Coco Chanel is back in fashion… although she never really fell out of it.
With the release of Audrey Tautou’s Chanel biopic Coco Avant Chanel, the creations of the fascinating and highly controversial 20th century fashion designer are being celebrated anew.
Here are just a few Coco Chanel innovations that have withstood the test of time:
Coco Chanel believed that a woman should smell like a woman, not like a flower: “I want to give the world something artificial … like a dress. Something that has been made … I want a perfume that is a composition.” Chanel’s iconic fragrance debuted in 1921, making it the first-ever designer perfume. Scent-pushers Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Jean-Paul Gaultier and Marc Jacobs all have Mademoiselle Chanel to thank.
The Little Black Dress
Chanel popularized this wardrobe staple during the 1920s. No matter what the occasion, if you throw on a little black dress and a string of pearls, you’ll look chic and sophisticated. This was true 50 years ago and it is likely that it will still be true 50 years from now. The LBD is flattering, elegant and timeless.
Comfort and Luxury
“Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury.” Before Chanel arrived on the scene, women suffered terribly in the name of fashion. Corsets, padding and hobble skirts were de rigeur. “Other designers would make outfits or costumes. Things that didn’t necessarily relate to every day,” says Toronto designer Trish Ewanika (ewanika.ca), whose designs have a similar understated elegance to Chanel’s. “(She) would design clothing that a woman could wear day or night. Not a riding outfit or a dress to wear to the opera. Just a nice dress. She was more functional.”
Chanel also utilized fabrics previously scoffed at by designers, such as soft and comfortable jersey. “The House of Chanel has remained very true to Coco Chanel’s original feel,” says Comrags co-founder Joyce Gunhouse. “(They make) clothes that women really want to wear. Because they can live in them.”
A Healthy Glow
While Coco Chanel didn’t technically “invent” the suntan, she inadvertently made bronzed skin into a fashion accessory.
Pallor was considered the very height of beauty until a very tanned Chanel stepped off the Duke of Westminster’s yacht after a holiday. From then on, tanned skin became synonymous with a life of leisure, as opposed to a life of toiling in fields. We probably wouldn’t have bronzer (yay!) or tanning beds (don’t do it!) were it not for Chanel.
• For Coco Before Chanel photos, a trailer and screen times, or to buy tickets, click here
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