I’m gonna be honest, for you who doesn’t know me, I’m NOT a huge fan of Chanel. I think its a lady-like brand that makes stuff for the “older generation” to be frank. Everything from the clothes to the bags scream fashionable older woman to me and I would never choose to own a Chanel-bag if I had the choice. Nonetheless, Coco Chanel is a big icon and she’s done a huge amount for the fashion world and where it is today. Thoygh I need to say, I really appreciate the shoes Chanel put out there and also the iconic cut on the “Chanel”-jacket – when I want to be preppy.
Coco Chanel working in her Paris atelier in 1962, shot by Douglas Kirkland
Simplicity is the keynote of all elegance” or “ Fashion fades, only style remains the same,” Coco Chanel’s legacy lives on not only through the leading luxury fashion house she founded, but also her eternally relevant comments about style.
The interlocking Cs remain one of the ultimate status symbols and Coco’s bobbed hair, bright red lips and forthright manner broke the mould, as she revolutionised women’s fashion in the early 20th century.
The Little Black Dress
The women’s wardrobe staple that is the Little Black Dress originates from a Coco Chanel design from 1926, which appeared as an illustration in American
Vogue. Vogue editors christened the ‘Ford’ dress after the era’s classic black car, asserting that the chic, long-sleeved design in unlined crèpe de chine would “become sort of a uniform for all women of taste.”
The innovative dress was a radical update for the modern women, revolutionary for both its striking silhouette and dark tone; since the Victorian times black had been associated with mourning. However, for
Coco, black was the epitome of simple elegance and always one to subvert tradition, she was the key proponent in making black a colour that could be worn everyday. Rival couturier Paul Poiret reportedly scoffed at Chanel in the street, mockingly asking her, The quick-witted designer responded, “What are you in mourning for, Mademoiselle?” Touché! “For you, dear Monsieur.” Trousers for Women
Coco Chanel in 1930, with her dog, Gigot
broke out in 1914, though women who worked within the public sector continued to wear skirts, many women who took on more manuel roles began to wear trousers and overalls in the workplace. WWI Coco Chanel loved wearing trousers herself, often borrowing her boyfriend’s suits, and she began designing trousers for women to wear while doing sports and other activities. Soon trousers became a fashion choice for women rather than merely a functional garment. The Introduction of Jersey
Coco Chanel wearing a jersey suit in Biarritz, 1928
Coco Chanel opened her first shop in a large number of the garments were made of jersey. Accustomed to silks, satins and other luxury materials, many of Paris, customers were shocked by her choice of a fabric traditionally used for men’s underwear. However, the innovative designer saw the potential for womenswear with the fabric as it wasn’t expensive, draped well and suited her clientele’s increasingly busy and active lifestyle. Chanel’s “I make fashion women can live in, breath in, feel comfortable in and look younger in,” asserted. Chanel The 2.55 Handbag
In the 1920s,
Coco Chanel grew tired of carrying her handbags in her hand and decided to design a bag that liberated her arms. Inspired by the straps found on soldiers’ bags she added thin straps and introduced the predecessor to the 2.55 bag in When 1929. Coco returned to fashion in the mid 50s, she updated her design, creating the iconic 2.55 named after the date it was born, February 1955. The Braid-trimmed boucle collarless jacket
Marie-Helene Arnaud, the Allure of Chanel, shot by Sante Forlan, 1958
bouclé Chanel (buckled tweed) jacket is undoubtedly one of fashion’s most elegant and most timeless pieces. Created in 1954 by the then 71-year-old Coco Chanel, the jacket was designed to free women from the constraints of the cinched-in silhouettes of the Fifties. Designer Perfume
1920s Advert Chanel No. 5
In an interview in the early 1950s
Marilyn Monroe famously said: and within days sales of the perfume skyrocketed. The fragrance was born some 30 years earlier when “What do I wear to bed? Why, Chanel No. 5 of course,” Coco Chanel met a Russian émigré, who introduced her to a Russian perfumer, Ernest Beaux. After month’s of arduous experimentation, Beaux presented Coco with ten samples of perfume. Coco chose the sample No. 5 and when asked why she responded: “I always launch my collection on the 5th day of the 5th months, so the number 5 seems to bring me luck – therefore, I will name it No. 5.”
It was the first man-made perfume, using synthetic compounds rather than essential oils. Introduced in May 1921,
is still the best-selling perfume in the world. Chanel No. 5 Costume Jewellery and Faux Pearls
Coco Chanel by Lipnitzki, 1936
Coco Chanel greatly popularised the use of faux jewellery, bringing everyday, less expensive pieces into the mainstream with gold and fake pearls. Made from chains, beads and glass that were designed to be worn with casual daywear, Coco reasoned that women should be able to buy more affordable jewellery to accessorise with everyday, rather than only possessing a few, precious gemstones. Sailor Tops
Coco Chanel by Robert Schall, Paris, 1938
Designed for functional purposes, the traditional cream and blue ‘La Mariniere’ became the official uniform of navy seamen in Brittany after the 1858 Act of France. Since then the Breton top has become one of the most stylish items, worn and adored by many of the world’s most revered fashion icons such as
Brigitte Bardot, Edie Sedgwick, Audrey Hepburn, Jane Birkin and Alexa Chung.
But it was of course
Coco Chanel who made it such a coveted piece of clothing. Spotting it on sailors whilst on holiday on the made the stripes popular amongst her set and it heavily influenced her 1917 nautical collection. French Riviera, Coco The Chanel Suit
Coco Chanel in her atelier fitting actress Romy Schneider in the 1960s
On the 5th August 1923
Coco Chanel invited a small group of journalists to her salon at 31 Rue Cambon to unveil her new collection, which included the first suit. The editors were underwhelmed by it and the tweed twinset barely got a mention in reviews. Chanel
In 1939 when
broke out, WWII Coco closed her shop and moved to . Upon her return Switzerland and fashion in 1954, she reintroduced the Paris suit as we now know it featuring a knee-length skirt, cardigan-style jacket, trimmed and decorated with black embroidery and gold-coloured buttons. This time around it was far better received and has become one of Coco’s most iconic creations. Chanel The Chanel two-two pump
Coco introduced the two-tone spectator pump, a sleek beige chassis with a chic black toe-cap, inspired by men’s sportswear as so many of her innovative designs were. Over fifty years later and the bi-coloured ballet flat is still one of the most elegant footwear choices for fashionable women across the world.