I receive a lot of questions about the Kelly bag and Hermes bags in general, so today I’m making my best efforts to address a few of the most frequently asked in this post! I’d like to caveat that I am definitely not an expert. I only have a few items and have been buying Hermes on and off for about a decade or so. I have tried my best to share my perspectives here, derived from my own experiences. I hope this is useful for some of you!
What size do you recommend?
Hermes makes quite a few different sizes of Kelly bags – 15cm, 20cm, 25cm, 28cm, 32cm, 35cm, 40cm being the most commonly referenced. The sizes I’ve bolded are probably the most popular, for the reason that they fit a reasonable amount without feeling “big”. I have the 28cm (in black) and the 32cm (in green/gray) and you can see how they compare in sizes above – they are quite close and fit a fairly similar amount.
I’m very happy to have both the 28cm and 32cm size and they both fit into my life. If I were just to choose one size though, it would be the 28cm. It is light and easy to carry, fits a decent amount but still is a small enough size to transition easily to evening.
Sellier or retourne?
For a quick and dirty explanation, sellier refers to the Kelly bags you see with very sharp edges/corners, while retourne refers to those bags with “softer” corners. All Birkins you see are retourne for example – there is no sellier option there, which there is for Kelly bags. Both my Kellys are retourne, which I personally prefer as I have a more casual lifestyle and retourne tends to fit more than sellier style Kellys. That being said, to me a sellier Kelly is the classic Kelly and can look very architectural and chic. They also tend to hold their shape better – Kelly bags in a size 35 or even 32 that are retourne and made in a softer leather can “slouch” after some time.
My favorite leathers for a Kelly would be togo/clemence, chevre, and box. My gray Kelly is made in togo leather and it’s a lovely, hardy and soft leather that feels like a leather pillow! It also does great in the rain and is very hardy (unlike more delicate leathers, like box). My recommendation for box is strictly theoretical and in my head since I don’t have a bag in the leather. I have however, fondled many a box Kelly and it is in my mind the quintessential combination. I’d love to have a bag in box one day.
My favorite leather however like many others is chevre – it’s water resistant, light as a feather, has a beautiful texture and takes color beautifully. I’d love to have more bags in chevre!
What fits in each?
Above is a photo of what I usually carry in each bag – the 32cm size on the right fits everything in front of the 28cm on the left, plus those items in front of the 32cm. The 28cm naturally, fits all the items in front of it.
In the 28, I usually have my sunglasses, wallet, notebook, phone, makeup bag, and keys (not pictured). In the 32, I can comfortable add my favorite treasured Kindle, some mints, and a snack bar (always a good idea, otherwise I end up ordering a breakfast burrito in the morning). I will add that I don’t like to overstuff my bags – I can never find anything when that occurs and I end up spilling everything out trying to answer my cell phone. You could probably fit more in each bag if you wanted but I would suggest not weighing them down too much!
Is the Kelly “easy” to carry?
Shopping, errands, day to day: I do bring a Kelly along with me on errands and it’s an easy bag for the purpose – there’s a shoulder strap, ample room, and a secure top so things don’t fall over in the car. However, I do have to say that if I’m carrying lots of items and taking things in and out frequently, I find a tote easier to wear – you don’t have to “unclasp” anything to get items out and there’s lots of room. On those days, I usually carry a Garden Party.
Travel: On most of my holidays, I like to walk around a lot but also worry about belongings being secure. I personally wouldn’t take my 32 Kelly on a city vacation – it can feel heavy after quite a few hours and the size is probably a “wee” bit too large for my preference, though I have a friend who used her 35 all throughout travels in Beijing/Hong Kong. The 28 size for me is perfect for city exploration.
Work: I carry my Kelly frequently to work! The design is still quite discreet and not so recognized as the Birkin. It carries everything I need on most days. On the days that I carry documents, I bring an open top tote instead.
How difficult is it to keep “unclasping and reclasping” it all the time?
On the topic of the clasp – I rarely carry my Kelly “all buttoned up” but instead usually leave the straps hanging and simply the turnlock clasped. Closed in this fashion, it’s basically one step to open the Kelly – just turn the lock and flip open the top! To close, do the reverse.
I can open and close the 28cm size with one hand while the bag is hanging from my shoulder. However, for the 32, it’s more difficult as the bag is a bit larger and more difficult to close with one hand for me – sometimes I have to use my other hand and swing the bag up so I can close it. Of course, this can get cumbersome! Perhaps it’s because I am short and have T-Rex arms – would love to hear if other ladies have this problem!
Any other tips?
My advice when buying anything but especially something like a handbag that you’ll use all the time is: do your research. Take time and figure out what you like! If you can, visit a local store and try out different sizes, see the leather and color samples, and see if other bag styles might work better for you. Hermes bags are for me at least, luxuries that I don’t buy every day- works of craftsmanship that should be appreciated, and you have to make sure that you personally love the style, color, size, those details.
These are expensive items, that are made to be used and enjoyed. Don’t get pressured or feel you have to buy a particular bag, just because it is popular, everywhere right now, or being offered to you. The right one will come along!
Not every bag is for everybody! There are many styles out there that I appreciate on others, but just simply don’t work for me. So again, take time, explore, and I am sure you will find the perfect one for you.
I hope this can help some of you, and if you have more questions, feel free to leave them in the comments (I receive a lot of questions by email and it’s difficult for me to get to them all individually).
PS: Here are some of my favorite bags with shapes and utility very similar to the Kelly -
I also have to point out this fabulous Nancy Gonzalez crocodile red satchel, for under $4000 (that’s half of a calf leather Kelly!)