The Hermes Kelly – Sellier vs Retourne

Today, I’m tackling one of the most frequent questions I receive – Hermes Kelly, sellier or retourne style?

Because I’m either a crazy lunatic or have remarkable willpower (it all depends on how big of a Kelly fan you are, for your perspective) I have two black Kelly bags, both in size 28cm. I love both, and can say with a straight face that they each occupy unique places in my wardrobe. Yes, that’s right. These are very different bags (to me). Now, a little bit on each style…

Kelly Comparison

Sellier: Sellier in terms of a Kelly refers to its outside stitching, on its edges which results in the bag’s crisp, sharp lines. The outside stitching is obviously more visible, so more attention must be paid to the craftsmanship. In my opinion, this is one of the most beautiful bag shapes ever…so clean and architectural.

Hermes Sellier Kelly Edge

My sellier Kelly is a 28cm, black box leather with ruthenium hardware. Black box is such a fantastic leather, and in fact I’ve had an order outstanding for another black box Kelly for something like three years now. I’m not sure if Hermes is ever going to fulfill it, and I suspect it may have gone into the black hole these orders sometime disappear into, only surfacing to serve as amusement for Hermes executives during lunch breaks. “And get this….she wants 40cm, and she thinks she’s going to get it in ombre lizard!” they shriek, over glasses of wine.

28cm is also the largest size sellier that I’d use for dressier occasions. I’m too short to pull off anything larger. I don’t have any recent pictures of me with my Kelly, but here’s one when I was six months pregnant. When placed strategically, it does a pretty good job of hiding a baby bump!

Pros: The most beautiful Kelly style and shape, in my opinion. Tends to “droop” or sag less over time, as the retourne Kellys do, simply due to their construction.

Cons: While the bag looks larger due to its construction and defined angles (you can see this for yourself in the first comparison photo above ), it actually fits a bit less than the retourne, due to its construction and the lack of flexibility. So you’re getting a visually bigger bag….but one that holds less! Also, costs a bit more than retourne (due to the higher craftsmanship involved, I’m told).

Now, onto the retourne style.

Retourne Kelly Edge

Retourne: Whereas sellier refers to the outside stitching of the Kelly, retourne refers to the inside stitching of the bag’s edges – observe the piping on the edges, can you see how it’s a bit like if someone sewed it and then turned it inside out? This makes the bag a bit “softer” at the edges, and more flexible (there’s no piping on sellier Kellys).

My retourne Kelly is a 28cm, black chevre with gold hardware. I tend to use this more as a casual bag – and I love my short shoulder strap, it makes the bag so comfortable and easy to wear. Both the strap and the Kelly itself were special ordered in their configuration.

Pros: Fits more than the sellier of the same size, also more flexible. Costs a bit less, and if you do a special order, you can play with the piping color (always fun). The edges also tend to “stick out” less – I’m always a bit paranoid with the sellier about hitting it on corners. Also, you can more easily go casual.

Cons: Not as “formal” of a look as the selliers, also due to the construction can sag over time (especially in the larger sizes). You can see in my comparison photos, how the retourne Kelly has a bit of “slouch” in places, whereas the sellier sits perfect straight – even though its six years older!

Kelly side by side

So – now after all that, back to the original question – sellier or retourne? Let me apologize in advance…for I’m going to be copping out with the ultimate non definitive response, which is “it depends“. On your lifestyle, and what you’re buying the Kelly for.

If you’re buying for mainly dressier events, and/or just to “have” the Kelly and stare at it in your closet? Then I might get the sellier. It’s absolutely beautiful, and in sellier, won’t sag very much over time at all and you can give it to your children.

For myself, if I absolutely had to choose one – it’d be retourne then, as my life is more casual than dressy. And with a 28cm, I can still get away with using my retourne for dressier occasions (anything black tie, etc I’d use a hand held clutch anyway).

But in life, I do have to say…sometimes things are just better in twos!

Which Kelly style do you prefer?

PS: One of my favorite places to search for Kellys at fair prices, is Fashionphile.

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  • Kara
    January 25, 2016 at 7:51 am

    What did you find your beautiful black box 28?! I’ve been looking for that combo forever!

    • Katherine
      January 26, 2016 at 6:16 pm

      Hi! This was from Ann’s Fabulous Finds, there was another one recently!

  • Sarah
    January 25, 2016 at 9:56 am

    That is the question I always ask myself. Retourner or sellier… And yes Hermes execs do have long lunches roaring with laughter about special orders. I ve head them, it’s inhuman.

    • Katherine
      January 26, 2016 at 6:16 pm

      Glad you agree, lol!

