Chanel: Her style and her life

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9780385488723: Chanel: Her style and her life

No single designer has had as tremendous a hold on style in the twentieth century as Coco Chanel. In this sumptuous, profusely illustrated book, Janet Wallach shows readers Chanel style in all its glory--from the fabulous fashions she created to the glamorous life she led.

Like a character in a fairy tale, Coco Chanel rose from being an ordinary seamstress to reigning as the queen of fashion. Chanel was stunningly independent, beautifully feminine, and irresistibly desirable to men; most important, she was never afraid to be herself. A pioneer in an industry dominated by men, she turned her style into the revolutionary chic that set her fashions apart. Borrowing copiously from the wardrobes of her illustrious lovers (among them the Duke of Westminter and Grand Duke Dimitri of Russia), Chanel took trousers, tweeds, riding clothes, cuff links, and even neckties, and cleverly transformed them into elegant women's wear. With an understanding that only a female designer could have, she eased women's formerly confining way of dressing, adapting the freedom of men's clothing without sacrificing sensuality and femininity. Since then, women who seek the look of authority and supreme taste have embraced Chanel.

Fans of her couture will devour all the delectable stories behind such Chanel trademarks as fabulous fake pearls, minimalist hats, comfortable and beautifully structured suits, and legendary perfumes, and will marvel at the 150 astonishing photographs and illustrations. A delightful feast of pictures and words as stylish and elegant as the designer herself, Chanel Style celebrates the woman, the look, and the legend.

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Review:

Coco Chanel: her name is synonymous with luxury and elegance. But little Gabrielle Chanel was raised in an orphanage and schooled in a convent--having lost her mother and been virtually abandoned by her father. She picked up the nickname Coco when she was a young cabaret singer--"Ko Ko Rik Ko" ("Cock-a-doodle-do") being the only song she could sing. Those early years of deprivation fueled her lifelong pursuits of strong, doting men and, more famously, high fashion. After she spent years making her own clothes, hats were the first Chanel designs to earn her some recognition and a little bit of money. Bankrolled by a wealthy boyfriend--her first of many--and worn by famous opera singers, the hats--which liberated women from the complicated and extravagantly festooned headgear of the early 1900s--were the first of Chanel's many successful fashion innovations. She borrowed heavily from men's closets, belting their jackets and sweaters and pairing them with skirts to make comfortable suits for working women. She pioneered pants as eveningwear for women and invented clothing that could be worn during the day and into the night. A crisp white collar, perhaps a reference to her convent days, was a common element in her designs. She decorated her unstructured Jersey knits with pearl necklaces and faux jewels and furs so that, despite their comfort, her clothes were always luxurious. As her design empire and fame grew, so did Coco Chanel's social circle. Igor Stravinsky, the duke of Westminster, Salvador Dali, and Jean Cocteau numbered among her most intimate friends, while Princess Grace and countless Hollywood stars and European royalty were devoted to her clothes.

Chanel: Her Style and Her Life combines large black-and-white photos of the designer, her clothes and jewelry, and her lavishly decorated homes with the story of her life. The result is a book that proves how closely Chanel's career and her personal life were intertwined--how her life played out in her style and how her style, ultimately, was the sum of Coco Chanel's life.

From Publishers Weekly:

When she realized that the great love of her life, shipping and coal magnate Arthur "Boy" Capel, wouldn't marry a courtesan, Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel settled for his backing in business and opened her first high-fashion shop. According to Wallach's pictorial biography, such pragmatism characterized Chanel throughout her life, as each of her many famous lovers?Igor Stravinsky, Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovich and the Duke of Westminster among them?helped her with money, influence or, at the very least, access to a smashing personal wardrobe. Profuse, if sometimes redundant, illustrations chronicle the canny Frenchwoman's progress from fashion iconoclast to couture icon. Wallach earnestly details the designer's innovations: Chanel popularized the jersey and cardigan and pants for women; legitimized costume jewelry; invented the "little black dress"; developed the ubiquitous, eponymous suit, as well as her trademark fragrance, Chanel No. 5. But as biography, the book offers little more than a list of Chanel's accomplishments and acquaintances. Wallach's (Desert Queen) text is variously silly, sentimental and strangely unidiomatic ("her modest means could never match their well-heeled bank accounts"). Some of the more intriguing details, involving the designer's failure in Hollywood and her romantic and financial connections with the Nazis, suggest a complex, calculating, passionate woman. But the book's most telling moments ultimately don't tell enough about the woman who more or less invented the modern fashion industry. 150 photos and illustrations.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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