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Coco Chanel: Most influential women’s fashion designer

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The designs created by Coco Chanel have had the greatest impact on women’s fashion. Her designs are classic, timeless, and still very popular today. All of her accomplishments were because of her hard work, dedication, and being her own person.

Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel was born on August 19, 1883 in Saumur, France. (A+E Television Networks, LLC “Coco Chanel Biography”) When Chanel was twelve years old, her mother, Jeanne Devolle, past away from tuberculosis. A week after her mother’s passing, her father, Albert Chanel, who was a street peddler, abandoned Chanel along with her brothers and sisters. (Savio Dsilva “Coco Chanel Biography & Life Story”) After Chanel and her siblings had been abandoned, they were placed into an orphanage, where they were raised by nuns and Chanel was taught how to sew. (Famous Women and Beauty “Coco Chanel Biography”)

Chanel and her sister, Julie, eventually became too old for the orphanage and were placed into boarding school. At the age of eighteen, Chanel had a brief career as a singer, where she performed in cabarets. One night when Chanel performed at La Rotonde, she sang a song about a lady who had lost her dog named Coco; from that point on, she was referred to as Coco Chanel. (L.G &J.C “The Influence of Coco Chanel”) Chanel was performing on another night, when she met a man named Etienne Balsan. She became his mistress and he supported her by buying her lavishing gifts. During the time Chanel was with Etienne, she began designing hats, something she would soon have a deep interest for. (A+E Television Networks, LLC “Coco Chanel biography”)

Chanel’s affair with Etienne Balsan ended, and she soon met a new man named Arthur Capel, who helped Chanel to open her first milliner shop, in Paris, France in 1910. (Famous women and beauty “Coco Chanel biography”) Her first milliner store was opened on Paris’s Rue Cambon, where she only designed hats. (A+E Television Networks, LLC “Coco Chanel biography”) Her hats were designed for high class women who spread her name all throughout Paris. Thanks to Arthur, who had urged Chanel to open her first store and because it was such a success, she opened a boutique in Deauville, France, in 1913. From that point on, Chanel not only designed hats, she also became a clothing designer as well. (Famous women and beauty “Coco Chanel biography”)

Chanel’s first clothing success was a dress, which she designed from an old jersey. After several people asked where she had purchased her dress, she told them she was the designer. Those people immediately began to ask her if she could design one for them as well. (A+E Television Networks, LLC “Coco Chanel biography”) In 1925, Chanel launched her signature cardigan jacket. The following year, she launched her famous design of the ‘little black dress’. Even though both designs are still very popular today, her creation of the little black dress is a famous design known all over the world. It is considered a simple, yet classic design by many people, such as aspiring designers hoping to become famous. (AETN UK “Coco Chanel biography”)

In 1939, World War II was declared. Chanel put her designs on hold and closed up her store. (Famous women and beauty “Coco Chanel biography”) After Chanel closed up her store, she started a new career as a nurse; however, this career change did not last very long. (AETN UK “Coco Chanel biography”) In September of 1944, Chanel was arrested because of rumors that had spread around stating that she was romantically involved with a German officer. After she was released from jail a couple of hours later, she packed up her things and moved to Switzerland for almost ten years. (Famous women and beauty “Coco Chanel biography”)

On February 5, 1954, Chanel returned back to Paris and reopened her store. That night, she hosted a fashion show to show off her first collection after the war. Chanel was never seen the whole night during her fashion show because she feared that people would not like her designs. (L.G & J.C “The Influence of Coco Chanel”) Chanel faced several challenges after she came back. For example, during that time period, men had dominated the fashion world, especially Christian Dior. Chanel feared her career as a designer was over, but she did not give up. Although it took her nearly three years to get back on top, it was worth it. During the 50’s and 60’s her designs had become extremely popular in the United States. Famous Hollywood stars, such as Audrey Hepburn and Liz Taylor wore Chanel’s designs. In the movie, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Audrey Hepburn wore Chanel’s ‘little black dress’. (Famous women and beauty “Coco Chanel biography”)

