Coco Chanel: A Classic of the 20th Century

Coco_Chanel,_1920
Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, 1920

From gold buttons to comfortable tailored trousers and comfortable cardigan sweaters, there is no more significant influence on clothes than Coco Chanel.

Born in Saumur, France in 1883 this outspoken independent woman remains the most influential fashion designer of the 20th century. She alone is responsible for the then revolutionary notion that women’s clothes should be practical, easy to move in, understated yet elegant.

Her most famous statement: “It is not the dress that should wear the woman, but the woman who should wear the dress.”

“It is not the dress that should wear the woman, but the woman who should wear the dress.”

Coco Chanel

Built more like a skinny boy than a woman, Coco Chanel opened her first shop in Deauville, France at a time when dress codes ran to the stiff high collars and stiff petticoats of the late nineteenth century.

 Anne Fontaine Coco avant Chanel (Coco Before Chanel) 2009
Anne Fontaine Coco avant Chanel (Coco Before Chanel) 2009

Heavily influenced by classic English men’s clothes, Chanel championed English tweeds, flannels, navy blazers, crisp white shirts, leather knits and pared down dinner jackets. In 1924, she created the flawlessly tailored – and widely, widely copied – Chanel suit.

Coco Chanel was first to introduce pants for women, the “little black dress,”strapless dresses, gold chain belts, crisp white shirts, jersey dresses, quilted handbags and the signature slingback spectator pump with black tips.

Further underscoring timeless comfort and simplicity, she introduced the twin-set, cardigan suits, men’s black tie evening clothes for women, the , the blazer and the signature scarf

Chanel suit and silk blouse with two-tone pumps, 1965
Chanel suit and silk blouse with two-tone pumps, 1965

Coco Chanel herself was the among the first to crop her hair, shorten her skirt and wear costume jewellery boldly.

This maverick didn’t go unheralded. In the 1920’s and 30’s, she was the toast of Paris. Diaghilev, Picasso and Salvador Dali were friends. Jean Cocteau, another friend, believed that by some miracle, Chanel managed to apply to fashion the rules which seemed to be relevant only to painting, poetry and music. Like the best painting, what looks simple and elegant is the most difficult.

In 1924, Chanel also introduced Chanel No. 5, among the world’s best selling fragrances. At the time fragrance was not considered a fashion accessory.

“Perfume is a part of you,” Chanel said. “No elegance is possible without it.”

The story of Chanel No. 5 is well known in fashion circles. Chanel asked Ernest Beaux, a great perfumer of the day. to develop potential fragrances. He did so, putting the potions in bottles labelled by number. Chanel chose bottle number five.

“Why not simply Chanel No.5?” she said when looking for a name.

Signature scent of the House of Chanel, Chanel No. 5
The signature scent of the House of Chanel, Chanel No. 5

As famous as her scent is her packaging. Like the clothes, the black and white packaging became a timeless classic.

Coco Chanel introduced two more fragrances and opened boutiques in Europe.

More Coco Chanel

More Fashion Designers

  • Dame Mary Quant (b.1934) British Fashion Designer

    Dame Mary Quant (b.1934) British Fashion Designer

    Mary Quant, a pivotal figure in British fashion design, studied art and design at Goldsmiths College of Art from 1952 to 1955 while also taking evening classes in clothing construction and cutting. In 1955, in Knightsbridge, London, she established her first shop Bazaar on King’s Road, followed by the second shop Terence Conran designed in Knightsbridge.Read More →

  • RIP – Issey Miyake, the Japanese fashion designer, dies 84.

    RIP – Issey Miyake, the Japanese fashion designer, dies 84.

    Issey Miyake died on August 5, 2022, in a Tokyo hospital of liver cancer. He founded the Miyake Design Studio in 1970.Read More →

  • Paul Poiret (1879 – 1944) – King of Fashion

    Paul Poiret (1879 – 1944) – King of Fashion

    In the early decades of the 20th century, Paul Poiret was a crucial figure in the French fashion industry, notably by adding a deep oriental flavour and rich colours to contemporary clothing. Read More →

  • Hattie Carnegie (1886 – 1956) Austrian Clothing Designer, Jeweller

    Hattie Carnegie (1886 – 1956) Austrian Clothing Designer, Jeweller

    Her family settled in the USA when she was in her teens and took the Carnegie name. In 1909, with a friend, she opened a tiny dress and hat shop, New York, known as Carnegieโ€”Ladiesโ€™ Hatter.Read More →

  • Coco Chanel: A Classic of the 20th Century

    Coco Chanel: A Classic of the 20th Century

    From gold buttons to comfortable tailored trousers and comfortable cardigan sweaters, there is no more significant influence on clothes than Coco Chanel.Read More →

  • Jean Patou (1880 – 1936) ๐ŸŽฉ Fashion Designer

    Jean Patou (1880 – 1936) ๐ŸŽฉ Fashion Designer

    One of Patouโ€™s most famous customers was the French tennis champion Suzanne Lenglen, whom he dressed both on and off the court. This lean and active young woman epitomised the 1920s โ€œnew woman.โ€ She created a furore in 1921 when she wore Patouโ€™s knee-length pleated skirt, which revealed much of her legs when she ran. The headband she wore while playing tennis was widely copied by women throughout the 1920s for day and evening wear.Read More →

