Among key designers who made a lasting impression of woman’s clothing in the twentieth century Coco Chanel deserves special recognition. She was born Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel on the 19th of August, 1983 in Saumur, France. After her mother died, her father gave her away to an orphanage and then to a convent where she grew up. With a difficult lifestyle she chose to radically change her lifestyles, starting with changing her name to Coco and became a licensed milliner (hat maker) in 1910 and then began to make clothing when she started to make herself acquainted enough with higher class society thanks to her many male admirers. Coco opened her first shop in Paris in 1913. It mostly sold hats and a small line of garments. Coco’s sportswear became popular as it was used with a completely usual fabric called jersey that was, at that time, only used it men’s underwear. Coco’s designs were to always be simple; she wanted to break away from what was to what could start with comfortable designs which the jersey fabric was most suited for. No more did she want corseted dressed that took far too long to put on and sometimes was very uncomfortable, no over the top accessories either like big feathers and bows and lace, no bright colours but blacks and navy blues. She replaced corsets with sewing skills that could still show off a woman’s figure. She wanted to go as far as possible from the era’s fashion as possible. She wanted simple designs that often took inspiration from men’s clothing, especially when the war broke out and were made to a variation of the worn uniforms of men. She spoke through her designs that woman should have the comfort that men got out of clothing; to feel liberated but also hold class and elegance at the same time while being affordable.
Chanel was a big part of the modernist movement in twentieth century fashion design, maybe the biggest iconic fashion figure that is still seen and heard of today. She gave new uses for fabrics, new possibilities. Chanel’s own lifestyle, being born in a working class environment and all was put into her designs and how woman should act, dress and look. Each design was personal to how Chanel herself looked; slim, boyish with cropped hair. She stripped woman of corsets and feathers and made them go out and get a tan in the sun. She was the one that made essential the ever popular to this day Little Black Dress, a completely simple but effective idea; trousers for women; costume jewellery and her trademark woollen “Chanel Suit”. Most of Chanel’s designs are still used frequently today and mostly everyone uses costume jewellery still.
The Little Black dress being the most heard of was launched in 1926- the dress was made out to be the essential dress for all classes, one that could be worn to anything and with anything. It became an instant craze like Henry Ford’s cars, and like his Model T, it only came in black. A simple cocktail dress could be transformed into an evening dress with the help of different accessories like diamond jewellery, gloves and stilettos or become a smart business daytime dress with the help of a jacket or blazer. Vogue magazine called it a “Ford dress” (but is known more as LBD today) and said it would become a uniform for women of all tastes. It was uncommon for black to be worn except for those in mourning but with the recent and many deaths of victims to war and the Spanish flu it seemed to be the only colour that women were wearing, Chanel was