When you think back on some of the defining style icons of our time, the legendary Coco Chanel will undoubtedly feature strongly. While these days she’s perhaps remembered best by the eponymous fashion house she left behind, Chanel, at her core, was a firebrand for freedom of expression when it came to women’s dressing and style.
Modern women owe a lot more to Coco than the quilted lambkin bag with its signature chain strap. Here’s a brief overview of some of the magic behind Chanel:
In a league of her own
Born in 1893 in turn of the century France, Chanel started off as a hat maker for the prim and proper, fashionable women of the time.
She is mostly hailed as helping women to liberate themselves from corseted, restrictive clothes, bringing in a new era of more comfortable, wearable fashion such as drop waisted dresses and loose fitting, elegant shirts.
The quintessentially French boat-necked striped shirt, known as a mariniere, was the realm of fisherman before Chanel reinterpreted them in her own way – a style which has persevered through the decades and is still worn today.
In addition, Coco’s signature monochrome look of black and white was unheard of before she kick-started the trend, when women were expected to wear pretty, lighter colours.
“I imposed black,” Chanel is quoted as famously saying, “it is still going strong today, for black wipes out everything else around.”
Her perfume, Chanel No. 5 is the best selling perfume in the world, with its woody, incense based scent also bucking the norm of sickeningly sweet floral perfumes.
A name to remember
Chanel’s style influence didn’t stop there, her trademark pearl jewellery transformed pearls from being old fashioned into something chic, lusted after by all her devotees.
Coco Chanel could even possibly be hailed as one of the catalysts for the androgynous trend of feminised menswear while at the same time being bold enough to mix it up with glamorous diamonds.
She was also pioneer for smart slacks and trousers, and famously chopped off her hair into a gamine bob which is still imitated today.
In addition, Coco’s renowned passionate spirit often meant her witty words have become famous quotes over time which can still provide inspiration all these years later:
“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”
“In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different.”
“Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman.”