Sunday, 19 August 2012

Coco Chanel's Legacy

It's 129 years since the birth of Coco Chanel, a woman who has revolutionised the world of fashion in such a powerful way that we still associate certain clothes with her, such as the little black dress and tailored suits. 

Coco Chanel
Coco Chanel, 1929.

She was undoubtedly a visionary, liberating women from the constraints of uncomfortable corsets and letting them move freely and feel at ease with her unique effortlessly chic style.

Coco Chanel
Coco Chanel. The 'Little Black Dress', 1926.

"Fashion has become a joke. The designers have forgotten that there are women inside the dresses. Most women dress for men and want to be admired . But they must also move, to get into a car without bursting their seams! Clothes must have a natural shape."  Coco Chanel

Coco Chanel
Coco Chanel. Evening ensemble, 1937-38 (V&A)

Just as her words, her clothes are timeless. Chanel's glamorous evening dresses and ensembles could easily be worn today. This short tailored bolero jacket and loose straight trousers reveal how she anticipated the direction fashion would take in the 1960s and 1970s towards an androgynous look.

Coco Chanel and Romy Schneider

But she is definitely more famous for her suits and chic day wear. We all recognise the skirt tailored suit with Chanel's unmistakable cut, popularised by prominent women in the limelight. 

Coco Chanel and Jackie Kennedy
Coco Chanel and Jackie Kennedy

Despite her challenging background, her talent and perseverance enabled her to build an empire. She was the first designer to ever lend her name to a fragrance, the legendary Chanel No. 5.

"What do I wear in bed? Why, Chanel No. 5, of course." Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe and Chanel No. 5

Coco Chanel was totally devoted to her business and worked until the end of her life. She continues to inspire many people and a wide range of writers have been publishing books about her including Justine Picardie, who has shed light on the person behind the brand. 

"Fashion passes. Style remains." Coco Chanel

Chanel Evening Dress, 1938. (MET)

But despite the controversy and tragic elements of her life, Chanel will always represent a turning point in fashion history and her style is very much alive today. My guess is that it will continue to thrive for the foreseeable future.

Chanel Couture
Chanel couture show, Autumn/Winter 2012-13. (

Other related blog posts:
Coco Chanel, an Ongoing Inspiration
Art Deco Fashion
Marilyn Monroe by Lawrence Schiller

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