As Chanel’s career continued, she began to design more than just clothes. She added perfume, jewelry, handbags, shoes, and sunglasses to her famous Chanel collection. Everything she designed was very well-liked, but two of her most well known Chanel creations are still popular today. People who do not really know much about fashion have heard of Chanel’s little black dress and her famous perfume, Chanel No.5. During Chanel’s time period, black dresses were only worn to events such as funerals. Chanel believed that she could turn a simple, plain, black dress into something very stylish, and she was right. Her second most famous Chanel creation was her perfume, Chanel No.5; which was created in 1920. Her perfume was the first perfume to ever feature a designer’s name. This perfume is still one of the most famous perfumes throughout the world today. (Savio Dsilva “Coco Chanel biography and life story“)

Chanel not only came up with new ideas for women’s fashion, she also came up with a few ideas about her past that were not true. She told people that she was born in 1893, but she was actually born in 1883. Not only did she lie about her age, she also told people that her mother had passed away when she was six, but in reality, she was twelve. She also convinced people into believing that her father had sailed to America and she was sent to live with her two aunts; however, her father abandoned her and she was sent to live in an orphanage. (AETN UK “Coco Chanel biography”)

Not only were Chanel’s designs different from others, her appearance also differed from other women as well. She had a bobbed haircut and wore bright red lipstick. Chanel’s designs also stood out from others as well. Her designs were new, creative styles that most people would have never thought of creating. One of her most famous, unique designs was her line of men’s-wear for women. Chanel’s purpose of designing men’s-wear for women was because she knew that the clothes for women back then were very uncomfortable, so she decided to change things up. Men’s-wear was very loose and comfortable, which got the attention from many women. Her line of men’s-wear is still very popular among women all over the world today. (Savio Dsilva “Coco Chanel biography and life story”)

Chanel’s main goal to design was not to start a completely new trend in the fashion world, but for women of all sizes across the world to be comfortable, yet still feel beautiful and classy. The clothes back then for women in the 20th century were made very tight and very stiff. Chanel wanted women to be able to move around and enjoy participating in activities. As a woman, she knew how it felt to be in uncomfortable, stiff clothes, which is why she came up with comfortable clothing, such as her famous line of men’s-wear for women. (L.G & J.C “The influence of Coco Chanel”)

On the night of January 10th, 1971, Chanel passed away at the age of 87 in her apartment at the Ritz Hotel. In 1983, Karl Lagerfield took over as chief designer for Chanel. By the help of Karl and other designers of the Chanel company, they worked on keeping the classic Chanel look to maintain the legacy Coco Chanel had left behind. During the 1980’s more than 40 Chanel boutiques had been opened up worldwide. All of those stores are still going strong today. (A+E Television Networks, LLC “Coco Chanel biography”)

Coco Chanel brought simple, yet classic designs into the fashion world, and completely changed the way women dressed. Not only did she have an impact on fashion, she also helped women to believe that they are capable of achieving their dreams. Chanel started out with nothing and dealt with a business that was dominated by men; yet she still managed to leave a huge brand name behind her after her passing.

Works Cited

“Coco Chanel Biography.” A+ E Television Networks, LLC, 2012. Web. 9 May 2012. “Coco Chanel biography.” Coco Chanel biography. AETN UK, 2011. Web. 9 May 2012. “Coco Chanel Biography.” Famous Women and Beauty. Famous Women and Beauty, 2012. Web. 9 May 2012 Craven, Jo. “Coco Chanel.” British Vogue, 11 May 2011. Web. 9 May 2012. Dsilva, Savio. “Coco Chanel Biography and Life Story.” Coco Chanel Biography. 2012. Web. 9 May 2012. Joseph, Aime. “The
Woman behind the Designs.” Coco Chanel: Innovator and Icon. Cool Old Stuff, 2012. Web. 9 May 2012. May 2012. L.G and J.C, “The influence of Coco Chanel.” The influence of Coco Chanel. 31 March 1999. Web. 9 May 2012

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