Chanel is the embodiment of women’s emancipation. A 20th Century Revolution appearing in the guise of a young woman she broke with everyday customs. Taking the corset out of a woman’s wardrobe she liberated the body. Her fashions defied the concept of a weaker sex.
Due to an existing couture shop at 31 Rue Cambon Chanel was unable to produce couture dresses at her boutique. This entrepreneurial woman undeterred began selling hats. Later donning menswear at Deauville she introduced an alluring mix between the feminine and masculine, emphasizing comfort over convention. An era affected by WWI had women working in factories and Chanel knew women needed clothes that would hold up to the conditions of the time. Borrowing elements from menswear she sold flannel blazers, long jersey sweaters and sailor tops at her Deauville and Biarritz boutiques.
Her dress of old jersey on a cold day became the springboard to her career. This innovation was a first for French fashion popularizing jersey and as she told author Paul Morand, “My fortune is built on that old jersey that I’d put on because it was cold in Deauville.” Instead of distorting a woman’s shape as did the fashion of time she cut long slender dresses to flatter the figure.
In 1920 she launched Chanel No. 5, her lucky number. Chanel explained parfum , “is the unseen, unforgettable, ultimate accessory of fashion…..that heralds your arrival and prolongs your departure.” Scent became a fashion accessory like Chanel’s costume jewelry. Believing that jewels were meant to decorate, not display wealth she introduced us to fakes. Due to their largess they could not be mistaken for the real thing and complimented the simple lines and casual elegance in her sophisticated designs.
Her originality swam against the current. Blazing new trails her collarless, well fitted jacket has become a legendary suit. The quintessence of her quilted fabric is said to be reinforced with a “secret” quilting pattern increasing the materials strength. Even black, traditionally only for mourning, was transformed to day-to-day wear giving birth to the little black dress.
The staying power of Chanel’s timeless-basic silhouettes has remained generation to generation. An artist Chanel even worked as a costumier for the Ballet Russes, Jean Cocteau’s plays including Orphée as well as films such as Renoir’s La Regle deJeu.
The world bid À bientôt to Coco Chanel on January 10, 1971 at the church of Madeleine. Beyond her legendary contributions to fashion her life story has remained a fascination. Including a multitude of biographies her story has become the basis for film, television and stage alike. Played by such iconic women as Katherine Hepburn in the Broadway Musical Coco and Shirley MacLaine in Coco Chanel, and most recently in Coco Before Chanel she is memorialized. Shirley MacLaine said “What’s wonderful about Chanel is she is not a straightforward, easy woman to understand.”
What Chanel says …………
“Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it isn’t luxury.”
“Fashion Fades, only style stays the same.”
“To be irreplaceable, we must be different.”
“Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.”
“Women think of all colors except the absence of color. I have said that black has it all. White too. Their beauty is absolute. It is the perfect harmony.”
“Dress sharply and they`ll remember the outfit; dress impeccably and they`ll remember the woman.”