Coco chanel adjusts the armhole of a dress while the model wearing it stands with her arm raised

Coco Chanel Opens Her First Store

Model wearing an outfit designed by Coco Chanel in 1926.

Model wearing an outfit designed by Coco Chanel in 1926.

Paris, France — Coco Chanel, one of the most famous fashion designers of all time, opened her first shop in 1910. Chanel became known for her fusion of the feminine and masculine in her style.  She disregarded the ornate, restrictive women’s dress style of the late nineteenth century and began to make clothes for women that were simple, practical, and “often inspired by men’s wear” (Krick). She used jersey fabric, a fabric typically used for men’s underwear, because it was light, suited her styles, and was cheap to produce. Chanel was known for a muted color scheme in her clothing, and according to a publication of the Dundee Courier in 1934, Chanel “introduced and sponsored black as a fashionable colour” (Dundee Courier). Chanel’s functional clothing attracted women who were required to be active to meet the demands of WWI and WWII.

Chanel’s designs echo her contemporary Virginia Woolf’s thoughts on the “androgynous mind” in A Room of One’s Own. Woolf states in chapter six of the book “The normal and comfortable state of being is that when the two [masculine and feminine] live in harmony together, spiritually co-operating.” (Woolf)  Woolf realized the futility of creating all masculine and all feminine spaces. She called for her readers to embrace both the masculine and feminine in their personalities because they “require to be united in order to get complete satisfaction and happiness.”(Woolf) Chanel exemplified Woolf’s idea of the androgynous mind by uniting the masculine and feminine in her clothing through color, fabric, and design to create clothing that appealed to masses of active young women.

Works Cited:

Krick, Jessa. “Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel (1883–1971) and the House of Chanel.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/chnl/hd_chnl.htm (October 2004)

“Men and Women of To-Day.” Dundee Courier. 13 Feb. 1934: n.pag. Newspaper.

Woolf, Virginia A Room of One’s Own. Project Gutenburg of Austrailia Ebooks. Oct. 2002. Website. 30 Sept. 2016.

Media Cited:

WOMEN’S FASHION, 1926. – Model wearing an outfit designed by Coco Chanel in 1926. Photograph, 1990.. Fine Art. Britannica ImageQuest. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 25 May 2016.
http://quest.eb.com/search/140_1694447/1/140_1694447/cite. Accessed 30 Sep 2016.

Kirkland, Douglas. Coco Chanel Working in Her Paris Atelier in 1962. 1962. The Guardian. The Guardian, 08 Jan. 2015. Web. 29 Sept. 2016. http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2015/1/7/1420639694769/Coco-Chanel-working-Paris-001.jpg

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