  • Jill
    January 25, 2016 at 10:22 am

    I am a retourne gal. By the way, per H. Kristina Haugland, author of “Grace Kelly Style,” Grace never used a Kelly to hide a baby bump. Ms. Haugland says that is a myth! My theory about how that myth got started is because of the photo of Grace coming out of a car with the bag in front of her and Rainier lending her his hand, but that photo was taken the day they announced their engagement, in January 1956.

    Great post. You are lucky to have both Kelly options in your wardrobe!

    • Katherine
      January 26, 2016 at 6:16 pm

      Ah, thank you for the interesting fact Jill 🙂

  • Elizabeth
    January 25, 2016 at 7:29 pm

    I love and have both sellier and retourne…agree retourne is more practical but if I had to choose one, the line of the sellier is irresistible! It’s like box and Togo/Clemence…the smooth leathers are so classic and stunning, but the pebbled ones are more durable. I rarely take my 28 rouge H box sellier out, but I can’t deny it’s my most beautiful bag. I think a choice largely depends on whether the K is intended to be daily or occasional use, but it’s just also so personal. For work and under the radar, retourne is probably a more subtle choice, but in larger sizes in soft leather, especially 35 and up, it will slouch and eventually (forgive me) looks like a bag with an Hermes turnlock and not so much like a Kelly, if you KWIM….

    I did see a woman out recently at a chic restaurant with a very beaten 60s up BBK that looked incredibly stylish (and she wasn’t an Olsen twin, she was an adult architect)….so the box calf route can be turned into any style!

    BTW, Grace Kelly gave birth to Caroline nine months after her marriage, so the buying or gifting of the soon-to-be Kelly bag was probably not intended as a paparazzo shield, but it was most certainly used to hide the pregnancy in its early stages….

    • Katherine
      January 26, 2016 at 6:16 pm

      I know you have some gorgeous Kelly options in your closet 🙂

  • Jen
    January 25, 2016 at 9:36 pm

    I would love a rigid 28cm BBK one day (Yours is so beautiful!) but for now I only have a 35cm retourne Kelly in swift leather. Whenever a friend or a colleague saw me with the Kelly, one thing they say is:” It’s gonna sag!” One even asked if I got the Kelly because it was offered without spending. *insert eye roll here* Then I always asked if they ever had a large size SAGGING swift Kelly. None said yes. They were simply rephrasing what ppl told them and what they read online. They reminded me of those who used to believe the earth is flat because they were told that way. Therefore I appreciated the fact that your opinion is based on your experience. Now I don’t really see the slouch part of your retourne Kelly (what am I missing here?) cuz in my opinion, that’s almost like brand new. How did u manage to maintain Chevre? It’s amazing. I had a 3-yr-old Chevre wallet that’s got dents and resin cracks already.

    • Katherine
      January 26, 2016 at 6:18 pm

      Hi Jen, swift is LUSCIOUS and your Kelly sounds beautiful – you must treasure it! I don’t mind sagging either personally – I just know that others do. My Kelly is just a bit slouchy on the sides, but I like it that way…more loved and lived in 🙂 I think Chevre bags are easier to maintain than wallets…my wallet also got dinged and banged around.

  • Oonagh
    January 25, 2016 at 10:40 pm

    I have a retourne BBK in 32cm which dates from 1996 and it hasn’t sagged at all. I don’t really see any slouch in yours, just the seams look slightly less flat than on the sellier, which is understandable. But is there is any sag, maybe it’s due to the leather, not the style.

    • Katherine
      January 26, 2016 at 6:18 pm

      I’d love a BBK in retourne one day! It’s on my list…yours sounds lovely.

  • Sanita
    January 26, 2016 at 1:40 am

    I also have Retourne Kelly 32 in Gris Tourterelle and its so easy to dress up or down depending on event/day. And somehow I feel it gives this younger/fresher look 🙂

    • Katherine
      January 26, 2016 at 6:18 pm

      Gris T, you are so lucky that is one of the most gorgeous colors!! That is a forever bag!

  • Lygie
    January 26, 2016 at 9:08 am

    This is such an informative post. Thank you, Katherine! For my lifestyle (and wishlist), I’m going with the retourne. I have a bulgari serpenti shoulder bag that I use for dressier events.

    • Katherine
      January 26, 2016 at 6:18 pm

      Good pick! And the Serpenti is lovely!

