Today I would like to tell you about a fashion designer I admire. Inventor of the women’s two-piece suit and the ‘little black dress’, she broke with the corsets and created a more comfortable and realistic style for the women of the 20s. Full of imagination, energy and ambition, she transformed the world of women’s fashion even though the figure of the designer had always been male.
Gabrielle Chanel, or Gabrielle Bonheur, as she was called by the nuns of the orphanage in her childhood to give her good luck, was born the summer of 1883. From her humble beginnings she was so intent on hiding, she never imagined that she would become the only fashion designer to appear in the prestigious TIME magazine. Let’s discover more details of her life through one of her most loved creations: Chanel 2.55.
Chanel 2.55: ten facts about Coco Chanel’s life inside her iconic handbag
1. February 1955
- This purse was born on february 1955, that’s why it is called 2.55. According to Wikipedia, this purse was made to have her hands free when carrying it, inspired by the straps found on soldiers’ bags.
2. The inside
- The burgundy interior has the logo that has survived unchanged since 1920: the initials of Coco Chanel. Coco was the daughter of a laundrywoman, whose family paid 5000 francs to Coco’s father (street vendor) to marry her after having had two children. When Coco was 11, her mother died so she was placed into an orphanage. There she learned to sew and in memory of the colour of her uniform, she designed the interior of the purse in burgundy.
- When leaving the orphanage, she began to sing in the intermissions of famous singers in Moulins. The nickname comes from two songs from her repertoire: ‘Ko ko ri ko’ and ‘Qui qu’a vu Coco?’, A song about a lost puppy named Coco. According to other sources, Coco would derive from cocotte, which in French means kept woman, referring to her upper-class lovers.
3. Love letters
- There is a zippered compartment at the inside of the front flap. That is where Chanel is rumoured to have stored her love letters in her original bag.
4. Women’s money
- The backside has a back outside flap for storage of money. In fact, Coco wanted women fashion made by women and paid by women with their own money!
- Chanel, understanding that modern women needed to have their hands free while attending social functions, designed a double-chain shoulder strap, attached by leather-threaded chain inserted though eyelets. The caretakers of the convent where she grew up inspired her because they held the keys at their waist using the same type of chains.
- The bag originally came with a front lock called ‘the Mademoiselle Lock’. When she left the orphanage, she swore to become a rich woman and never depend on any man, so she didn’t plan to get married.
- The quilted diamond pattern on the exterior could have been inspired by the jockey’ vests, as it was her favourite hobby.
- It could also imitate the windows of the convent of her childhood, or the cushions of her apartment in Paris.
- The key to success is that Chanel’s creations are very practical for the context of the time. World War I had caused a shortage of some textile materials, and women also needed to ride bicycles, trains, and buses to carry out work involving physical activity, such as nurses or factory workers. They needed simple and practical outfits to be able to get dressed without servants.
- Check out Marie Claire magazine to see that this bag became popular in 1955, when Jackie Keneddy decided to wear it… It should be noted that Coco started her career designing hats as a hobby, but it turned out that they were very much in the taste of the Parisian aristocracy, while the popular classes considered them too revolutionary.
10. New collections
- Since 1983, Karl Lagerfield has been working on versioning this iconic bag using new colors, materials, sizes and small details (in this link you can admire some of them). It is undoubtedly a classic that still surprises and excites.