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Chanel: A Fashion House with a Social Vision

Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel
Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel

Foreword: Luke Brown

'Chanel’, a name and company that is instantly recognisable and has become a cornerstone of the female fashion world. However the work and legacy of Gabrielle Chanel resonates beyond the world of fashion, helping to change the status quo on how women should dress and express themselves. As our female fashion writer Anastacia Peters explores, Chanel was a fashion house with a social vision that turned the tide on many traditional ideals.

Words: Anastacia Peters

By revolutionising the fashion industry throughout the 20th century Coco Chanel challenged traditional mentalities and expanded the possibilities for women to express themselves, helping to form the ‘modern woman’ as we understand her today.

At the time Chanel’s designs were extremely innovative as she dismissed the fashionable items of her era such as the corset, large hats and the veil, all of which were impractical and uncomfortable. It was Chanel’s desire to make women feel comfortable and at ease in their clothing whilst also maintaining elegance. For example, her celebrated creation of the Little Black Dress in 1926 changed the traditional style of women as it focused on simple, modest and most importantly ‘chic’ clothing.

Chanel Iconic Tweed Suit
The Chanel Iconic Tweed Suit

Chanel’s inspiration for this design came from her childhood experience in the orphanage where she grew up; the Abbey of Aubazine. Chanel merely redesigned the modest dresses that the orphanage nuns wore, into a timeless outfit that would draw more attention to the natural beauty of the woman than the dress itself.

Chanel had not only redesigned elegant dress code for high society but she also was the first to invent sports clothing for women as she wanted to encourage women to participate in such activities without any physical restrictions. Chanel understood the difficulty for a woman to ride a horse in a side saddle position, and as a result the idea of polo shirts and trousers surfaced.

Chanel Trousers Women
Chanel's Popularisation of trousers for women

These creations are an example of Chanel’s ideas for the modern woman to be active. The sport and work wear that she designed exhibited her beliefs that women should be placed in the same position as men. This was a bold statement that implied equality between the genders by popularising stereotypical male attire, such as trousers, for women.

With the surge of the women’s movement across Europe after the war, Chanel took the opportunity to introduce the first tailored outfit for women using ‘jersey’ which was a comfortable and stretchy fabric that had traditionally been used for the uniforms of men who fought on the front line. Chanel had successfully started a social rebellion while establishing a world-renowned brand.

The full piece will be in the Autumn Printed Edition.


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