20th-century fashion icons and their contributions to fashion: Coco Chanel. During the 20th century, the fashion world was in constant evolution. Many were the trends born, and behind them have been significant design figures. People who, despite time, continue to be a reference today.
Their vision and contributions have been critical to this scene, which led them to become fashion icons. Their designs and styles are more current than ever, still serving as an inspiration to new generations.
Therefore, let´s know those great designers who have set a precedent and left their mark on the fashion world.
Gabrielle Chanel was born in Saumur, France, on August 19, 1883. Her mother, Eugénie Jeanne, died at age 31 when Gabrielle was twelve years old. Due to their precarious living conditions, she and her two sisters were taken in at the orphanage of the Aubazine monastery, Corrèze. Gabrielle and her sisters received strict discipline there and learned to sew, embroider by hand, and iron.
When she turned 18, she was sent to a religious boarding school in Moulins. One that had the resources to pay for the studies and preparation of the young women. And, above all, help them get a decent job once they finished school.
Her beginnings in fashion were through the design and manufacture of hats.
Once they were ready, she used them when attending horse races as a way to show them and draw the attention of the attendees along with her way of dressing.
She then officially became a hat maker in 1909, opening a boutique on Boulevard Malesherber.
At the same time establishing her fashion house Chanel Modes in Cambon, Paris, the following year.
In 1913 she opened a boutique in Deauville. A place where she implanted casual clothing for leisure and sports activities made with fabrics such as jersey and tricot. As well as selling hats, jackets, sweaters, and long-sleeved sailor-style shirts. Achieving a positive reception from the newspaper The New Yorker, which published: “The ladies of Deauville woke up one morning to discover a striking difference in elegance between their clothes and Chanel fashion,” and in Women’s Wear. They predicted a big win with their wool knit sweaters.
In February 1916, she presented her first collection in the fall. Her designs appearing in Vogue magazine for the first time. And her sports-style garments were successful, selling in large department stores in the United States.
In 1919 her fashion house was officially registered as a couturière, which is the French translation of dressmaker, seamstress, or tailor. She opened another boutique in 1921, where she sold hats, clothing, accessories, jewelry, and perfumes.
In this same year (1921), in collaboration with Ernest Beaux, perfumer, she created her first perfume. The world-renowned Chanel No. 5. Even to date, which became a success, bottled in a bottle of glass designed and built by Coco Chanel herself.
Gabrielle returned to Paris once the First World War was over. However, her designs were not well received by Parisian society, more so by British and American culture. So, she moved to the United States for a while. In alliance with film producer, Samuel Goldwyn dressed movie stars both for the screen off it.
Over the 1950s, Gabrielle began to produce, together with the goldsmith Robert Goossens, some of the essential jewels, pieces with pearls, imitation stones, crystal, rings, earrings, braided silver, and gold brooches with emeralds, pendants, and Byzantine crystal crosses.
In 1954, she reopened his fashion house, in which she continued to work despite suffering from rheumatism and arthritis in an advanced state.
Gabrielle Coco Chanel died on January 10, 1971, from a heart attack. In bed at the Ritz Hotel, where she has lived for more than 30 years, at 87.
In 1957, she received the Neiman Marcus Fashion Award, recognizing her as the century’s most influential designer. And in 1959, she was appointed a member of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Her influence and contributions to fashion
Chanel was perceived as a rebellious and risky designer. Because she broke the rules by freeing women from the use of corsets and elaborate designs. She was introducing more casual and sporty clothing pieces.
She created cruise fashion, designed especially for women who went out on vacation on ships in the summer. With a navy and fresh style and design line.
Also, she took men’s garments as a reference and redesigned them to adapt them to the feminine environment. Her motto was comfort and feminine elegance.
Little Black Dress
Black was a color intended solely for use in cases of mourning. Chanel decided to change the meaning of this color, becoming synonymous with chic elegance. She immortalized the little black dress, made of wool or chenille fabrics to wear during the day. And satin, crepe, and velvet fabrics for the night.
This allowed this model to be available to any woman and thus have the opportunity to look elegant.
Today the Little black dress is considered part of the closet basics that every woman should have. Due to its versatility and because it brings elegance and presence when dressing without much effort.
The Tweed Suit
It was inspired by the suits worn by the Duke of Westminster, one of her lovers.
This suit comprises a set of skirts and jackets without shoulder pads or darts. It was tailored to whoever requested it and was an option practice for women’s day-to-day.
And maintaining both the style and the modesty required by the time.
One of the most striking characteristics of this type of suit is the spinning of the fabric, whose preparation was requested from a Scottish textile factory.
The 2.55 Bag
Its name is due to the date it was created, February 1955.
The model is inspired by the models of the bags used by war soldiers. And that gave women the opportunity to have their hands accessible at the same time that they could elegantly carry their belongings.
Part of the design simulated the belts used by the caretakers of the orphanage where Chanel grew up. And the burgundy color inside the bag was the uniform used by the nuns in the convent.
The piece’s exterior was inspired by the vests worn by jockeys in horse races.
It is a high-heeled shoe model made up of two shades.
A nude color throughout the shoe to visually lengthen the leg and the tip in black, with which it sought to shorten the appearance of the foot.
It was so popular that it was versioned in a high-heeled model and slippers.
Stars like Catherine Deneuve and Brigette Bardot popularized it by using these models, becoming a success.
It is one of the most emblematic pieces of Chanel, inspired by the nautical uniform of sailors. And thanks to the trips made to the French coast, it is a long-sleeved top with horizontal stripes in navy blue and white shades.
Today it has been versioned and inspired to do it in another variety of colors.
Chanel was a woman who represented her personal life in her designs, both for clothing and jewelry, perfumes, bags, among others.
Her relationships and social, romantic, or personal connections gave her the necessary impetus to start her business. And the foundation of her stores and fashion houses.
Despite having been a controversial character and with a life far from being rosy and perfect, she left a legacy and a mark in the world of unbeatable fashion. Since the Chanel style continues to be a reference to date.