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Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel. Wikimedia Commons

By- Khushi Bisht

Coco Chanel (born Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel) was born in Saumur, France, on August 19, 1883. She was born in a deprived home and had a tough upbringing. Following her mother’s death, her father deserted her in an orphanage, where she learned to sew. Coco Chanel, like many successful people, began at the lowest and worked her way up, by day, she was a seamstress, and at night, she was a cabaret performer. It was during her short career as a cabaret performer she earned the moniker ‘Coco.’

Caricature of Coco Chanel (right) in her hat shop, 1919. Wikimedia Commons

She eventually became friends with a few rich men and, with the support of one of them, named Arthur Edward “Boy” Capel started a new boutique in 1910. Her fashion journey began with designing and selling hats. She soon began selling clothes as her hat designs gained popularity.

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Chanel wearing a Sailor’s jersey and Yachting trousers, 1928. Wikimedia Commons

She grew up in an era where females were supposed to dress in restricting clothing. Full-length gowns, petticoats, bonnets, corsets, etc were the most popular yet common women’s clothing during the Victorian era. In the 19th-century women’s attire consisted of several layers of garments, skirts, and jewelry which were worn one on top of another. New developments were emerging in a variety of areas, and society was increasingly evolving. Life was becoming easier in every aspect, but women’s fashion was still restricted and stuck in their bulky clothes.

A lady couldn’t even expose her ankles and these heavy dresses limited their overall movement. Chanel despised existing women’s wear, believing it to be stressful and uncomfortable. Her aim, on the other hand, was to create elegant dresses that were both chic and convenient, taking influence from men’s clothing and functional need. She once stated, ‘Nothing is more beautiful than freedom of the body,’ and her creations reflected this sentiment. Her designs were a kind of women empowerment in several aspects. She needed women to be able to breathe and move freely in her clothing, just as men did.

Illustration showing three women in day outfits by “Gabrielle Channel” (sic) consisting of belted tunic jackets and full jersey skirts for March 1917. Wikimedia Commons

She used bold shades like dark blue, black, and grey to emphasize the fearlessness of her designs. Prior to the 1920s females used to wear black colored dresses while they were grieving. Wearing it on some other occasion was frowned upon. But this ended in 1926 after Coco Chanel appeared on the cover of Vogue magazine wearing the legendary “Little Black Dress.” It’s chic, manageable, graceful, and one of the most revolutionary dresses all at the same time.

Coco launched her first perfume, Chanel No. 5, in 1921. It was the first perfume with a designer’s name on it. She simply desired for her fragrance to conjure up visions of a person who was bold, confident, stylish, and self-reliant. Almost after a century, it was first made, Chanel No. 5 is still one of the most popular and best-selling perfumes worldwide. Chanel kept coming up with new ideas. Striped Sailor Shirt, Chanel Suit, Costume Jewelry, Quilted Bag, and Two-Tone Pumps are some of Chanel’s most well-known designs.

The signature scent of the House of Chanel, Chanel No. 5. Wikimedia Commons

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Coco Chanel, perhaps the most prominent fashion designer of all time, transformed the way women dressed and opened the floodgates for the fashion world. Her iconic designs, classic styles, and the lauded “Little Black Dress” have made her legendary. Her innovative creations were beautiful, easy to wear, and comfortable, allowing women to avoid wearing constricting, bulky clothing. She gave women more leeway in terms of what they were expected to wear, and they could style as they desired.

Her designs are just as fashionable today as they were back then. Undoubtedly, she made an enormous impact in the fashion industry.


Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

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