  • Claude Montana (b.1949) French Fashion Designer

    Claude Montana (b.1949) French Fashion Designer

    Montana’s career in fashion began almost accidentally; he moved to London in the early 1970s “to escape studying,” having no plans and no work visa. Raising money by selling rhinestone-studded papier mache jewellery, he met a Vogue editor by happenstance and had his work featured in the magazine. Read More →

  • Geoffrey Beene (1927-2004) an American Fashion Designer

    Geoffrey Beene (1927-2004) an American Fashion Designer

    Geoffrey Beene (1927 – 2004) was an American fashion designer; born Haynesville, Louisiana. He was a premed student at Tulane University when he found himself sketching gowns when he became bored during his lectures. Along with Bill Blass, he was regarded as the Godfather of American sportswear.ย Read More →

  • The Art of Zandra Rhodes (Hardcover) 1995

    The Art of Zandra Rhodes (Hardcover) 1995

    Zandra Rhodes is known for her creativity and talent worldwide, and it is images and impressions from all around the world that has so often inspired her art. Images have met her eye and been interpreted through her own very personal vision, boldly pushing their way into the highest levels of fashion, from an aerial view of a Mexican sombrero to the wiggle of the Great Wall of China.Read More →

  • Calvin Klein (b.1942) American fashion designer

    Calvin Klein (b.1942) American fashion designer

    Klein’s excellent, modest tailoring and beautiful sportswear lines, as well as his casual separates created in the finest linens, silks, and cashmere, had earned him a name by the mid-1970sRead More →

  • Jean-Paul Gaultier (b.1952) French Fashion Designer

    Jean-Paul Gaultier (b.1952) French Fashion Designer

    Before launching his label in 1976, Gaultier worked for Cardin, Jacques Esteirel, and Patou. From the onset, Gaultier was dubbed the ‘enfant terrible de Paris’.Read More →

  • Mainbocher (1890 – 1976) – Simplicity without Boredom

    Mainbocher (1890 – 1976) – Simplicity without Boredom

    When designing his 1945 spring collection, Mainbocher – the noted French designer who worked in New York after the fall of Paris in WWII. Declared that he had attempted more than ever to make clothes “that would embody the right amount of novelty, were stimulating for today,Read More →

  • American Fashion (Hardcover) – Council of Fashion Designers America

    American Fashion (Hardcover) – Council of Fashion Designers America

    American Fashion is the definitive book on the country’s fashion culture, spanning eight decades and featuring the work of more than 100 designers. American Fashion is a visual journey through classic and fresh photographs by the century’s most outstanding photographers and illustrators, followed by essays defining nearly a century of fascinating culture, commissioned by the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA).Read More →

  • Emilio Pucci (1914 – 1992) Italian fashion designer

    Emilio Pucci (1914 – 1992) Italian fashion designer

    A leading figure in Italian fashion in the 1950s and 1960s, Pucci studied for a year at the University of Milan. In 1935 he travelled to the United States where he also studied, returning to the University of FlorenceRead More →

  • Alexis Mabille Launches Furniture Line

    Alexis Mabille Launches Furniture Line

    Buoyed by his thriving business as a designer of restaurants, including Le Boeuf sur le Toit in Paris and Cipriani in Saint-Tropez, Mabille has produced a mix of one-of-a-kind pieces and limited-edition items under his own Beaubow Editions imprint.Read More →

  • Spotlight On: Irish designer Aisling Kavanagh

    Spotlight On: Irish designer Aisling Kavanagh

    My love for designing was unearthed as my grandad was a tailor and I was fascinated watching him create these impeccably tailored suits. every stitch, every detail, cut and construction showed true craftsmanship. I learned the value of good design principles, the importance of the right cut, and the quality of the finish.Read More →

  • 270 Metres of Lace in Grace Kelly’s wedding gown

    270 Metres of Lace in Grace Kelly’s wedding gown

    The formal wedding gown was made of 278 metres of the finest materials, and at the time was described as the most lavish ever worn by a bride.Read More →

  • Alexis Kirk (1936 – 2010) American Jewellery Designer

    Alexis Kirk (1936 – 2010) American Jewellery Designer

    Kirk self-identified as Armenian despite being born in Los Angeles and raised in New England. One of his Armenian ancestors, Vemian, was a jeweller to the Turkish court. Some of his works are on display at Istanbul’s Topkapi Museum. His grandfather worked for Lalique Glass in Paris as a chief artist.Read More →

  • The most beautiful wedding dresses of 2021

    The most beautiful wedding dresses of 2021

    Although the pandemic changed the habits regarding the number of guests at weddings and decorations,Read More →

  • Naeem Khan Indian American Fashion Designer

    Naeem Khan Indian American Fashion Designer

    Naeem Khan is an Indian-American fashion designer who has dressed First Lady Michelle Obama, Queen Noor of Jordan, and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, in his ornate and intricately detailed gowns.Read More →

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.