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The influence of Gabrielle or how Coco Chanel changed fashion ?

Coco Chanel drawing

Coco Chanel was independent and revolutionary in the world of fashion. Everything she did was a departure from the past, as she constantly wanted to improve the lives of women through her creations.

Author By Charlie Roema

Chanel Little Black Dress Picture Black and White
Chanel – Little Black Dress

It seems as though Gabrielle Chanel was destined to start the Chanel House from very early on in her life. She was born into a modest family, and became an orphan at the age of 12. Her mother died of tuberculosis and her father abandoned the family. Gabrielle was sent to an orphanage, where she learned to sew, and then was sent to a Catholic boarding school until she turned 18. There, Gabrielle learned about simplicity and practicality, both characteristics that describe the iconic Chanel House.

This upbringing can clearly been seen as an inspiration for the independent and classic Gabrielle Chanel. Gabrielle became Coco during her career as a cabaret dancer, a career she didn’t want to pursue for the rest of her life. Her next move, and the start of the Chanel House, was designing hats. Once these designs became popular, Coco started designing clothing. These pieces immediately became the top name in fashion.

Coco’s innovations started with the use of the Jersey Fabric. This material was undesirable at the time as it was mostly used for men’s underwear. Since this was during WWI, there were rations on fabric, and jersey was one of the fabrics still available for commercial use. Being the savvy businesswoman she was, Chanel saw the practicality of the cheap yet also functional jersey fabric. Her dresses would require little seaming in order for them to be comfortable, if made by jersey fabric. She was quoted saying, “I make fashion women can live in, breath in, feel comfortable in and look younger in.” This use of jersey fabric completely embodies this mindset. This fabric is still used to this day, as one of the most comfortable fabrics.

Her next piece to make history, would be her invention of the Little Black Dress (LBD). She took inspiration from the ease of the jersey material and created a simple, easy to wear, black silk dress. This style is still in fashion today, as most fashion girls will own at least one LBD. It is a staple, one that American Vogue at the time called the “Ford” of dresses.

Coco Chanel black and white picture jewelry necklace pearls and diamonds
Chanel – Coco Chanel

The LBD also allowed Coco to accessories with her costume jewelry. Coco loved to mix lower end with higher end, and her costume jewelry shows this. She would mix long strands of cultured pearls with diamond necklaces. Costume jewelry was most commonly worn by those who couldn’t afford the ‘real thing’, but Coco turned these items into a trend. All levels of society were wearing costume jewelry. It allowed the wealthy to wear more pieces, as many were afraid to wear multiple diamond, expensive pieces. After Coco’s trends, they felt more comfortable mixing their luxury items with costume. People were able to accessorize on a daily basis, instead of just when they were attending formal events.

Coco also changed the way women wore perfume, with her icon Chanel No. 5. Back then, women really only wore two scents. The society women would wear a scent that smelled of one single flower and the more sexual women would wear perfume that smelled of musk or jasmine. Coco Chanel wanted to create a scent that would liberate women, one that would allow women to smell like women. She wanted something clean, something that women of all societies could love. The final product is a mixture of jasmine, rose, sandalwood and vanilla, yet with no scent standing out more than the other.

Being a woman in the early 1900s wasn’t always the easiest. Coco Chanel chose to change this, and it started with her abolition of the corset. She wanted to inspire women to be women, and to allow them to live comfortably and freely. Through the use of her fashion and accessories, she inspired and uplifted women. This spirit of the free woman still lives today in all of Chanel’s vintage and current lines. We, as women, will constantly be inspired by Coco Chanel.