Fashion Geek: Anatomy of a Hermès Kelly

Long before the Hermès Birkin became the status symbol of wealth and class, the French leather goods fashion house was already known for a more structured and ladylike pocketbook. Called the Kelly bag, the original prototype was first created in 1923 by Émile-Maurice Hermès and Ettore Bugatti as a thoroughly simple and plain bag for Hermès' wife, Julie. The bag was designed to fit into a car door and to allow riders to carry their saddle. In the 1930s, Hermès' son-in-law Robert Dumas redesigned it as a spacious travel bag called Sac à dépêches. 

Then, as the story goes, famed Hollywood director Alfred Hitchcock have the green light to legendary costume stylist and designer Edith Head to purchase a Hermès accessories for the film To Catch a Thief, which starred Grace Kelly. According to Head, Kelly "fell in love" with the bag. Within months of her 1956 marriage to Prince Rainier III, the pregnant Princess of Monaco was photographed using the handbag to shield her growing belly from the paparazzi. That photograph was featured in Life magazine.

In general, the Kelly bag is a trapezium-shaped bag that is closed with two straps. There are four studs, called four clou, on the bottom, which allows it to stand on the ground without scratching the leather on the base of the bag. It is sold in eight sizes, ranging from 15 centimetres (5.9 inches) to 50 centimetres (20 inches). 

The padlock, keys and hardware are made of white or yellow gold. It is said that the construction of each Kelly bag requires 18 to 25 hours of handicraft, with each item being created by a single artisan. Thus, you know why the bag itself has a hefty price tag.