The origins of the Kelly first appeared, in its original form in the 1930’s but it wasn’t until 1956 that it truly became a star. With its smart tailored-shape it evolved into a ‘50s favorite during the Hollywood glamour years, and has enjoyed an iconic status ever since.
In 1956, a photo of Grace Kelly, who had become the new Princess of Monaco carrying the Sac à dépêches bag to shield her pregnant stomach from the prying eyes of the paparazzi. Photographs of her covering her stomach bulge with her hallowed Hermès were splashed all over the world and made it onto the cover of Life magazine. Thus, the company — or possibly more like the public — renamed it the Kelly bag, and it became hugely popular.
When discussing her high-profile life, Kelly said “the freedom of the press works in such a way that there is very little freedom from it.” When faced with a pack of nosy photographers, Stephanie Pendersen, in her book, Handbags, What Every Woman Should Know, says that the shy, newly married Princess, not yet wishing to announce her pregnancy to the world, did what any woman would do and hid her secret in her handbag.
Hermès Kelly Gallery
The Hermes Kelly handbag is a top handle style that you carry by hand. They are roughly rectangular in shape and function in a similar way to an envelope. With the width wider at the bottom and quite narrow and sleek looking at the top. They feature a flap that comes over the top and fastens with a lock.
There are two styles which describe the level of structure to a Kelly handbag, there is the souple and the rigide. The souple is a softer, less structured style. The Rigide is more structured and formal looking. The rigide typically costs a little more the the souple, but it is typically more enduring.
The Kelly Bag is made by one individual craftsman in about 18 hours of work. The skins arrive at the factory already laid out in perfect symmetry, ready for the expert to being his (or her) magic.
Goat skins are used for the lining and this is the first part to be actually sewn. After the lining is made, the base of the handbag is hand sewn to the front and back with waxed linen thread. A double saddle stitch is used and each thrust of the needle is carefully done. A tiny hole is made with an awl before each stitch and the stitch size dictates the size of the hole. Adjustment is made for the particular grain of the leather to work with the natural pattern.
The handle comes next in the careful construction of the Kelly handbag and the shaping is done by hand with painstaking attention to detail. The layers of the stitched leather is smoothed with sandpaper and then dyed to match the handbag. Hot wax is applied to protect the handle from moisture.
Kelly bags come in 5 different sizes and are usually made from crocodile, alligator, ostrich-skin or plain leather. Classic size of the Kelly bag is 32cm and 28cm. If you want something smaller there is the Kelly Longue bag, which is like a clutch sized version of the Kelly bag. If you are looking for a large style that can work as a carry on bag, there is a 40cm version.