Chanel's Top Ten
Olivia Pinnock rounds up the ten most iconic creations by that French grande dame of fashion, Coco Chanel
By Olivia Pinnock on Monday 10th January, 2011
Without even knowing it, when we open our wardrobes most of us will own something that is inspired by Coco Chanel’s designs. Whether that’s a tweed jacket or simply anything black, Chanel’s fashion legend lives on. We pick the top 10 most iconic Chanel pieces:
• Chanel 2.55: Possibly the most famous handbag in history. From the quilted leather, inspired by jockey’s jackets, to the chain handle, which meant that women could finally do things efficiently without having to clutch on to their bag - it has become truly iconic. Named after its date of production (February 1955), this highly covetable bag currently retails from £1,200 and has been seen on the arms of the most famous and most stylish.
• Little Black Dress: Before Chanel made black mean class and elegance, it meant mourning and sadness. Using black for general wear proved that simplicity is sometimes the most shocking statement of all. When the first ever ‘little, black dress’ appeared in Vogue in 1926, many didn’t understand it, but the magazine called it: “a sort of uniform for all women of taste.” How right they were.
• Two-tone sling backs: Not only are Chanel’s designs beautiful they are always practical. The two-tone sling backs, designed in 1957, solved the issues women faced with grass stains on their shoes when attending sporting events. Now the black toe cap on a beige shoe has become a style choice of its own.
• Chanel no.5: For almost 90 years, Chanel no.5 has been the perfume for chic women. A beautiful scent that is sold every 55 seconds and that Marilyn Monroe famously said she wore to bed. The bottle itself is an design icon too. Stripped back and simple, Chanel wanted the scent to speak for itself. It went against conventions by being so simple and being named after a number, allegedly as it was the 5th sample of her first perfume.
• Jersey: In the early 20th century a fabric such as jersey that was loose, comfy and cool was only used for underwear. Chanel believed women should have the virtues of this fabric in everyday life. She bought it at low cost, made it into dresses and sold it on for a huge profit. Even after her business became a great success she continued to use jersey for its qualities as opposed to its cost.
• Tweed Suit: Inspired by her lover, Hugh Grosvenor the Duke of Westminster’s wardrobe, the infamous tweed twin set is a true mark of classic elegance. As with jersey, Chanel changed attitudes towards the practical material and made it stylish and feminine. When it was first made it was considered drab and stiff but it has become the finest skirt suit a woman can wear.
• Faux Pearl Necklace: Never one to flaunt wealth, Chanel may have piled on pearl necklaces but they were never all real as she felt that would be crass. Pearls and Chanel stand for the same thing: sophistication and understated beauty. It comes as no surprise then that when Chanel introduced pearls into her collection, they weren’t always real. Who cares when it’s real Chanel.
• Compact Lipstick: It is impossible to think now of using a lipstick that doesn’t swivel daintily down inside a protective tube but we have Chanel to thank. For her, lipstick was an essential and she wasn’t going to let impractical packaging stop her from topping up her make up through the day.
• The Straw Boater Hat: It would be wrong not to include a hat in the former milliner, Chanel’s most iconic pieces. The simplicity of the hat, made in 1910, was much admired by socialites who had to wear hats but were constantly frustrated by them being heavy and over the top in style. As with most of her designs it continued to be a favourite for decades after.
• J12 Chronograph Watch: A modern classic from the House of Chanel. This watch, first produced in 2000, is the ultimate luxury sports watch from Chanel. It was Chanel’s first unisex watch and the continued release of new models, including a collaboration with Audemars Piguet, have shown Mademoiselle Chanel’s fashion ideals reincarnated in modern times.