belly. From that moment, the bag became known as the “Kelly Bag” and was officially renamed in 1977.
The Birkin has a rectangular, tote-like silhouette and features two top handles. Since the Birkin was originally intended for travel use, it comes with a lock and key and can be completely secured when the flap is worn in place over the bag. The flap has cut out slits to easily slide over the bag’s handles. For easy access, people usually wear their Birkin’s with the flap tucked inside. As far as the interior, the Birkin has one open pocket and one zipper pocket. The Birkin’s shape and features add to its simplicity and traditional appeal. It has a slightly sportier look compared to the Kelly.
Fun Fact: The average Birkin bag takes 48 hours to make and is completely handmade by one artisan.
- Lock – for securing the contents of the bag
- Touret – where the lock hooks in the centers
- Clouchette – leather cover for keys
- Tiret – thin piece of leather that is attached to the clochette and is usually looped through the handles of a bag
- Sangles – thin straps that help fasten the bag once the flap is flipped over
- Pontet – brackets that hold the sangles in place
- Plaque – hardware that clasps over the touret and lays over each sangles
- Four clou – the four feet at the bottom of the bag that help it stand up straight
The Kelly has a slightly trapezoidal, boxy silhouette and features one top handle. The Hermes Kelly comes in two different styles: the Sellier and the Retourne. The Sellier is rigid and more structured, and the Retourne is slouchier by nature due to construction. Unlike the Birkin, the Kelly can’t be worn open for easy access because of the way the handle sits on top of the bag. However, the Kelly comes with a detachable leather strap and can be worn crossbody if you want to be hands-free. The Kelly bag also features a large zipper pocket and open pockets. The Kelly is praised for its ladylike appeal. It has a slightly more formal look compared to the Birkin.
Fun Fact: The average Kelly bag takes 18 to 24 hours to make and is completely handmade by one artisan.
Pros & Cons
General Advantages to Hermes Bags:
Both the Hermes Birkin and Kelly have impeccable craftsmanship. Any H bag can be sent to the Hermes Spa for repairs and maintenance. Birkin and Kelly bags retain their value more than any other bags on the market.
General Disadvantages to Hermes Bags:
The waiting lists for the both the Birkin and Kelly are still pretty exclusive. You may have to wait a while and build up a repertoire at Hermes to ensure you get the exact kind of B or K you want.
- Can be worn open with the flap tucked inside to allow easy access to contents
- Practical and casual enough for everyday wear. The mini B25 is well suited for formal occasions. Overall, the Birkin serves as a traditional staple.
- Must be carried by hand or in the crook of the arm since it doesn’t come with a crossbody strap like the Kelly
- Bigger Birkins, especially those made of thicker leathers, can become very heavy even with a minimal amount of items
- Detachable strap allows for hands-free wear. The Kelly can be worn crossbody with the strap or worn by hand or in the crook of the arm with the single top handle
- In general, the Kelly, especially the Sellier style, is suited for dressier, formal looks due to its structured nature. The Retourne Kelly makes a great travel bag because of its slouchiness and pliability. While the Kelly is also very good for everyday wear, it is associated as more formal and elegant in a ladylike way to compared to the Birkin.
- Must be worn closed. The Kelly is very difficult to wear open because of the top handle structure. You may spend more time fastening and trying to get your items out
- The Sellier and Retourne have such different looks it is hard to pick a style that covers all your purposes. You may have to compromise with some aspects if you are only buying one type of Kelly.
Birkin’s and Kelly’s come in many different sizes from mini to more! Many aficionados refer to each bag size in short hand with the letter “B” or “K” followed by the length in centimeters (ex. B35). Due to the silhouette, even if a Kelly Bag is the same length as a Birkin, Kelly’s tend to be a little smaller and have less capacity. Determining what size B or K to purchase generally depends on your preference and the aesthetic you are going for, but many people try to pick a size that suits their body frame.
Birkin Sizes: Birkin 25 (B25), Birkin 30 (B30), Birkin 35 (B35), Birkin 40 (B40)
The most common Birkin sizes are the B30 and the B35.
Kelly Sizes: Kelly 15 (K15), Kelly 20 (K20), Kelly 25 (K25), Kelly 28 (K28), Kelly 32 (K32), Kelly 35 (K35), Kelly 40 (K40), Kelly 50 (K50)
The most common Kelly sizes are the K28, K32, and K35.
Dimensions Smallest to Largest (L X H X W cm)
|Birkin 25||25 cm x 20 cm x 13 cm|
|Birkin 30||30 cm x 22 cm x 16 cm|
|Birkin 35||35 cm x 25 cm x 18 cm|
|Birkin 40||40 cm x 30 cm x 21 cm|
|Kelly 15||15 cm x 11 cm x 5 cm|
|Kelly 20||20 cm x 16 cm x 10 cm|
|Kelly 25||25 cm x 19 cm x 9 cm|
|Kelly 28||28 cm x 22 cm x 10 cm|
|Kelly 32||32 cm x 23 cm x 10.5 cm|
|Kelly 35||35 cm x 24 cm x 12 cm|
|Kelly 40||40 cm x 28 cm x 16 cm|
|Kelly 50||50 cm x 34 cm x 25 cm|
*all prices listed in togo leather
|Hermes Birkin||Price in USD|
|Hermes Kelly||Price in USD|
Let’s conclude this Hermes Birkin vs. Kelly 101 class with a quick overview of the main differences between the B and the K.
Instagram Eye Candy
You are officially a Hermes Birkin and Kelly Expert! Now here’s the real test, are you a BIRKIN or KELLY lover?