By Maureen Mancini Amaturo
<“The best things in life are free. The second best are very expensive.”> – Coco Chanel
No style has aged better than Gabrielle “Coco” Boheur Chanel’s, who was born on August 19, 1883.
Her life was a model of independence, strength, and guts. “Trying to be a man is a waste of a woman,” she said. Not only did Chanel set the style gold standard, she was a feminist champion having lived what the suffragettes were just beginning to preach. The confidence that defined her designs defined her, too. She told a journalist, “I don’t do fashion. I am fashion.”
Chanel believed style is not what a woman wears, but who she is, and her clothes tell the world about her. For her, fashion was an art that mirrored society, emotions, and relationships. “Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening,” she said.
We know what timeless fashion is because she told us. “Fashion changes, but style endures.” Chanel’s strong opinions have remained a fashion guide for close to a century. The quotes below are among her style commandments.
• “Simplicity is the keynote of true elegance.”
Quality not quantity. Classic, understated pieces that subtly suggest excellence.
A little black dress with sheer hem at Great Stuff
• “I don’t understand how a woman can leave the house without fixing herself up a little — if only out of politeness. And then, you never know, maybe that’s the day she has a date with destiny. And it’s best to be as pretty as possible for destiny.”
What would Mademoiselle say about the pajama pants, ath-leisure wear, and naked dress trends?
“Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman.”
Add a swipe of lipstick. Steam out those wrinkles. Don’t overlook the details.
• “A woman with good shoes is never ugly.”
No matter how simple your ensemble, great shoes will kick it up a notch. Shoes can add a strong color or pop of personality to a low-key outfit.
• “Women think of all colors except the absence of color. I have said that black has it all. White, too. Their beauty is absolute. It is the perfect harmony.”
There is no more versatile backdrop for accessories than black & white. Either extreme can be demure or dramatic. Both are eternally classics.
• “Look for the woman in the dress. If there is no woman, there is no dress.”
The length, color, print, silhouette for your figure = right dress. Don’t let your dress drown you. If you look in the mirror and see the dress before you see your face, you’re wearing the wrong outfit.
• “Fashion is architecture: it is a matter of proportions.”
Know your figure. Accentuate the positive. Invest in tailoring. Balance is everything. Too much billowy is overwhelming, and you have no shape at all. Too much tight can be tacky.
Coco Chanel was 87 when she died on January 10, 1971, but her gutsy glamour lives on. She continues to be the subject of exhibits, articles, and books. “SCOOP…” author Jeanne Mackin’s account of the feud between Chanel and Schiaparelli will be published in winter 2018. In the meantime, check out “Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life” by Justine Picardie or “Chanel and Her World” by Edmonde Charles-Roux, two of many Chanel biographies out there. For fiction lovers, read the novel, “Mademoiselle Chanel” by C. W. Gortner.
So, on August 19, wear a little black dress, drape as many pearls around your neck as it will bear, spritz No. 5 in all the right places (according to Chanel, that would be wherever you would want to be kissed), gather your girlfriends, and celebrate Mlle. Chanel’s birthday.
Chanel mini purse at Encore Designer Consignment
Flapper elegance with multiple pearl necklaces at Great Stuff