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A Glossary on Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel & Her Favourite Things

Think you know the Mademoiselle like the back of your hand? We'll see about that...
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Gabrielle Chanel, legendary designer and coiner of famous quotes, had many favourite things. She was one of those people who truly took inspiration from anywhere and anybody, processed it and made it her own. If there was something she didn’t like about the way women dressed, she took it upon herself to change it. The Mademoiselle – never Madame – threw away corsets, put women in black and encouraged them to mix faux pearls with real ones. As cheesy as it sounds, Chanel was truly a woman ahead of her time.

In honour of the late designer’s birthday, we’ve created a glossary of some of her loved and favourite things. Some of it are now signatures of the brand, while others have influenced collections to this day. (The Fall/Winter 2016 collection was basically a tribute to all things Chanel.) How many of the following do you know? It is time to put your fashion knowledge to the test.


2.55: Gabrielle Chanel first added straps to bags in the 1920s – she had enough of misplacing her handheld bags – but the 2.55 we know today was created in 1955, hence the name “2.55”.

Boucle Jacket: The iconic four-pocket jacket inspired by military uniforms. She sewed a chain into the lining, giving it the weight it needed to fall nicely on the body’s frame.

Boy: Arthur “Boy” Capel, one of Gabrielle Chanel’s most notable lovers and her greatest one. The now-iconic “Boy” bag is named after him.

“CC”: Her famous logo, inspired by the stained glass windows she saw in an Aubazine chapel near the orphanage that she grew up in.

Coco: Gabrielle Chanel’s more recognisable name, derived from the song “Who Has Seen Coco?” which she sang often while performing in the cabarets of Paris. Apparently, the liked to pretend that “Coco” was a nickname given to her by her father.

Camelia: Chanel’s favourite flower, now seen in everything from the house’s packaging to the high jewellery collections.

Chanel No.5: Before its official creation in 1921, Chanel was first presented with a series of numbered fragrances by perfumer Ernest Beaux. She picked the bottle labelled “No.5”, which is also her lucky number. The fragrance’s most notable wearer is none other than Marilyn Monroe, who famously said that she wore No.5 and nothing else to bed.

Costume Jewellery: “What counts is not the carats, but the illusion” – Chanel often mixed the faux with real, whether it was precious stones or pearls. By creating costume jewellery, which was more accessible than real, high jewellery, she believed that women would accessorise more. [Also see Pearls]

Famous Friends: The Mademoiselle had a squad before the squad was even a thing. Sorry, T. Swizzle. She hung with Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau, Sergei Diaghilev and Hugh Grosvenor, the then-Duke of Westminster, among many illustrious others.

Hats: Hardly ever seen without one, Gabrielle Chanel started her career as a milliner who sought to strip down traditional hats of their unnecessary bulk and decorations. Her favourite? The boater hat.

La Pausa: Chanel’s residence in Italy, built according to her tastes. It is there that she often hung with her famous friends. [See Famous Friends]

Lion: Her star sign was Leo, which naturally led to the taking of the lion as her personal emblem and talisman. The lion is now a common feature in the house’s high jewellery collections.

Little Black Dress: Fed up with how dressmakers and society were putting women in long, corseted dresses, Chanel freed the torso and ankles, creating her very first LBD in 1926. She also put women in wide-leg pants.

Matelassé: The padded quilt pattern so associated with the house was first inspired by the world of horse-riding.

Pearls: “A woman needs ropes and ropes of pearls”, she once said, which is why she was hardly ever seen without them. [Also see Costume Jewellery]

Ritz Hotel: The Mademoiselle’s place of residence for over 35 years. Her former home is now the “Coco Chanel Suite” and is actually available for reservations…if you have €18,000 to spare.

Rue Cambon: In 1918, she opened her first couture house on 31 Rue Cambon. She closed it at age 55 and retreated to Switzerland before reopening it again at age 70. The atelier still stands today, as does her famous apartment in the building. [Also see Ritz]

Tweed: A permanent fixture at Chanel, apparently first inspired by the tweeds that the Duke of Westminster, her former lover, wore. [See Famous Friends]

 

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