Designer Coco Chanel was born Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel in 1883, although she would later claim that her real date of birth was 1893, making her ten years younger. Her place of birth was also something that she sought to disguise. Coco was born in the workhouse in the Loire Valley where her unmarried mother worked, although she asserted that she was born in Auvergne.Her mother died when she was six years old, leaving her father with five children, whom he quickly farmed out to various relatives. The young Chanel was sent to the orphanage of the Catholic monastery of Aubazine, where she learned the trade of a seamstress. Coco Chanel was a leading French modernist designer, whose patterns of simplicity and style revolutionized women’s clothing. She was the only designer to be listed in Time 100 most influential people of the Twentieth Century. In the 1960s, a Broadway musical was made about her life starring Katherine Hepburn. It was in the 1920s, that Coco Chanel left a lasting mark on Women’s fashion and design. Up until the First World War, women’s clothing had been quite restrictive and tended to involve full-length skirts that were impractical for many activities. Coco Chanel helped create women’s clothing that was simpler and more practical. She also introduced trousers and suits for women – something which had not been done before. She also created her famous Chanel No.5 scent and this has been a lasting trademark. Most sources suggest she was born in 1883, though this was a closely guarded fact – with Coco not keen on revealing her birth date. Orphaned from an early age, she worked with her sister in a milliner in Deauville. Later, she opened a shop in 1912 and after a spell of nursing during the first world war founded a couture house in the Rue Cambon in Paris. It was in the post war period that she felt the need for a revolution in women’s clothes. She began by liberating women from the bondage of the corset and encouraged a casual but elegant range of clothes. 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 symbolized some of these social and political changes. In 1938 she retired from the fashion business. However, 16 years later she made a determined comeback after becoming fed up at 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. 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 recognizable name in world fashion.

 

Advertisements