Chanel inspired more than just the creation of beautiful bijoux with her sensational yet turbulent life. We take a look at some of today’s staples in the fashion pantheon that might not have existed without the madamoiselle.
Before the it-bag, there were clutches. These handheld purses were popular in the first half the twentieth century but oh-so-inconvenient – women could not stroll about hands-free.
However, lives were forever changed when the first prototype of the modern-day handbag was invented by Chanel, who added a strap of gilt chain (similar to that used to help her jacket hems sit properly), or of leather intertwined with chain, to a purse of lambskin, silk or jersey. The 2.55 itself was the final and perfect incarnation of this, and since its creation in February 1955, the bag has become a status symbol for “It girls” and working women everywhere.
Chanel Eau de parfum No.5
When Chanel approached perfumer Ernest Beaux to create “a perfume like nothing else”, she had felt that it was time for the debut of a scent that was more boyish, modern and would speak to the liberated spirit of the 1920s.
Beaux came up with 10 samples and presented them to Chanel to try in 1921; she chose the fifth proposal, naming it No.5 to avoid any attempts at defining it figuratively and descriptively. The No.5 went against the fragrance trends of the time, with no dominant notes distinguishable from the 80 ingredients that composed it. And it has stood the test of time: today, sales for the No.5 are still going strong.
According to Karl Lagerfeld, the three wardrobe staples that will never go out of style are “jeans, a white shirt, and a Chanel jacket.” The Chanel tweed suit was created because Chanel was hankering for new ideas for female clothes. By incorporating male fashion aesthetics into her own designs, the classic collarless boxy jacket and matching skirt was born.
The suit was tweaked and updated countless times by Chanel for more than 50 years, ensuring that the look remained relevant. Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly were fans, and it is said Vogue editor Anna Wintour famously wore them through her pregnancies by leaving the back slightly open!
Little black dress
Before the 1920s, the colour black was strictly reserved for times of mourning. All of this changed with Chanel, who intended the LBD to be simple, versatile and affordable. The first one was cut in a black crepe with a high neckline, long fitted sleeves and a hemline that stopped just above the knee. Vogue magazine called the dress “Chanel’s Ford” because like the Model T, it was accessible to women of all social classes. They also predicted that the dress would be find its place as a kind of a uniform for upcoming generations and, boy, were they right.
The Breton Top
Who would’ve thought that a working-class uniform – originally worn by the French navy so they could be easily spotted if they fell overboard – would one day be synonymous with chic Parisian style? Chanel, of course. Inspired after a visit to the coast, she introduced this nautical tee to the fashion world by pairing it with flared trousers for her 1917 fashion line. The relaxed (and not to mention, très elegant) style was a stark contrast to the heavily corseted Belle Époque look that was fashionable then. And since it’s inception, it has been donned by plenty of fashion icons and celebs, from Jackie O to Kate Moss.