lust and found: vintage Hermès kelly bag

vintage 1990s Hermès 35cm retourne kelly

deep breath. yes, this is the vintage Hermès Kelly of my dreams.

i had been stalking vintage ones online for ages, and saw quite a few boxcalf ones from the 1970s all the way to the late 1990s that i liked, but for one reason or another, they weren't quite right. until i found this one - it was a custom order kelly (hence the gorgeous and unique tan trim details), and the woman who originally commissioned it barely used it. the leather is a naturally grained leather (i think it's ardennes), and the tan trim is another leather (chamonix?). if anyone is familiar with Hermès leathers, i'd love to hear your thoughts.

i am completely over the moon. after i decided to part ways with the Chanel, i realized that a vintage Hermès would be the perfect combination of craftsmanship, design, and function. if you know where to look online and at reputable reseller shops, many vintage H bags are actually not much more (and in many cases, comparable) in price to Chanel at retail...something to consider if you are looking to take the plunge on an investment bag but think that Hermes is way out of your reach. you'd be surprised!

so here's my mini review: this is pretty much The Perfect Bag. the 35cm size is just the right size for everyday - not too big but a lot more functional than many of the smaller 'lady bags'. i didn't want a kelly that was too small, as i think a bag in this style can veer towards slightly prissy if the proportion is off. because the leather is naturally grained, it is low-maintenance, scratch-resistant, and holds its shape well. however, due to the retourne (rounded seams vs the sellier/'turned out') stitching, it doesn't look too stiff or formal either. the perfect balance of elegant-casual. i was also really lucky as the original owner had everything - dustbags, two H straps (canvas and leather), and the original lock and key. oftentimes vintage kellys will be missing the strap (they weren't included with the bag until recently, and are very pricey to get brand-new), so to have all the original accessories is just amazing.

last but not least, i love the two-tone details...such a cool twist on that old-fashioned sartorial rule of 'no brown and black'!

i have to say, i feel incredibly lucky and rather undeserving of this gorgeous bag. but i know i will wear it for years and years and years, and it will be such a special piece in my wardrobe.

is there an investment/holy grail item that is on your list or is a recent purchase that is really special to you? please do share!


  1. Aaaaaahhhhhh!!!
    Bag lust. And envy. But mostly lust. Whatever will you wear with it??

  2. Omg you have my dream bag. And it what looks like such a durable leather that will weather nicely, not something to feel too precious about! The colour combination is so interesting too, like a pint of Guinness (and I mean that as a compliment!) so rich.

    I just blew a sizeable chunk of money on scuba diving equipment, so I think investment shopping is off the agenda... until I get to Paris, haha.

    Congrats on your buy and I can't wait to see you rock it!

  3. So beautiful! Even more so than the initial pictures I saw. I'm starting to wonder . . . given the white stitching, perhaps the tan trim portions are barenia. It's impossible to tell if it's chamonix or barenia (or another leather like Vache) without a very close up shot.

    I have a black and light brown Hermès Jige, and the usefulness is beyond measure. It's great to have a classic bag that breaks that sartorial rule, as it changes how your wardrobe is used.

    While not my dream-dream bag, I found a vintage Hermès red box variation on the Kelly. It's being shipped to my new address. I can't wait to see it. I'm not quite up for the classic Kelly, but a sportif version is right up my alley!

  4. That is just plain beautiful. I love the two-tone. Just that bit of difference.

  5. Congratulations! that is an absolutely beautiful bag-- wear it in good health!

  6. It's gorgeous! Congratulations - hope you enjoy it for many years to come!

  7. Congratulations. Currently my big investment purchases was buying all new tires. Ouch!

  8. damn, woman!! that is a gorgeous bag! i love that it is two-tone. not only is it a really pretty color combination, but it makes it stand out from all the other kelly bags out there. congratulations!

