Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Classy Coco Chanel
“How many cares one loses when one decides not to be something but to be someone.” Coco Chanel
Coco Chanel is a name we associate with elegance, wealth, and luxury. She created something exceptional in the world of fashion and something far beyond what we are able to appreciate in this era. Coco was responsible for making pants for women fashionable. She was raised in a period of corsets which she despised and as such went on to create clothes that were both effortless and stunning. She liberated women from a period of discomfort and bridged the gap between men and women's wear. She created what was called "sleeping men's suits" for women. Something I am eternally grateful for as I have a ridiculous obsession and collection of pj's. The flapper dress was rumored to have evolved from her wearing a men's shirt and wrapping a belt around her waist, a trend that erupted after her debut. She has been credited with creating La Garçonne Look which involved masculine tailoring with feminine make-up. This look was primary in the roaring twenties. She created androgyny in fashion, a modern ideal still seen today.
She broke the mold of an era that was dominated by men, and women were merely part of the side show. She did not want to get married or raise children and she never seemed torn about these principles. She loved however, and she loved deeply. That never meant though she needed to join conventional ranks in order to be satisfied. When asked why she did not marry the Duke of Westminster who was one of the famous men she had a public relationship with, she replied "There have been several Duchesses of Westminster. There is only one Chanel." She was an original and she was able to celebrate that.
She was born into poverty in Saumur, France and after her mother died when she was 12 her father abandoned the five children and Coco was raised in an orphanage. In the orphanage the nuns taught her to sew and from there an icon was created. My favourite part of her biography is that she not only rose up from having nothing, but she was able to create her life as she saw fit. She often lied about her life a point of controversy for many but one I see as merely her refusal to accept anything she did not create herself. She wanted independence and separating herself from her past was one of the ways she sought it. Freedom and independence for women at the time was a new and exhilarating concept. Coco was able to help liberate women through her talents. Through fashion she was able to give us our freedom.
"Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening."
Her career is an endorsement for that quote. She was able to change the world beyond the creation of the little black dress. She believed in beauty, and elegance, and comfort and she believed it should be done in a way that enriches women's lives not makes them more intolerable.
"I gave women a sense of freedom; I gave them back their bodies: bodies that were drenched in sweat due to fashion's finery, lace, corsets, underclothes, padding."
In a time where women are still battling against their bodies and fashion I find this quote inspiring. In a world where we often see alterations made to our bodies rather than our clothes maybe it's time to revisit the idea of clothing liberation.
“In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.”
Some rather quirky facts about Chanel is that she was also extremely superstitious, and after a psychic told her 5 was her lucky number she named her perfume Chanel #5 and it was introduced to the public on May 5th. It should also be noted she was first designer to put her name on a perfume which has since inundated the perfume world. As part of her love of astrology she also collected lions (she was a leo) which can be seen everywhere in her Paris apartment. She was a unique and gifted individual who clearly encapsulated the strength of a lion.
“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”
Coco Chanel is on of my biggest inspirations and one of the first things I see when I wake up in the morning is the Chanel gift bag I have framed on my bedroom wall. I have never once bought a single thing from Chanel but that's not really the point. When I look at the bag each morning I think of a strong, fierce woman, who followed her passions which changed the world. She followed her dreams with determination and ultimately my life has been made easier because of her. She was a feminist who uniquely altered our lives and every night I put on my pajama's, or pants, or my little black dress I think of her and I thank her.
“A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.”
She was both these things and then some.