  • Allison
    January 26, 2016 at 11:56 pm

    I loved reading this! Such an intelligent and thoughtful discussion. I think both of your Kellys are absolutely beautiful – and 28cm is THE size Kelly to have in my opinion! But for me, the sellier will always have the edge (no pun intended!). It’s what you say about the classic, architectural shape. And black box with palladium hardware, how phenomenal is that combination! Would love to see a close up of the hardware.

    Regarding the scarcity of box, here in England we don’t have too many Hermès stores. However an acquaintance was in the Glasgow store recently and was told that Hermès aren’t currently making bags in box, something to do with they’ve struggled to get the right quality of hide. Not sure if this is correct but it may help explain the wait on your special order?

    I was also reading about a type of Kelly called a ‘mou’. I gather that this is a sellier, with the hallmark stitching on the outside, but the walls of the bag don’t have as many layers of leather meaning the bag is less rigid and has a bit more slouch. Might appeal to both sellier and retourne lovers (or neither!)?

    As you say, sellier and retourne are different bags and each beautiful in a different way. Out of interest, does anyone know why sometimes I see Kelly bags online described as ‘retourne II’? Was there a ‘retourne I’? Or was the ‘I’ the sellier?

    Love reading these posts!

    • Katherine
      January 27, 2016 at 9:15 pm

      I’ve heard the same thing about box – interesting to hear your anecdote too!

      Kelly Mous are gorgeous…I’d love to add one, some day 🙂 It’d have to be used, as they are discontinued!

      I don’t think there is a Retourne I/II…at least not to my knowledge.

      • Allison
        January 27, 2016 at 10:23 pm

        I didn’t know that! (about the mous being discontinued). I was curious about the name – should have paid more attention in French lessons all those years ago – so checked the translation. ‘Mou’ is French for ‘soft’ – but of course! 🙂

  • Allison
    January 27, 2016 at 1:02 am

    Sorry – another thought! Completely agree that gris touterelle is a gorgeous colour, but in Kellys I’ve only seen it in retourne. I wondered if anyone has seen this beautiful colour in a sellier?

    • Katherine
      January 27, 2016 at 9:16 pm

      I don’t think they make GT in Epsom or Box, and those are the leathers that are typically done for Sellier for Hermes. Would be good to get an “expert” opinion though!

      • Allison
        January 27, 2016 at 10:24 pm

        Ah….I am enlightened. Thank you!

  • ahhhsoneo
    January 27, 2016 at 5:50 pm

    When I first clicked on the post, i thought – now why would she have same bag in black. Besides the leather, they initially looked exactly the same to me. But after reading this hilarious post (those damn Hermes lunches with wine!), I totally agree with how one could desperately need both. Hilarious and informative – winning combination.

    • Katherine
      January 27, 2016 at 9:16 pm

      Thanks so much! And you are right, for regular, logical people – they are very similar bags!

  • Ava Lon
    January 28, 2016 at 10:33 pm

    Dear Katherine,

    Brilliant, brilliant post! Brava! Really, it was so informative and so helpful to those new to the Kelly and a great though provoking post for those familiar with them. Your attention to detail and future use/wear of both was really spot on and a reasonable concern for those planning to choose – I bet most new to HOP weren’t even aware, let alone longtime HOP fans!

    I completely agree with you and when I shared your post with my friends, each one (even the one who is the most rational about bag purchases could not dispute your argument that they are, in fact, two completely different bags!) LOL! Score for Katherine! 😀
    Your husband probably hates us all now!

    Hope you and the family and Baby Feather are all enjoying life and your IG pic of the powerball machine and caption had me in stitches;-) hilarious!


    • Katherine
      January 31, 2016 at 2:56 pm

      Thanks Ava!! And yes…husband is not amused, lol.

  • Jenny
    February 1, 2016 at 8:51 pm

    Hi Katherine,

    Thank you for your review! I’ve been a silent reader for a few years now and always enjoyed your frank, honest posts. I’m hoping to someday own a Kelly myself – your black chevre Kelly is my ideal!


    • Katherine
      February 2, 2016 at 4:21 pm

      Thanks Jenny for coming out of lurkdom 🙂 I hope you get your Kelly soon!

  • Tina
    August 10, 2016 at 1:58 am

    Hi Katherine

    I’m having a hard time choosing from a Kelly 28 in black box leather from the 60s (retourne) and a Kelly 28 (A sellier) also in black box from 2006. The price difference is about US$3200! Both in good condition but of course the retourne has more of the the patina look. What would you do if you were in my position?

    • Katherine
      August 10, 2016 at 7:14 pm

      Ooh that’s a toughy! If there’s no cracking or other major problems in the 60s one, I’d be highly tempted – I love a bag with a good history!