I Should Coco
It’s quite remarkable to think that one woman could have influenced fashion so greatly by simply challenging the accepted norms that, basically, seemed bothersome to her. But Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel did just that by introducing design elements that became the foundation of modern women’s clothing. In 1957, only a few years after Chanel came out of “retirement,” Life Magazine wrote:
“All through the ’20s and the ’30s astute Chanel was an acknowledged arbiter of that world of fashion influence known as Paris couture. She was generally credited with either inventing or popularizing the short skirt, the flat chest, the sling pump, turtle-necks, simple hats and fake pearls. Before Chanel, wool jersey was worn only as underwear.”
Additionally, Chanel created functional bathing suits and sportswear for women, wore her hair short and invented the iconic Little Black Dress (which Vogue likened to a Model T Ford in 1926). All of this before the time of her first retirement in 19381. And, of course, there are the suits and the perfume.
For our first shared challenge, the theme of Coco Chanel proved to be an opportunity to birth five clearly different garments that all share a common mother in Chanel. We’ve got three dresses, two tops and a pair of pants that all owe something to Coco.
Over the course of the week, we’ll be revealing a new creation from each of our Sew Weekly contributors. In the meantime, here’s a few links to explore:
- Read a history and view a slideshow of Chanel’s fashions at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
- Browse through the Met’s collection of Chanel
- Read the newly-released biography of Chanel by Justine Picardie
And, since we want you all to be able to play along at home, the theme of this week — Coco Chanel — should inspire you to create something quite marvelous. In fact, once you have created something Coco-related, please share it in our Flickr group!
1 Chanel’s retirement in the 1938 has a connection to the war and her relationship with the Nazi party — and involvement that is often glossed over in film portrayals and biographies. Whether she was a collaborator (some say spy, but that’s fairly unproven) or simply opportunistic (she was a businesswoman going along with the majority and taking advantage of anti-semitic laws), Chanel was certainly in bed (figuratively and literally) with the Nazis during the war. We can’t strip her influence from history and fashion based on her actions, but we certainly can add it as a footnote to the person.