|Coco Chanel circa 1929.|
It is inarguable that the practical, yet multi-faceted, elements of Coco Chanel’s influence of style cannot be untangled from her personality. Chanel was a pioneer not only in the design of women’s couture, but also in the development of business and fashion merchandise operations in the post-war era. It was uncommon for her to draw her designs, and she preferred instead to position her stylistic visions on the human body rather than on the sketching pad. Chanel’s design choices of simplicity and comfort were not lost on Parisian women, and in 1919, she opened the couture house which she had aimed to create before World War I.
The sensible aspects of Chanel’s designs, including pockets for utility and practicality, costume jewelry as a replacement of precious gems, and men’s sweaters, contributed to a certain air of realism and sophistication. The clothes she created were of an easy, fairly relaxed fit, with an elected understatement to correspond to the challenges of the times. The working class also provided a creative source for Chanel’s ideas. She used components of men’s sweaters and of mechanics’ overalls to achieve a mathematically simple idea of style. But this vision was not to be without a prevailing sense of femininity. This was seen in the tailored wool suits Chanel favored, in the oversize cardigan sweaters without excessive ornamentation, and in the reductionist components of an easily translatable and socially empowering aesthetic.
A study in contrasts, Chanel’s progress addressed pragmatism and sophistication, unapologetic realism and constructed textile imagery. Her work blurred the traditionally accepted definitions for the constructed apparel and accessories previously available to women. Chanel’s essence of style and artistic impact continue to inspire modern visionaries, and her ideas of straightforward, effortless, and uncluttered panache endure to challenge perspective and convention in design.
-Blog post contributed by Ivayla Ivanova
1929 Coco Chanel portrait from Chanel: A Woman Of Her Own by Axel Madsen