The Kelly bag (formerly known as the Sac à dépêches) is a leather handbag designed by the Paris-based, high-fashion luxury-goods manufacturer Hermès. Originally a saddle holder, it was redesigned several times before it was popularized by and then named after the American actress and Monégasque princess Grace Kelly. The bag is now an expensive status symbol.
The Kelly bag is a trapezium closed with two straps. Four studs on the bottom, itself made of three layers of leather, enable it to stand on the ground. 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. The construction of each Kelly bag requires 18 to 25 hours of handicraft, with each item being created by a single artisan, resulting in high retail prices. By the mid-1990s, a Kelly bag was priced at US$3,500, and as of 2016, prices range from US$10,000 to US$12,000.
The prototype of the Kelly bag, introduced around 1892, was a large bag used for holding a saddle, and was known as Haut à courroies because of its high handle. In 1923, Émile-Maurice Hermès and Ettore Bugatti designed a thoroughly simple and plain bag for Hermès's wife Julie. It was meant to fit into a car door and to allow riders to carry their saddle. In the 1930s, Hermès's son-in-law Robert Dumas redesigned it as a spacious travel bag called Sac à dépêches. It was a sharp contrast to the dominant purses of the time, which were simple, small and flat, resembling envelopes. The handbag gradually went on to become stiff and boxy.
Association with Grace Kelly
Alfred Hitchcock has been credited with bringing the handbag into the limelight. In 1954, Hitchcock allowed the costume designer Edith Head to purchase Hermès accessories for the film To Catch a Thief, starring 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. A Hollywood celebrity from a wealthy Philadelphia family and married to a European monarch, Princess Grace was a fashion icon, and the handbag immediately achieved great popularity. Although the handbag instantly became known as the Kelly bag, it was not officially renamed until 1977.
The handbag with which Princess Grace was photographed was loaned from the palace archives of Monaco and displayed in the Victoria and Albert Museum in April 2010, along with other notable wardrobe items owned by the Princess. The "star exhibit" of the show contains scuffs and marks, as the wardrobe thrifty Princess carried it for many years. Hermès now creates 32 styles of handbags, but the Kelly persists as the manufacturer's best-seller.
In popular culture
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- Birkin bag, a Hermès product which also originated from a travel bag and was named after the actress Jane Birkin
- It Bag
- Wedding dress of Grace Kelly
- "The story of the Kelly bag". sofeminine.co.uk. Retrieved 18 July 2013.
- Groer, Annie (28 June 2006). "Hermes v. Hermes". The Washington Post. Retrieved 18 July 2013.
- "Hermès International S.A. History". encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 18 July 2013.
- Parr, Christopher. "History of the Hermes Kelly Bag and Grace Kelly". Pursuitist. Retrieved 18 July 2013.
- Bidini, Caterina. "Story of handbags: Kelly Bag". bidinis.com. Bidinis. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
- Steele, Valerie (2010). The Berg Companion to Fashion. Berg. p. 405. ISBN 1847885632.
- Cosgrave, Bronwyn (31 March 2010). "Grace Kelly's style". The Telegraph. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
- Cartner-Morley, Jess (16 April 2010). "Grace Kelly exhibition features famous battered handbag". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
- Nikkhah, Roya (22 November 2009). "Grace Kelly's wardrobe to go on display at V&A museum in London". The Telegraph. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
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