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Archive for December, 2007

It’s hard to believe that despite being born in 1883, the heart of the Victorian Era and just a few years before Jack the Ripper terrorized London, Coco Chanel’s name is still synonymous with haute couture. She revolutionized the constrictive women’s wear of the time, easing women out of corsets and into chic, tailored suits that have since become her signature style. She was quoted as saying that she wanted women to have “the possibility to laugh and eat, without necessarily having to faint.” In 1909, Chanel opened a millinery shop in Paris, creating elegant hats for French actresses. This progressed into the development of a movable, yet sophisticated line made of jersey fabric and then finally in her first couture house in 1915. From here, came the introduction of the infamous Chanel No.5 parfume, the little black dress, and the classic tweed suit. The LBD was coined by Vogue as the uniform of fashionable women and was later popularized by icon Audry Hepburn. It has since been adapted by designers worldwide. In 1939, Chanel suddenly retired from fashion design, closed her couture house, and only maintained her jewelry and perfume lines. Then in 1954, she re-opened the Chanel couture house and re-introduced the jersey suit now bearing the signature Coco Chanel logotype. She also debuted the quilted purse. Chanel’s death in 1971 bought the close of an era and the start of Karl Lagerfeld’s reign. Bringing in his flair for bold and brash, Lagerfeld transformed the House of Chanel. His showing at fashion week sp/su 2008 in Paris gave critics a fresh look at the typical Chanel apparel. He reformed the LBD with layers and a gothic intonation (which for some reason felt really Gucci) and took the classic suit to new levels with atypical silhouettes and looser shapes. Despite giving the label a trendier look, he has maintained the graceful refinement of Chanel’s original vision. Although Chanel was born into poverty, I have a feeling her haute couture fashion house will forever be equated with elegance and class.

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