Coco Chanel’s legacy

There is little doubt Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel was one of the most influential women of the 20th Century. Chanel’s coveted creations changed the way women dressed and thought about themselves.

You may not be aware of Chanel’s legacy and how she changed popular culture and women’s dressing forever.

During World War I, women wore trousers in the workplace and factories. By 1922 in Deveux, France, Chanel started wearing them and made them very popular. The wide leg palazzo pant soon became the “dress de rigueur” amongst fashionable women.

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Images of Chanel flaunting a suntan in the French Riviera in 1923 ensured  sporting a suntan was socially acceptable amongst the fashionable. Having bronzed skinned quickly became an instant fashion trend on the Riviera and for years after.

Chanel was well aware women could no longer sustain wearing the constrictive corsets and large hopped skirts other Parisian designers created for their clients. To alleviate this problem, Chanel adopted jersey as one of her staple fabrics in the 1920’s. Jersey was inexpensive, draped well and guaranteed women comfortable dressing. Women purchased these new simple shapes readily from Chanel to the chagrin of other Parisian designers.


Image courtesy of UK Vogue


Coco Chanel loved to wear faux jewels and popularised the trend of wearing fake pearls

with other large gemstones. Chanel was often seen wearing rows and rows of faux pearls with other gemstones on her wrist and fingers. The extravagant bling was the perfect embellishment with her minimalistic clothes.  Chanel jewellery still remains faithful to this vision.


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Coco Chanel was the first woman to have her own perfume

named after her in 1921. It was the first man-made perfume, using synthetic compounds rather than essential oils. Chanel No. 5 is still the best-selling perfume in the world.

The universal adoption of the The Little Black Dress and the colour black into women’s every day wardrobe was a result of Chanel’s uncanny timing and dress sense in the 1920’s. Read more about this here

The original iconic Chanel suit was created and worn in 1916 by Chanel. It was a clever interplay of elements of male dress (tweed boxy jacket) with a long tailored skirt. Over the decades, the Chanel suit morphed into a collarless, boxy, loose tailored jacket teamed with a tailored, slimline skirt. A Chanel suit in boucle was coveted, copied and reinterpreted all over the world.

Most importantly, “Coco” Chanel was living proof a woman was capable of creating a large international empire and employing thousands of people. Indeed a remarkable achievement given the social norms for women in the early 20th Century.

Chanel lived life on her own terms and did not stop creating till her death in 1971.

1 comment

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    Mariana Cruce

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