Today is the birthday of perhaps the most influential designer in women’s fashion. Gabrielle Bonheur “Coco” Chanel was born August 19, 1883. Coco Chanel was the founder and namesake of the Chanel brand. Chanel was a revolutionary in the fashion world. I want to celebrate Coco by sharing seven ways that Coco Chanel changed the fashion world forever.
Pants for All
It all started in World War I when many women were forced to work historically male dominated jobs. Those women working more manual jobs chose to wear trousers or overalls instead of skirts to work. Chanel saw this trend and liked it. While at a society beach resort of Deauville, she chose to wear sailor’s pants instead of a swimming costume to avoid exposing herself. Little did she know that she would spark a trend that dominates fashion still today.
Little Black Dress
It is hard to imagine a world without the little black dress. Before Chanel, the color black was reserved for funerals and mourning. It wasn’t until Chanel submitted a sketch to American Vogue of a calf length, little black sheath. The magazine labeled her creation “a frock that all the world would wear.” So the Little Black Dress was born.
While she was not the first designer to use costume jewelry, she was the first to popularize the trend. Chanel loved multiple strands of fake pearls to go with large imitation jeweled pieces. Her goal was to mix the fake with the real in order to set apart her simple but elegant clothing designs.
The traditional blue and white striped shirts worn by the navy seamen in Brittany were another way Chanel took what she liked in the world and made it fashionable to all. Chanel is reported to first notice the Breton stripe when she traveled to the south of France on holiday. She used this inspiration to make her famed 1917 Nautical Collection.
It was in August 1923 that Chanel introduced her traditional Chanel suit to the world. After World War I, many women found themselves working in male dominated industries. Chanel was one of the first to borrow menswear ideas and incorporate them into women’s fashion. Chanel suits tend to be a collarless boxy wool jacket with braid trim, fitted sleeves and metallic embellished buttons with accompanying slimline skirt. The Chanel Suit was worn by many celebrities including Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly. The most iconic Chanel suit was worn my Jackie Kennedy the day that her husband was assassinated.
Jersey fabric was once only used for men’s underwear. Chanel decide to create a line using this fabric not only because it was readily available in post war Europe, but because it was comfortable. Women were used to wearing tight, corseted garments. The jersey fabric designs by Chanel were simple, classic, comfortable and hung beautifully.
Chanel was tired of carrying her hand bag in her hands and sought to find a way to carry a bag, but liberate her arms. She was inspired by the bags that soldiers carried. She designed the first shoulder bag called the 2.55 because it was first introduced in February 1955. This fashion innovation forever changed handbag designs.