  9. Pennerad: i plan on wearing everything and anything with it! :) to me this is the ultimate goes-with-everything neutral bag!

    lin: thanks! i rather like the sound of that...a Guinness bag sounds like the kind of bag that's lots of fun and not the least bit high-maintenance ;)

    Aesthetic Alterations: i may email you a close up pic and ask for your expertise...i looked on TPF too but so far no luck in figuring this out. still boggles my mind that Hermes has so many different kinds of leathers!

    and congrats on your recent kelly! what size is it? and is it the rouge box color? do a post on it when you're done with the move :)

    LPC: thank you! when i first saw it i wasn't sold on it, but the more i looked at it the more i loved it :)

    Veuve & Ammu: thanks - i will! :)

    Pret a Porter P: oy! :( well, yours is an investment in safety, which is priceless.

    jennifer: thanks! i like that it's ridiculously luxurious, yet subverting traditional sartorial aesthetics at the same time.

  10. Stunning, stunning bag. Please post some pics with it in different outfits!
    I have yet to find my dream bag...or describe it. Yours is so timeless and breathtaking, though I doubt you'll feel overwhelmed by it. It will surely become a part of you ;) Congrats!!

  11. wow its so beautiful!! I love the mix of black and brown, an especially cool way to subvert the no black and brown rule since hermes is so traditional. I noticed you have a vintage coach kelly so at least you know the style and shape works for you. I would love a kelly in Burgundy, or black but the SC x LV bag in navy (pm size) is my dream bag..
    I also love the Celine box bag. However I'm still at University so they are purchases I won't be making for a long time.. I think in a way even if I had the conscience to spend the money now I would want to wait till I am a little bit older (I'm only 20). BTW, looking at your outfit posts I think you are really really good at styling ladylike bags in a way that makes them look low key and like the outfit is not all about the bag if you know what I mean.
    Just wondering, were you thinking about investing in a Chanel in light of your comment about vintage hermes being similar to the retail of a Chanel? If so, why did you choose this bag over a Chanel (which are overpriced IMO)?

  12. Eva: thanks - i will! :D i thought i would baby it like some holy relic, but actually wore it out for the first time today and it feels like i've always had it. this is a very good sign!

    a: i know! that's the first thing i thought of when i saw it. it's funny, because i'm not really a very ladylike person! lol. much more of a tomboy in my style, but a part of me really loves the elegant lines of the true classic handbags.

    i know exactly what you mean about waiting to get an investment bag. i wouldn't have dreamed of something like this when i was in college. the SC bag is gorgeous. i hope they come out with some new colors for the a/w collection, as the SC bags this season were all cancelled due to production problems!

    i had a vintage Chanel jumbo flap bag, but realized it was too blingy for my taste and just wasn't 'me'. i agree with you that current Chanel bags are way overpriced. i almost got a 2.55 flap bag, but after examining it i saw that there was visible glue on the turnlock flap - a terrible turn-off. if you're going to get Chanel, try to get a vintage one - they are really well made.

    i've always wanted a concise Hermes bag collection, and it just made sense that if i were going to pay some serious $$ for a handbag, it had to be handcrafted of the highest quality, elegant, and understated. for me, Hermes is all of these things!

  13. omg, that is so bad about Chanel, especially considering the high price.
    I have read similar things on forums and such about quality issues. You sound like you made the right choice, hermes is more understated than Chanel I think and obviously makes quality a priority = )

  14. oh my goodness! outfit pics. now! it is just stunning and one of a kind. love it :) i just pre ordered a white/gray/burgundy celine luggage bag. BIG investment for me :)

  15. Big congrats Miss Sophie, she's amazing! Love the gold/black combo, it's two-tone but still neutral enough to go with everything. And the leather is definitely better than box calf if you don't want to baby your bag(you know what I mean, right?). ;-)

    It's meant to be yours and I am sure you deserved her.<3 Enjoy this beauty in best health! I am so happy for you!

    BTW, the pictures are to small to tell the leather type. But I am not an expert myself. xixi

  16. BTW, I forgot to add that my recent investment item is my Iris Kelly (as you already know, lol).

  17. oh an I forgot to ask before, if you have seen/felt etc the SC x LV bags in real life, how would you rate them in comparison to Hermes and Chanel or other luxury designers?

