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Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel (1883–1971) .
her mother worked in the poorhouse where Gabrielle was born. First a mistress of a wealthy military officer then of an English industrialist. leaving her father with five children whom he promptly abandoned to the care of relatives . Coco Chanel drew on the resources of these patrons in setting up a millinery shop in Paris in 1910. she was actually born in 1883 in Saumur.Coco Chanel claimed a birthdate of 1893 and a birthplace of Auvergne. She adopted the name Coco during a brief career as a cafe and concert singer 1905-1908. expanding to Deauville and Biarritz. and died when Gabrielle was only six. . According to her version of her life story. The two men also helped her find customers among women of society. and her simple hats became popular.
Chanel No. and casual look were in sharp contrast to the corset fashions popular in the previous decades. . Pierre Wertheimer became her partner in the perfume business in 1924. By the 1920s. and her chemise set a fashion trend with Its "little boy" look. The Wertheimers continue to control the perfume company today. Her relaxed fashions. In 1922 Coco Chanel introduced a perfume. Coco Chanel introduced her signature cardigan jacket in 1925 and signature "little black dress" in 1926. a first in the French fashion world. and adapted these more comfortable fashions which other women also found liberating. Most of her fashions had a staying power. working in jersey. Coco Chanel received 10% and her friend Bader 20%. short skirts. Chanel herself dressed in mannish clothes. and perhaps also her lover. and didn't change much from year to year -.Soon Coco Chanel was expanding to couture. her fashion house had expanded considerably. and remains a profitable product of Chanel's company. Wertheimer owned 70% of the Company .or even generation to generation. which became and remained popular. 5.
Nazi occupation meant the fashion business in Paris was cut off for some years. I ncluding Renoir's La Regle de Jeu.and purses -. In addition to her work with high fashion. In 1954 her comeback restored her to the first ranks of haute couture. Katharine Hepburn starred in the 1969 Broadway musical Coco based on the life of Coco Chanel.of women. . Coco Chanel also designed stage costumes for such plays as Cocteau's Antigone (1923) and Oedipus Rex (1937) and film costumes for several movies. Her natural. casual clothing including the Chanel suit once again caught the eye -. Karl Lagerfeld has been chief designer of Chanel's fashion house since 1983. Chanel's affair during World War II with a Nazi officer also resulted in some years of diminished popularity and an exile of sorts to Switzerland. She introduced pea jackets and bell bottom pants for women.Coco Chanel briefly served as a nurse in World War I. She was still working in 1971 when she died.
impeccable taste and unmistakable style. jewelry-an entire look. perfume. the trench coat. Her innovations were basic to the wardrobes of generations of women: jersey suits and dresses. a hat. made an appearance at the Paris Opéra. the French couturiere had long since established herself as the 20th century's single most important arbiter of fashion. she cut it off completely. the sling pump. quality. pleated skirts. the blazer.Just her name was enough to define a pair of shoes. a suit. the better to climb in and out of gondolas and started the pants revolution. the little black dress. Sometimes. Sometimes. It was a sign of excellence. Coco Chanel had no patience and too much talent. It conveyed prestige. the jumper. a pocketbook. turtleneck sweaters. By her death last week at 87. . the determining factor was practicality: Chanel wore bell-bottom trousers in Venice. the chemise. the draped turban. But always. a Chanel idea commanded respect. for anything less. the cardigan suit. strapless dresses. and started the craze for bobbed hair. it was purely accidental: after singeing her hair.
Coco introduced the tricot sailor frock and the pullover sweater. Even then. Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel (never called anything but Coco for "Little Pet") was orphaned at six and raised in the desolate province of Auvergne by two aunts. She started with several hats and "one dress. Coco substituted horseback riding. embroidered silk blouses and accompanying shawls. sit up straight and speak politely.Ostrich-Boa Hats. To provide an alternative. She ushered in gypsy skirts. From Etienne Balsan. she learned that little girls should sew. and within five years had made Maison Chanel a fashion house to reckon with. for sewing. Coco acquired the habits and tastes of the wealthy. a millionaire cavalry officer who brought her to Paris at 16. . Born outside Paris in 1883. From them. a skill that forever eluded her. She liked them--all but the ladies' predilection for ostrich -boa-draped hats. unearthed wool jersey from its longtime service as underwear fabric and put it to use in soft." added sweaters. she opened a millinery boutique in Deauville. clinging dresses. but a tasteful dress. Chanel clothes were as high-priced as any Paris couturier's: but only Chanel delighted in having her styles copied--and made accessible at low cost to millions.won enough acclaim to set up shop in Paris in 1914.
