fashion history: what got Chanel started in fashion?

Fashion History: What Got Chanel Started in Fashion?

In Fashion & Culture, Student Mingle by Sarah Rabiah

Coco Chanel has marked her place in the fashion industry with her timeless designs, but what got Chanel started in fashion? 


Famous for her trademark designs and timeless black dresses, Coco Chanel set foot into the fashion industry after creating hats under the name “Chanel Modes” in 1909. With her simple and elegant sense of style, her fashion was majorly favored by women who were still closely tied to traditional fashion from that era. Her big break came when a French actress named Gabrielle Dorziat modeled her hats. Even though Chanel became more famous for her clothes, her hats still remain as a hallmark and it has been reimagined in many recent runway shows. 

Chanel used materials from men’s undergarments for her clothing. The lack of materials and the higher costs inspired her this unusual choice, resulting in designs that were softer and favored simplicity with comfort. For this reason, many designers deemed her fashion as taboo, but to her surprise, the fashion was taken well by the upper-class women who were bored by unfriendly and uncomfortable fashion which was predominant during that time. This helped her continue to improve her clothing and accessories so she could keep the attention of the upper elite. With Chanel’s revolutionary idea, there was a huge change in the women’s fashion industry, and her designs still remain timeless as they still retain elegance even after a century.

By 1921, she had started to branch out from the fashion industry to the world of fragrance. And just like her clothing, this gained popularity among the upper elite class. 

Overall, it was hats that got Chanel started in fashion and led to her success today. Her fortune was built on an old jersey that she put on because of cold weather in Deauville. Over time, this simple idea changed the definition of women’s fashion and allowed women to embrace their true nature, by making them feel free and strong. 

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