Saturday, November 9, 2013

Coco Chanel and the Fashion Revolution

Coco Chanel

       I recently came across the 2009 film, Coco Before Chanel, and decided to watch it in hopes of learning more about what drove the tremendous fashion Revolution of the 20th Century.  I have always been interested in her story, since Coco Chanel was almost singlehandedly responsible for some of the most dramatic changes in women's fashion.

       The movie was full of immoral liaisons, not surprisingly, since Coco and her sister, formally orphans, both found positions as mistresses in their adult life.  This struck me as interesting, considering that it would not have been difficult to find a respectable place working as a maid or a nanny back in early 20th Century France.  It also tells a great deal about the type of person Coco Chanel was.  She despised convention.  She was a Revolutionary.

     "In any case, such judgments are not really on the movie’s agenda. Rather than take a moralizing or pitying view of its characters, who live according to... the logic of their desires, Ms. Fontaine examines them with curiosity and compassion." says the New York Times.

     Although many of the scenes I could not watch, I did learn something from this film.  Firstly, Coco Chanel was a cynical person.  She saw the beauty of Victorian fashion as constraint and inequality.  She took femininity as a curse and used every effort to revolutionize it into a superficial tool that moved society.  Coco saw sailors on the beach and immediately designed a striped jersey overall for herself to wear- with pants.  She walked around in her own creations, a man's coat, a short haircut, no corset, a perpetual cigarette, and drew the attention of something "different" which was later seen as something "modern", "all the rage", and "classy". The Revolution moved on.

     The movie covers only Coco's early life.  She went on to become the mistress of some of the most influential men of her time.  She was a drug addict for most of her life, injecting herself with morphine on a daily basis.  Coco Chanel was rumored to have German sympathies during World War II; in any case, she moved among German elites in Paris during its occupation, even becoming involved in an affair with a noted German officer at the Paris Ritz.
Early Chanel designs
    Why do these personal events matter so much in the analysis of a celebrated designer of women's fashion?

      Perhaps they tell the story better than her clothes.  Coco Chanel's designs "liberated" women from a life of traditional morality.  They freed women to become the feminist working woman of a brave new world.  They stepped toward a hippy nudist culture.  They were the first hint of our current nation of slobs.  All of these fashion eras are related through a progression of rebellion.

      Women are made by God to be ladies with engrained morality based on natural law.  Evil hates women to be this way and thus creates an alternative in popular culture, especially fashion.

    I assume it is pretty obvious at this point what I think of Coco Chanel and the Fashion Revolution.  (Although No. 5 perfume and Chanel jewelry can still be used to accent femininity of course!)  The question is, do you agree?  Please let me know in the comments below!


  1. I agree that how a person lives affects their outlook. It does not surprise me that Coco Chanel was cynical, a drug addict or that she was a willing tool for the enemy. She had no hope and no belief in something outside of herself. It is a hard struggle to have daughters today being bombarded with the "feminist" junk and trying to push back with what true femininity is. I pray that my oldest gets it soon. Thanks for bringing up these topics for conversation. I wish I had been having these conversations when I was in my 20's.

  2. Very interesting, thank you! Love Chanel! and preferring to think back to Coco Chanel's early brave days in Deauville, so in love and so stylish - more here: xx

  3. She lived her life her way and not God's way. Although she had incredible talent, she had no problem using her sexual allure to attach herself to influential and wealthy men who helped her. She wasn't a feminist in that way. She used people. No wonder she was an unhappy woman.

  4. Her early clothes were feminine in a relaxed way, long with a defined waist. I was interested to notice that once the love of her life died, she started designing those horrible boxy jackets.


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