You knew this already, but we'll reiterate for the sake of this article: First Lady Melania Trump has a soft spot for the finer things in life. Whereas first ladies before her may have chosen to mix high and low brands while in office (Michelle Obama was celebrated for repping relatable brands like J.Crew, though she knew how to rock Versace, too), Melania has decidedly forgone that route—save for that $39 Zara jacket with a message.
During Donald’s first European trip in May 2017, she turned to Dolce & Gabbana for a $51,500 floral coat, and she’s continued sending a "more is more" message since, sporting flashy, $795 Christian Louboutin heels, $4,000 Delpozo coats, and enormous, custom-made white hats designed by her personal stylist (what a luxury!), Hervé Pierre. She's the First Lady, yes, but she's still a Trump.
That said, there’s no greater marker of opulent and lavish taste than the Hermès Birkin, the handbag that Trump has proudly wielded since Donald took office. First released in 1984, the bag was developed following a chance encounter on an airplane between then-Hermès chief executive Jean-Louis Dumas and actress and style icon Jane Birkin, who bemoaned the lack of a practical, yet still bohemian bag. Thus, the Birkin was born.
Since its release, the bag has been in high demand, but the French fashion house doesn’t share how many Birkin bags it produces each year, and trying to nail down exactly how much any one can cost is complicated. One cannot simply walk into an Hermès boutique and ask to buy a Birkin.
Melania, however, has managed to amass quite the collection.
She first made headlines for choosing to carry what looks like a camel-colored Clemence Birkin in gold for her official move into the White House in June 2017 (she didn't immediately move to D.C. after the inauguration, choosing to stay in NYC while Barron finished out the school year), and since, she’s decided to wear that prized possession selectively. Here's the thing: It’s hard to confirm how many Birkin bags Melania owns, but following that appearance, we’ve spotted the First Lady toting six distinct versions—all of which come with a hefty price tag.
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In order to wrap our heads around the sum of all her bags, we turned to the experts for a second opinion. In doing so, we learned that it's important to understand the many ways in which you can go about getting a Birkin. Customers can choose to either a) work closely with Hermès or b) find one on the resale market (that includes auctions), which will prove more expensive, but ultimately easier than working with the highly selective brand.
According to a buyer from What Goes Around Comes Around, a luxury vintage retailer that specializes in archival fashion (WGACA is a go-to for Hollywood stylists in search of designer vintage), who preferred not to be named, it's exclusivity that helps keep these bags so expensive. And to keep them exclusive, there's a vetting process. "You have to have a sales record with [Hermès] and have purchased many other things in the past," the buyer told InStyle in reference to the hush-hush nature of getting one from the brand itself.
Aside from regularly shopping at the store, you can also receive preferential treatment by simply being a VIP. People of extreme wealth, status, or celebrity can often be deemed worthy of shopping for one, though that's entirely up to Hermès, who will also determine what skin, color, and hardware they're willing to sell to you—not the other way around. The lack of control is why some customers prefer to head directly to the resale market, where, if price is no object, the sky's the limit.
Interestingly enough, even A-list celebrities can get cut off from buying directly from the store if they've purchased too many bags, which happens. "Every client is given a certain amount that they're able to purchase in a year," says Caitlin Donovan, Vice President, Head of Sale, Handbag and Accessories at Christie's auction house, which has specialists dedicated to handbag authentication. So many rules! "Even top Hermès clients often will supplement their collections by shopping secondary," she tells InStyle, meaning if local customers simply have to have another Birkin, shopping outside of the main store—though often significantly more expensive—is a common option.
Trump's bags reflect the fact that she is indeed a collector. The bags she's racked up (there's a maroon, black, navy, and lighter tan style in the mix) are what Donovan describes as "must-haves" for a Birkin collector. Her black crocodile Birkin? "If you walked into Hermès today and were able to purchase it, the price tag with tax would be close to $75,000," Donovan adds. (The WGACA buyer notes a crocodile Birkin can start at $45,000 at the Hermès store.)
And what about the price of an average bag? The most expensive Birkin ever sold—also the world's most expensive handbag—went at auction for $379,261 in 2017, but that's a rarity. According to WGACA, Birkins can be priced as low as $4,000 for an extremely used, tattered up style (some customers prefer this), while prices soar dramatically once you introduce finer materials like ostrich leather and crocodile. Those bags can begin at about $20,000 and fly into the hundreds of thousands.
For a brand-new bag straight from the Hermès store, you'll likely pay around $9,000, with the ballpark average being $12,000. Prices vary depending on the country it's sold in, as well as the medium (what it's made of), the style, and the condition. Donovan estimates that for a 35 cm (the larger style you're most accustomed to seeing, compared to a 30 cm) Birkin from the store, you'd better be prepared to hand over around $13,000.
So what does this mean for Melania? We estimated the total amount of money she's spent on the six handbags below, which only include the Birkins we've seen her carry since moving into the White House in 2017. For consistency, we added up the estimates based on in-store, rather than resale prices. As Donovan notes, there's no clear way of knowing whether they were purchased in-store or via resale. ("Fifty percent of the bags in an auction are brand new, never used. There'd be no way to tell by looking at the bag where she purchased them from," she says.) So, ready for the conservative estimated total, assuming Melania bought the bags in an Hermès store? $114,000.
And while yes, spending that much money might seem ridiculous, it's apparently normal for Hermès collectors to pick up Birkins like candy. "It's not uncommon for a woman who collects to have multiples in different sizes and colors," the WGACA representative adds.
In fact, there's one sign that points at Melania's outrageous wealth, and it's the way in which she carries her bag. As pointed out by the WGACA buyer, the Birkin is known for having a complex flap system that's held together with a lock, meaning opening and closing it can be kind of complicated. Melania, however, always carries her Birkins with the flap completely open. Casual.
At the end of the day, the Birkin is the ultimate symbol of status, a suggestion of power, and something that reminds Americans and the foreign diplomats she's visiting that yes, she defines l-u-x-u-r-y.
Below, all six of Trump's Birkins, including their estimated cost based on the WGACA buyer's examination of the images.