I while ago read a biography of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel. It was a fascinating read. At times I found myself surprised by certain elements of her personality, for example her pride and seeming lack of emotion. But for the most part I found her ceaseless determination and enduring belief in herself to be very inspirational. Here are 6 things I’ve learned from Gabrielle Chanel.
- Don’t let your past stop you from being who you want to be. Chanel came from a very poor family and her mother passed away when she was quite young, yet her complicated family life and difficult childhood didn’t stop her from pursuing and achieving her goals.
- Defy convention. Chanel worn jodhpurs so she could horse ride astride when convention demanded that women were not to wear pants, and must only ride side saddle. She worn simple headbands of her own design in place of elaborate headpieces that were not to here taste. She knew what she liked and didn’t let anyone tell her what she should or shouldn’t wear.
- Try something new. Chanel started making dresses out of jersey, a machine-made knit, which up until that point had only been used for underwear (usually men’s). Chanel wanted women to be comfortable, to be able to move, to be able to be independent. Clearly she was onto something as knits are now considered a wardrobe staple.
- Consider comfort. Now not all of my sartorial choices are based on comfort (high heels, anyone?) But when designing clothes I do always consider how comfortable the design will be. Is it reasonably practical? Does it allow for freedom of movement? One of the motivations behind Chanel’s decision to use jersey was to make women more comfortable. She wanted to liberate women from the constraints of corsets, long skirts and other garments that meant women couldn’t even get dressed unaided.
- Don’t underestimate the value of simple styling. Chanel used simple, elegant accessories to turn very simple outfits into something a bit more special. A brooch, a strand of pearls or a chiffon scarf can transform an outfit from basic to chic. Accessories should enhance an outfit, not compete with it.
- Work hard and don’t give up. Chanel didn’t become a highly respected fashion designer and icon by giving up. She worked tirelessly, first as a milliner before crossing over into women’s wear. Despite numerous challenges, heartbreaks, setbacks and two World Wars, Chanel never gave up. Her success as a designer was a testament as much to her fierce determination and unwillingness to give up as it is to her impeccable taste
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