The Style of Coco Chanel
It is undeniable that the world of fashion has known two eras: the one before Coco Chanel and the one after. Chanel forever changed womenswear simply by staying true to herself.
This desire proved to be the greatest incentive in her formidable career as one of the 20th century’s most iconic fashion designers.
Coco Chanel’s main inspiration came from the men in her life and the seven years she spent in a convent as an orphan. While being fond of black, white and gold, which was reminiscent of the religious attire she saw everyday in the orphanage, she was fascinated by menswear and loved the way it was both functional and, since her lovers were always wealthy aristocrats, luxurious.
Early on, she decided to apply the same rules to the clothes she designed as to how she dressed herself: simplicity, functionality, beauty and quality. Her designs first appealed to the simple working women, but soon the women of high society started to come to her boutique on Rue Cambon in Paris. Indeed, they recognized right away the subtle elegance of the garments she created and the comfort they offered while wearing them.
Chanel, a true innovator, had started changing the dress codes for women when she began shortening her own dresses, revealing her ankles, freeing herself from the corsets she hated, cutting her hair short in a boyish style and letting the sun shine on her skin with no protection.
She was a rebel and answered to no one but herself. Ultimately, it was her desire to be free and the reason behind her desire to create an empire. An entrepreneur in the purest sense of the term, her indomitable spirit, along with her stunning sense of style, was at the core of Coco Chanel’s success throughout her life. "Luxury is the ability to make a living by oneself", she once said.
The five Chanel icons:
1. Chanel No 5
“I wanted an artificial perfume. That’s right, artificial like a dress: meaning manufactured. I am a designer of couture. I want a perfume that is a composition.” Coco Chanel
This was an unprecedented move in the world of fragrances at the time.
Chanel No 5 was created by Ernest Beaux, Russian and French perfumer to the tsars, who presented her with many scents. She chose the fifth one and decided not to give it another name, since five was her lucky number. She launched the perfume on the fifth of the fifth month of the year: May 5th, 1921.
Indeed, the number was good to her. Today, Chanel No 5 is still the most sold perfume in the world. The unadorned bottle is a work of art in itself and embodies perfectly the essence of Chanel’s couture: simple, elegant and luxurious.
2. The Little Black Dress
In 1926, Chanel created what American Vogue called the “Ford” of fashion: the Little Black Dress, affordable and chic. It was another revolutionary fashion move for Chanel, since at the time black was only worn by mourners or house servants. Black became the new chic, because Chanel had decided so, and the fate of the LBD was sealed for eternity. Since then, any woman, anywhere, at any age, from any background, can wear this instant classic, in any fabric and any design. She will always look stylish, no matter the fashion of the moment. This was the genius of Chanel.
3. The 2.55 quilted handbag
Named after the date of its conception, the iconic handbag was created in 1955 by Chanel, who was tired of carrying her purse in her hand. She drew inspiration from the military satchel equipped with straps the soldiers wore during the war. She gave the bag a quilted diamond pattern on the exterior and a long chain strap, interwoven with leather. Like anything else Chanel, the alchemist, touched, the bag became instant gold in the world of fashion and is now a star piece to the stars and fashionable women alike.
4. The two-tone shoe
Coco Chanel designed the seminal two-tone slingback in 1957 to create a trompe l’ceil effect. Through the beige contrasting with the black toe cap, the shoe gave the illusion that the foot was smaller while it lengthened the leg. It was flattering and innovative....so very Chanel!
The two-tone is such a timeless classic that it now exists in beige or white with black in a variety of designs: flats, high heels, boots.
5. The Chanel jacket
Originally a men's military jacket, Chanel reinterpreted the garment because of its functionality. Four real pockets on the front and buttons with button holes, a rarity at the time. The fashion forward detail, so typically Chanel: the small chain sewn into the silk lining to allow the jacket to fall perfectly.
She chose to create the jacket in tweed, one of her favorite fabrics. Today the iconic classic has become an absolute wardrobe essential for women of style or girls who dare, just like Chanel did in her youth, to have fun with it.
.....and then tons of faux pearls, statement jewelry and ribbons
Chanel loved to wear endless strands of pearls contrasting with her signature black. Costume jewelry was her inspiration, bold and opulent. It made an exquisite, glamorous statement on the clean and simple lines of her outfits, which she also occasionally loved to adorn with ribbons. This, indeed, along with her love for black and white, was truly her signature style. The beauty of it all is that, today, any girl can have a Chanel moment just by emulating this glamorous sartorial choice of hers.
Chanel, the pioneer
Coco Chanel’s rebellious and daring spirit helped forever transform the way women dressed and moved in their clothes. She did this with a formidable style, an unapologetic authenticity, fearlessly following her instinct and never compromising her vision. All her life she stayed true to one of her most famous quotes: “Keep your heels, head and standards high”.