Although, Chanel would not have defined herself as a feminist, she is seen as one of the most powerful figures in the women’s liberation movement during the World War I. All over the western world women were fighting for equality and the right to vote, and one of the means of expressing this newly found courage was through appearance and clothing. Curls, frills and flounces were out. Short haircuts, tubular flat-chested silhouettes and simplification in design were in. In such sprit, Chanel believed that women ought to dress simply and comfortably. She not only appropriated styles, fabrics and articles of clothing that were worn by men but also the sports clothes as part of the female language of fashion.
Chanel's own lifestyle fueled her ideas of how modern women everywhere should look, act, and dress. Her own slim boyish figure and cropped hair became an ideal, as did her tanned skin, active lifestyle, and financial independence. Throughout her career, Chanel succeeded in packaging and marketing her own personal attitudes and style, making her a key arbiter of women's taste throughout the twentieth century.
Chanel continued to create successful looks for women through the 1920s and '30s. In 1926, American Vogue likened Chanel's "little black dress" to the Ford, alluding to its almost universal popularity as a fashion basic. In fact, the concept of the dress suitable for day and evening did become both a staple for Chanel throughout subsequent seasons and a classic piece of twentieth-century women's wear.
Despite her great success, Chanel closed the doors of her salon in 1939, when France declared war on Germany. Other couturiers left the country, but Chanel endured the war in Paris, her future uncertain. Following the end of the hostilities and resolution of some personal difficulties, Chanel found she could not carelessly stand by and observe the early success of Christian Dior, whose "New Look" prevailed in the postwar period. While many admired Dior's celebration of femininity, with full skirts and nipped-in waists, Chanel felt his designs were neither modern nor suitable for the liberated women who had survived another war by taking on active roles in society. Just as she had following World War I, Chanel set out to rescue and revive women's fashion.
The designer faced challenges in this endeavor: securing finances, assembling a new staff, seeking out new fabrics, competing at age seventy against a new generation of designers. Chanel's comeback collection of couture debuted in 1953. Within three seasons, Chanel was enjoying newfound respect. She updated her classic looks, reworking the classic tweed designs until wealthy women and celebrities returned to the showroom.The Chanel suit became a status symbol for a new generation, made of solid or tweed fabric, with its slim skirt and collarless jacket trimmed in braid, gold buttons, patch pockets, and—sewn into the hem—a gold-colored chain ensuring it hung properly from the shoulders. Chanel also reintroduced her handbags, jewelry, and shoes with great success in subsequent seasons.
Following Chanel's death in 1971, several of her assistants designed the couture and ready-to-wear lines until Karl Lagerfeld (born 1938) took over the haute couture design in 1983 and ready-to-wear in 1984. Lagerfeld, like Chanel at the time of her comeback, looked to past designs for the secret to his success. His designs incorporated signature Chanel details, tweed fabrics, colors, gold chains, quilt-stitched leather, and the linked "CC" logo. Lagerfeld's ability to continuously mine the Chanel archive for inspiration testifies to the importance of Gabrielle Chanel's contributions to women's fashion in the twentieth centur y.
P.S. Coco Chanel to me represents everything a woman should stand for : class and individuality. Therefore, it only seemed suitable that my first post would feature a short biography of a woman who inspired and continues to inspire the fashion world as well as women around the world.
1. http://www.time.com/time/time100/artists/profile/chanel.html 2. http://www.metmuseum.org/TOAH/hd/chnl/hd_chnl.htm