Coco Chanel. Seamstress. Fashion designer. Fashion icon. Life-stylist?
Whether you live or die by Coco Chanel’s fashion mantras (there are so many, how can you possibly keep track) or couldn’t care any less about her or her fashion legacy, one thing is certain: Coco Chanel made an impact on the fashion world that can still be seen on every woman out on the streets this very day. True, her fashion line continues today under the guiding hands of Karl Lagerfeld who designs for Chanel as if embodied by Coco herself; Lagerfeld seems to capture the straight lines, black and white motifs and casual elegance that Chanel emphasized in her designs and they still look as modern today as they did in 1926. However, it is not the House of Chanel alone that carries on the Chanel image, for Chanel’s fashions go much deeper than clothing alone. Prior to Chanel, clothing was fashion, yet, Chanel was able to transform fashion into a lifestyle.
During Chanel’s own life, she wasn’t afraid of telling people she was 10 years younger than she really was or becoming a mistress – multiple times over. In fact it was probably these traits that helped her open her own millinery shop and eventually create such popularity for herself that she was able to move on to fashion. And when she moved on she moved away from the normal trends of the time which were usually defined by shape altering garments such as the corset. Instead, Chanel loosened things up by making everything a touch more casual. The corset was discarded, skirt lengths were shortened and a more looser-fit for clothing was adopted overall.
Chanel introduced jersey fabric to French fashions and eventually designed and introduced a number of key pieces which she thought every woman should have. Those pieces were: that â€œlittle black dress,” a pair of black dress pants, a cardigan jacket and a suit, and last, but certainly not least, costume jewelry. Chanel’s key pieces are still necessities for the modern woman. Women go all-out to find the perfect â€œLBD,” though it may not be a Chanel; and the day a woman can afford a Chanel suit is the day she purchases a Chanel suit.
It is not in designing clothing alone that Chanel made her mark, but she also put her stamp on the perfume industry as well. She was the first designer to have her own perfume; originally the scent was to be given to the patrons of her shop and the fitting rooms were immersed in Chanel No. 5. Now, the scent is the most popular the world over, selling more than any other perfume. While Chanel was the first designer to have her own perfume, she certainly isn’t the last; now-a-days all design houses have a perfume named after them.
Who knows why Chanel’s designs have lasted and endured all these years when other trends live and die within the same season. Maybe it is because not only did Chanel design her own clothing, but she wore them herself. She created a lifestyle women wanted to imitate (at least in the earlier portion of her career), one where they could dress comfortably and still look and feel sexy. Chanel kept her designs similar from one season to the next, making it easy for women to pick a style and make it work for them. For as Chanel says, â€œFashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street; fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.”
1. Coco Chanel wikipedia.org
2. 1924 Day Dress metmuseum.org
3. 1926 Evening Dress metmuseum.org
4. 1935-37 Blouse metmuseum.org
5. Chanel Fall 2007 style.com
6. Chanel Fall 2007 style.com
7. Chanel No. 5 saksfifthavenue.com