“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.”– Coco Chanel Coco Chanel was a leading French modernist designer, whose patterns of simplicity and style revolutionised women’s clothing. She was the only designer to be listed in the Time 100 most influential people of the Twentieth Century.
“Fashion has become a joke. The designers have forgotten that there are women inside the dresses. Most women dress for men and want to be admired. But they must also be able to move, to get into a car without bursting their seams! Clothes must have a natural shape.” – Coco Chanel “With a black sweater and 10 rows of pearls Chanel revolutionized fashion" – Dior on Coco Chanel.
The 1920s were a significant period of liberation for women. It was a decade where women received the vote in several western countries. It was also a time when women were increasingly seen in professions and jobs, previously the reserve of men. Her fashion symbolised some of these social and political changes.
Significant items of clothing Coco Chanel helped pioneer included:
- the collarless cardigan jacket
- the bias cut dress – labelled a Ford by one critic because everyone had one.
- The shoe string shoulder strap.
- The floating evening scarf
- The wearing together of junk and real jewels.
In 1938, she retired from the fashion business. However, 16 years later, she made a determined comeback after becoming fed up with seeing French fashion become dominated by men. Her first post-war collection was not well received by the critics, but it proved immensely popular with the general public. Rich and famous women once again adopted the Chanel look, and she had shown her lasting influence on the industry.
“In 1919 I woke up famous. I’d never guessed it. If I’d known I was famous, I’d have stolen away and wept. I was stupid. I was supposed to be intelligent. I was sensitive and very dumb.”– Coco Chanel: Her Life, Her Secrets (1971) “In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.” – Coco Chanel She prided herself on her great taste, fashion and practicality combined with an awareness of what people wanted. It was this that made her the most recognisable name in world fashion.