Designer 101: Chanel

I’m going to add another topic into my regular post rotation, it’s called Designer 101. Most girls I know love to shop, love fashion, getting dressed up, etc. But most  don’t know much about the history of fashion and what designers had a significant influence on the fashion of the past and present. So, I have decided to give some history and on some of fashion’s most well known (and not so well known designers)  in an effort to expand my own knowledge and maybe teach you something you didn’t know before (without having to do the research). Yea Yea, you can thank me later…


Most people have heard of Chanel and can recognize her trademark logo with the interlocking C’s in a heart beat, but outside of her classic tweed suit, pearls and logo a lot of people don’t know much about the history of her designs and her fashion contributions.  Here is a bit of history on Chanel:

She was born into a working class family in 1883 and was sent to live in an orphanage run by nuns after her mother died in 1895.

She originally aspired to be a singer. She sometimes sang in Moulins, where she earned the nick name Coco.

She eventually gave up her dream of singing because she well….kind of sucked at it. Lucky for us she started working as a dress-maker and was very talented.

She got her start in fashion designing hats, which became very popular.

She opened her first fashion house in France in 1913.

She debuted her first full collection in Biarritz, France in 1916.

Chanel didn’t understand or like the types of clothes women were wearing at the time. The majority of women were outfitted in ridiculously tight corsets and uncomfortable dresses like this…

Women not only wore these dresses to events, but this was their regular day wear and even beach wear!  Chanel thought it was a bit ridiculous. She thought clothing should fit into the modern woman’s lifestyle so she created looser more comfortable clothes. She took emphasis away from the waist and created a dress with fluid simple design and a narrow sash around the hips.

Pictured above are early Chanel designs worn by her sister and aunt.

Chanel was a women before her time, as she built her empire (keenly utilizing the help and resources of the men she dated) she quickly became one of the richest women in France. Here she is featured in a 1920s ad.

The events and travels of her life greatly influenced her style. While dating the Duke of Westminster she started to design costume jewelry and tweed clothing. Which of course lead to her designing her signature tweed suit.

Chanel also came up with the concept of the little black dress. She actually created it to mourn the death of her first true love Boy Capel.

Chanel was also on of  the first women’s designers to introduce pants or her signature “beach pajamas” into women’s wear.

Pictured above is Coco Chanel in the 1930’s wearing her own beach pajamas.

Pictured above are some Chanel style beach pajamas featured in a 1930’s post card from Monte Carlo.

Pictured above is Kirsten Dunst in the movie the Cat’s Meow wearing some Chanel Style beach pajamas.

Chanel’s fashion influences:

Created Cardigan style jackets

Slender A Line skirts

Matching tweed or wool jersey

Quilted shoulder bags

2 tone shoes with a cap toe

Jewel like buttons on jackets

Chain belts

Created women’s sports wear, by borrowing influences from masculine clothing

Layers of pearls

Mixing real jewelry and costume jewelry

Little Known facts about Chanel:

She learned to sew at the orphanage where she grew up
She was never married
Her favorite number was 5, hence her perfume Chanel (which was the fifth sample she tried)
When she was alive, her perfume was even more successful than her clothes
She created a fine jewelry line, which was never very popular
Gold was her favorite metal
She created her clothes to help women look younger

Chanel died in 1971 at the age of 87. She worked all the way up to the day before her death. Chanel’s style and designs greatly influenced fashion past and present. She was a style icon, bold and visionary designer and amazing entrepreneur.

Chanel Today

Today Chanel is designed by Karl Lagerfeld.

As you can tell by the picture, he’s an “interesting” man…ok imma stop.

He took over as chief designer in 1983. He has changed Chanel’s original lady like designs with classic lines to shorter more eye catching pieces. He has undoubtedly been the driving force behind the global expansion of the Chanel brand including jewelery, of course perfume and cosmetics.

I hope you found this post interesting and informative and maybe you learned a new thing or two about Chanel, I did!

3 Responses to “Designer 101: Chanel”
  1. lexi says:

    really didn’t know something about her. really good read!

  2. imagemaven says:

    @Lexi Thanks!
    @Bethany Linda’s presentation really inspired to do this for my blog! So I used Chanel as a starting point since we learned so much about her and ill be building on it from there.

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