Chanel's most renowned amour. and whose blazer--lent to the designer on a chilly day at the polo grounds--became the source of her famous box jacket. from marriage to the Duke. setting off the costume-jewelry vogue. came more jewels: these she had copied. a wealthy English polo player whose lavish gifts of jewels served as the keystones of Coco's astonishing collection." ." In the '20s. explaining with characteristic bluntness. With a personal fortune rumored by then to be close to $15 million--most of it the result of the pungent success of Chanel No. So she finally turned him down. Chanel filled her off-hours with Arthur ("Boy") Capel. but only One Coco Chanel."There is time for work. and quite a name to lose. From the Duke of Westminster. "There are a lot of duchesses." said Coco Chanel. 5 – the designer calculated that she had little to gain. And time for love. "That leaves no other time.
" she insisted. Chanel had long since refused to join the cabal designers who tried to prevent style piracy. Working directly on the model. with the war coming on and the Italian designer Schiaparelli moving in on the fashion front. her scissors hanging from a ribbon around her neck. the slightly flaring skirt and hems that never budged from knee length. For the next 15 years. and cheap to produce because the fabric was standard. Wearing the broad-brimmed Breton hat that was her hallmark. but soon nearly every knockoff house was competing to turn out the closest replica.Cool Reception. she often picked a apart with the point of her scissors. only refinements on what was her classic look: the short. straight. Coco sprang no surprises. Chanel retired. collarless jacket. complaining that it was unwearable.500. easy to copy. in the '60s. Buyers intent on knockoffs paid close to $1. because of the straightforward design. she would feel for defects. . "I want my dresses to go out on the street. "I am not an artist. and her four fingers held firmly together in spite of severe arthritis. In 1938. Even a copy of a Chanel could claim its cachet. Her jersey-and-tweed suits won a cool reception from the press." Out they went by the thousands. she shuttled between Vichy and Switzerland returning to reopen her Paris salon in 1954 only to boost lagging perfume sales. Private customers paid $700 for the original: buyers.
Her fashion empire at her death brought in over $160 million a year. not of the year but of the century: Princess Grace." mused Jean Cocteau some time ago. Her clients constituted a litany of the best-dressed women. Yet at the time of her death. put Coco on Broadway. Colette. lowered the waistline or raised the waistline and obliged women to follow her directives. it is because--outside of this gracious and robust dictatorship--there is nothing in her era that she has missed. all the Rothschilds a nd most of the Rockefellers. the woman Picasso termed "the most sensible in the world" had a Paris wardrobe consisting of only three outfits. avoided poetic labels on her perfumes. Marlene Dietrich. Queen Fabiola. Dali. Ingrid Bergman. Diaghilev. Picasso.“ it is not because she cut women's hair married silk and wool. She was on a first-name basis with people too famous to need first names: Cocteau." . "If Mademoiselle Chanel has reigned over fashion. put pearls on sweaters. enhanced by Katharine Hepburn but stripped of most of the real drama. A musical version of her life.
Chanel has also created a dress that slips over the head like the comfortable sweaters she first sold in Deauville. Here. she has created a dress that is both unmistakably stylish and completely practical with elements of construction that serve both decorative and functional purposes. Even the braided selffabric trim serves as button loops at the center front and sleeve cuffs. . in this early example. to great advantage. Chanel used knits.Day dress -1924 Particularly known for her innovative sportswear designs. A dress made of supple knitted fabric like this would not require much seaming to achieve a comfortable fit. emphasizing the slim verticality of the design. but here the seams also flatter. While the overall design is elegant. such as jersey or knit tweed.
and beading. The exquisite workmanship was executed by Chanel's own embroidery workshop. Chanel's evening wear from the 1920s gave the illusion of metal metamorphosed into supple knits with her use of metallic lace.Evening dress -1926–27 In addition to her revolutionary knit sportswear innovations. . This example features metallic lace and sequins applied in tightly overlapping rows. in both pattern and color palette. resembles the Asian lacquered screens which the designer loved and collected. The ornament of the dress. lavish embroidery.
Chanel uses a French ombré textile with pattern sources from the Japanese kimono. the cylinder and the textile plane became the new forms for apparel. the modernist impulse to facilitate pure form. and japonisme's potential to offer a vocabulary of untailored wrapping shapes was more than fortuitous. .Evening coat -1927 The convergence of Art Deco line. but brings to it the ethos of chaste minimalism. As Western fashion designers discovered from the East that untailored lengths of fabric could constitute modern dress.
easy transition between early evening clothing and garments intended for late-night soirées. . and the shirring thread removed. set by heat. While the two-piece garment dates too early in Chanel's oeuvre to be designated a cocktail ensemble. even at the couture level. it falls appropriately to above floor-length and includes a removable matching evening jacket with a modest neckline and sleeves. The transformative qualities of this ensemble were characteristic for cocktail suits of the 1930s. the removable jacket allowed a smooth. the delicate construction and obsessive attention to detail intimates the refined tailoring technique and immaculate eye of Chanel couture. The ensemble is composed of silk net that has been treated in a labor-intensive manner with ruffles shirred in.Evening ensemble -1936 This evening ensemble is an exception to Chanel's unspoken rule.
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