  18. a: yeah and unfortunately, i had a pretty bad customer service/quality experience with an indie bag company (see my billkyirk post in my top ten), so i learned the hard way that true, quality craftsmanship and company accountability for the product is something that is rare these days.

    another thing to consider: while Chanel will repair their bags, it was a fashion house first and foremost. Hermes and LV specialize in luggage and leather goods. i'd rather spend my $$ with a company that made their name and expertise in bags...and i think its so great that Hermes will take in a vintage or new bag for repairs and reconditioning, and if the craftsman who originally hand-made the bag is still around, they'll ship it back to them for the repair. that's just pretty amazing and totally worth the price IMO.

    i have seen the SC bags in person and i'd say the leather (thick, supple, luxurious) is really the best out of any of the LV bags. it feels like a really well made, hardy bag. some other people have noted that the SC bags are the closest to Hermes leather that LV has to offer, and i believe it. the details are really great - suede lining, understated hardware, etc.

    la fille mal Gardee: i'll post some later this week and i'm sure you'll be seeing the kelly a lot in my blog from now on :) your Celine sounds wonderful! would love to see pics too :)

    q9y8: thank you!! :D your blog is very inspiring for all things H and your personal style. i'm SO glad the leather is very hardy - i hate being too precious with things. takes out the whole pleasure of enjoying them!

  19. Congratulations, she's gorgeous! I can't wait to see you wear it so I can see how it looks styled! I did some thinking recently about investment bags, and I found I really wanted three: Celine Luggage, Celine Classic Box, and Celine Clasp Shoulderbag. There's just something about Celine that makes me feel like I could carry it and not baby it. Some of the other bags are just too classic in the sense of a classic Chevy for me--too much history, too many connotations, etc. I like the idea of a Birkin as a sign of personal achievement but, honestly, the depth of the association kind of puts me off--the personality of the bag would overwhelm me. Not to mention, 9,000+USD would probably make me baby the bag until I didn't want to carry it anymore. I kind of like the idea of getting a bag that doesn't come with so much baggage, and can just do what bags do: carry stuff around!

  20. georgeous- what a great find! i love the grain, and the contrasting tones, so unusual.

  21. That's what I call an investment! The bag is absolutely beautiful & with a character. :) I really the combination of the leather and colors here.

  22. Oh my goodness. Where on earth did you find this beauty!?


  23. V, son, and Ginta: thank you! :-)

    0000: haha! well put! i know what you mean - for now i'm still thinking that i'll get a birkin someday as a milestone gift for myself. the Celine bags since Phoebe Philo came to the helm have really heralded the return of classicism and restraint to luxury accessories. i think that's a good thing - there were way too many bells and whistles going on in accessories for the past decade!

    although - i do think that if you really love a particular handbag enough, you will probably be able to wear it in your own way, and not the other way around :)

    Alexandra: i bought it from the original owner who had commissioned the custom bag.

  24. Wow! That is an amazing find! Congrats!! I've beenn wanting a vintage Kelly forever so was wondering if you were willing to post more info on how you went about finding this beauty? The only ways I know about are ebay ( which of course leaves you with huge potential to get scammed) or these French secondhand shops I keep reading about. Since I don't live in France that's not much help either so would love to hear any tips you have!

    I'm sure you're going to enjoy this bag for a really long time!

  25. beansontost: thank you! :D this was an ebay find, and yes you have to do all your homework and research on ebay listings. for peace of mind i recommend checking with the ladies on the Purse Forum for authenticity, and reading up as much as you can on the style and brand before purchasing. although paypal and ebay have MUCH better buyer protection now for fakes, so even if you get the misfortune of buying a counterfeit, you can def put in a claim and get your $$ back.

    karin: thanks dear - so nice to see you pop by!! :D

  26. love love love the bag avec the canvas strap!

  27. i love your bag sophie . i want like this bag please guide me

  28. If you eveeeeer think of selling or parting with this bag, PLEASE let me know first! I am going to treasure as it's my dream bag too and I don't have one yet.....:-)))

  29. if you ever want to sell your Kelly, pl know there is a potential buyer here!!!

  30. Beautiful! this is my dream bag as well. I'm currently saving for a kelly.


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