Every woman who has ever had to carry a clutch during a party knows just how annoying it can be to ensure you don’t lose sight of it. Fortunately for all us, Coco Chanel had our back and our shoulder, giving us shoulder bags. When she wasn’t being a kickass fashion designer, Coco Chanel was either involved in a scandalous love affair, hiding love letters in the inner pocket of the bag she herself designed or living her best life in Paris. There was nothing ordinary about her, she became a force to reckon with.
A classic rags-to-riches story followed and she created the luxury brand Chanel. Her career had many ups and downs, from opening a tiny shop in Deauville, creating the first abstract perfume, Chanel no. 5 to facing Nazi connection allegations during WW2. For the comfort of her customers, Chanel went as far as to include the fabric jersey in her collections, which had been used majorly in men’s underwear till then. The classy satin-clad ladies were more comfortable, sure but the men might have been a little shocked.
But Chanel wasn’t the one to care, she knew that comfort was the real luxury and her dedication towards transforming fashion continued well even post war when she introduced the quilted Chanel bag and the classic Chanel suit. Here are five times Coco Chanel changed fashion for women everywhere.
The Little Black Dress
One of her many innovations, the little black dress came into existence in 1926 during the great depression, which was an economic crash that heavily affected the pockets of everyone during that time. The ever resourceful Chanel created the pattern for a dress that required less fabric and was fairly easier to sew. The dress’ style became a go-to for many during the Great Depression when affordable fashion was the need of the hour.
Coco Chanel published a sketch of the dress in a major publication. Another rebellion towards the heavily patriarchal fashion of her time, Chanel designed the dress to give women more freedom of movement. The LBD as it is called now, has been a constant in fashion and pop culture with many celebrities wearing some versions of the pattern by different designers. Audrey Hepburn’s famous little black dress in Breakfast at Tiffany’s was designed by Hubert de Givenchy. Intended to be affordable, stylish yet classic the LBD has clearly stood the test of time.
The Two-Toned Shoes
Good shoes take you good places but what do you do when your luggage gets full with three pairs of different footwear to match your dresses? Chanel wanted women to avoid the pain of having multiple sets of shoes that matched the colour of their dresses for different times of the day. The two-tone slingback shoe in beige and black helped in ways never imagined before. The design was such that the beige lengthened the leg while the black shortened the foot giving the lady a few more inches in height.
Chanel introduced the two-toned shoes in 1957 keeping in line with the changing style of women’s shoes. The shoe quickly became a favourite of Jeanne Moreau, Catherine Deneuve, Romy Schneider, Brigitte Bardot and Jane Fonda. In her words, “You leave in the morning wearing beige and black, you have lunch in beige and black, and you attend a cocktail party wearing beige and black. You’re dressed for the entire day!”
Chanel No. 5 Perfume
Marilyn Monroe, when asked about what she wore to bed, famously replied, “I only wear Chanel No. 5 to bed.” The perfume is synonymous with the brand. Coco Chanel, in her usual fashion, wanted to liberate women from smelling like perfectly made up bouquets kept for decoration. So she created the world’s first abstract fragrance, composed around May rose and jasmine, while featuring bright citrus top notes.
Aldehydes present in the Eau de Parfum have a unique presence, while the smooth bourbon vanilla gives it a touch of sensuality. She aimed for a distinct scent that would be a better representation of modern women. Every 30 seconds, a Chanel no. 5 perfume is sold somewhere in the world.
Chanel Tweed Suit
Perhaps the most memorable Chanel product after the perfume Chanel No. 5, is the famous tweed suit. This quickly became a favourite of many famous personalities like Jackie Kennedy, Princess Diana, Brigitte Bardot, and Barbara Walters. The infamous pink Chanel tweed two-piece suit Jackie wore on the day of her husband’s assassination is a direct descendant of the suit that was introduced in the 1920s by Coco Chanel.
Chanel wanted women’s fashion to be more comfortable than it was. She knew that comfort was the real luxury that other brands had been compromising on. Inspired by her then-boyfriend Duke of Westminster’s collection, Chanel incorporated the coarser tweed fabric in her suits all the while experimenting with vibrant colours and statement buttons. The suit soon became the brand’s representative piece.
Chanel 2.55 Handbag
The revival of Chanel in the 1950s brought with it the iconic 2.55 Chanel bag. Named after its birth month, February of 1955, the bag has stayed an important part of Chanel’s history. Chanel had gotten tired of carrying around her clutch in her hands all the while smoking, drinking champagnes at parties and soirees that she attended. She sensed a need for a modern design that adapted well with the changing needs of women.
Thus came into being, the shoulder bag. With its signature metal straps that were emulated on the key chains worn by her caretakers at the convent Coco had spent all her childhood in, the bag became a big hit when it was relaunched in 1955. Legend has it that this was the very bag Chanel used to hide her love letters in. The mademoiselle turn-lock was ‘supposedly’ added because Chanel never married.
Not just a stylish bag, the Chanel 2.55 is a great investment piece as well. The bag was first sold in 1955 for $220 and the same bag now values for $10,200. So, if you’ve got some thousand of dollars to splurge, you know what to buy that will keep in you in style and give your fantastic returns as well.
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