Style Icons: Coco Chanel

Created by susan on 2019-02-27 00:36:05


Coco Chanel once said: “Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.”   Gabrielle Bonheur “Coco” Chanel, was a fashion icon and her couture classic designs have stood the test of time. The interlocking C’s are instantly recognizable as her signature logo. And, her quilted signature design was inspired by pillows on her sofa to create the classic Chanel handbag that is so beloved. Her famous words are still with us as quotes on social media to inspire us to embrace our individuality: “Simplicity is the keynote of all elegance” or “Fashion fades, only style remains the same.”

She was once again honored as the German designer, Karl Lagerfield, creative director for Chanel and Fendi passed away. He was revered in the fashion world with his signature ponytail and dark glasses that made his own fashion statement. Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief paid tribute to him “Today the world lost a giant among men.” He was able to transition Chanel designs from couture and fashion houses in Paris, to High Street in England which made it more accessible and financially feasible for many to wear.

Let’s reminiscence about the many wonderful contributions that Coco Chanel created as we honor the memory of Karl Lagerfield for carrying on her legacy. The little black dress that most of us have in our closet today originated by Chanel in 1926. Historically, black had been associated with mourning especially during the Victorian era, but she introduced it as the epitome of style and now it takes us from daytime to evening wear with just a quick make-up and jewelry change. Paul Poiret, a rival couturier poked fun of her wearing the black dress and would ask her who she was mourning for and she would reply “For you, dear Monsieur.” 

She borrowed her boyfriend’s suits and designed trousers for women for sporting events and casual wear. She would probably be delighted that boyfriend jeans are en vogue today. In her Parisian shop she added jersey fabric, which had previously been used for men’s underwear, which was scoffed at because it was less expensive than silks, satins, and other high end retail materials. Her candid response, “I make fashion women can live in, breath in, feel comfortable in and look younger in.” I believe she helped pioneer the way for spandex and cotton and other comfy fabrics that we enjoy today.

Her classic Chanel handbag was originally inspired in 1929 by the straps found on soldiers’ bags in an attempt to keep ones’ arms and hands free. I am amazed at how pragmatic she was as an entrepreneurial designer. The Chanel 2.55 handbag was designed in 1955, named after the date of its conception February 1955. Her classic ballet slippers, come in solid colors and two toned colors such as black and beige, and have a quilted pattern similar to her handbags.

The perfume Chanel No. 5 became a best seller when Marilyn Monroe stated in an interview, “What do I wear to bed? Why, Chanel No. 5 of course.” Chanel was somewhat superstitious as she introduced her products on the 5th of the month for good luck. One of my favorites is her costume jewelry and faux pearls. I am reminded of the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in a photograph where her son, John is pulling on her fake pearls. 

Another design was her timeless Chanel boucle (buckled tweed) jacket which was designed in 1954 with the purpose of making clothes more comfortable. Women could breathe again after wearing girdles and the waist cinched dresses from the Fifties. Perhaps the classic Chanel suit is most recognizable and one of her most iconic creations which has been worn by Queen Elizabeth. She would probably be pleased to see it is worn today with jeans for a more polished look. 

What I absolutely love about Chanel’s designs is that she stood up to criticism and went against the norm to create designs that were comfortable and stylish because she had her own vision when it came to style. Karl Lagerfield’s contributions provided an even broader reach into today’s consumer market where women aspire to wear something made by Chanel. Today I pay tribute to both of these talented designers that have made an indelible impact in the world of fashion and call out to each of us to be true to our own vision of what we consider beautiful.