Book Club: The Gospel According to Coco Chanel

Thursday, October 23, 2014 | Stamp in My Passport| |

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Three things come to mind when I would think of Chanel. First, Chanel No. 5, which some like to call the most iconic perfume, but I think is one of the worst scents I've come across. Second, quilted handbags with interlocking C's that are primarily sold as knock offs on the streets of NYC. Third, Rachel Zoe's obsession with collecting vintage Chanel jackets to add to her museum-like collection. 

But there is so much more to the woman who not only built one of the most well-known fashion labels, but revolutionized women's fashion. If it wasn't for Chanel, who knows how long we would have been forced to need assistance getting dressed in separate outfits for each outing? 

Karen Karbo's The Gospel According to Coco Chanel is part biography, part life lessons and two parts witty commentary about her own quest for a tweed Chanel jacket. If you are in the mood for a light read, especially one that can be read in short bursts sporadically, then this is the perfect book for you. There is so much from Chanel's business sense, work ethic and personality that would benefit you to incorporate into your life. But there are just as many of her characteristics that it is probably best to avoid as well. 

What I loved most about Chanel is that she saw fashion and style first and foremost as a way to make life and movement easier. She had a simple design aesthetic that, one, allowed women to breathe, and two, doubled their range of motion. She believed that impeccably constructed pieces that are perfectly tailored will always rise above the latest fads. I wholeheartedly agree.

In her time, ladies did not work, and if they wanted to have a side hobby, it was always bankrolled by a man. Starting out Chanel did require financial support of her man-of-the-hour, but once her business took off she quickly shrugged off the help of men and continued to grow her empire on her own dime. Another unfortunate aspect of the time is that women who worked were looked down upon. Even as the society ladies scrambled to get their hands on Chanel's pieces, she was always seen as simply a tailor and not one to be invited to parties and social events. Fashion designers were not celebrities as they are today. 

Finally, Chanel taught us that you do not have to fall into the same pattern of your past generations. Orphaned at a young age, Chanel did not have a happy childhood. So once she grew up, she decided that she was simply going to rewrite her past. She didn't like the region of France she came from, so she told people she grew up in. These embellishments (and in many cases, lies) are part of the reason that no one quite knows much about Chanel, which adds to her air of mystery. While I wouldn't suggest living in a delusion and creating a whole new life for yourself, you do not have to let your past define you. 

Have you read this book? What are your favorite bits and pieces of Chanelore, as Karen Kobo affectionately refers to it as?

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