A navy blue kelly next to a bright blue birkin bag.

The ultimate dilemma, the Kelly vs Birkin. Trying to decide between a Kelly or Birkin bag? If you’re immersed in the world of fashion you’ll know the iconic status of each bag. They’re two of the most expensive bag styles in the world, which immediately highlights how covetable they are.

Below we look at the origin story of each bag and their style differences to ultimately help you decide whether to buy a Kelly or Birkin.

The origin stories

Both bags have a maternal celebrity encounter entwined in their history. The Kelly was created by Robert Dumas (son-in-law of Émile Hermès) in the early 20th century, but it wasn’t until the bag was spotted hiding the baby bump of film star and Princess of Monaco, Grace Kelly, that it rocketed into the spotlight.

In contrast, the Birkin bag was conceptualised on a plane journey from Paris to London. Actress Jane Birkin happened to be sat next to Jean-Louis Dumas on the flight, and they discussed her need for a travel bag that actually suited her needs as a young mother.

From plane sketches to real life, the Birkin bag soon arrived in Hermès boutiques and became an instant success.

Which is older, the Kelly or the Birkin?

The Hermès Kelly is the older of the two bags as it was created in 1935, compared to the younger Birkin bag which was created in 1984.

Kelly Bag | Photo by Hiro – Kokoro☆Photo

The style differences between the Kelly and Birkin bag

At a quick glance, it can be difficult for some to spot the difference between the Kelly and Birkin bag. Below we break down the structural and stylistic differences between them.

The Kelly

One of the key differences on the Kelly is that it only has one top handle. Another notable difference is the Kelly bag features a shoulder strap so it can be worn on the shoulder or across the body.

The Birkin

The rounded top edge of the Birkin is often the characteristic that first catches the eye. Compared to the Kelly, the Birkin has two straps which allow the weight to be more evenly distributed when it’s carried on the arm.

As you’re holding the Birkin bag you could also leave the lock and straps undone to use the bag as more of an open tote. Whereas the Kelly bag needs to be closed when carried.

It was intended as a stylish, everyday tote bag that could effortlessly hold the daily essentials of anyone — including busy mothers on international flights!

Birkin bag with open clasps | Photo by Hiro – Kokoro☆Photo

Kelly vs Birkin – Which is best?

Each bag has its own unique attributes which can influence which would be best for you.

If you’re looking for the most iconic bag, the Birkin has arguably become the most well-known Hermès bag for its chic yet versatile style. However, the iconic status of both bags is why Hermès continually remains one of the most expensive handbag brands.

Pre-loved Navy blue Kelly bag from Timeless Vintage

How to buy a Kelly or Birkin bag

The purchasing process of a Kelly or Birkin bag is famously very discreet. Rumours suggest the wait list for either bag could be years long, however, many believe celebrity or influencer status can sway how long you’ll have to wait…

If you’re keen to invite one of these iconic bags into your life there is a way to skip the long wait lists.

One of the most effective and also most sustainable ways to get your hands on a Kelly or Birkin bag is to choose a pre-loved route.

Here at Timeless Vintage Co a Hermès Birkin or Kelly often enters our pre-loved and secondhand handbag collections. The best way to keep up to date with new arrivals is to subscribe to our newsletter.

Featured image: Contains cropped bright blue Birkin Bag from Hiro – Kokoro☆Photo


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