Coco Chanel

Fashion designer of the 1920's

Chanel's Biography

Gabrielle Chanel (often known as Coco Chanel) was a fashion icon of the 1920's. Chanel was born on August 19, 1883. She was born the second oldest of five children. Her father was Albert Chanel and her mother was Jeanne Devolle. Although Chanel eventually earned a spectacular amount of wealth due to her success in her career she was born into a family of poverty. Her father worked as a market merchant and her mother died along with her infant from a difficult pregnancy. Her father who was never known to be dependable abandoned all of his children and was never seen by any of them again. Chanel and her two sisters were sent away to a boarding school run by nuns. Her brothers were sent to offer work and labor to a farm with no pay. Most of Chanel's childhood memories include feeling unloved or unwanted. Even throughout her adult life she never did accept that at one point in her life she had to struggle with poverty and when asked she consistently refused to admit such.


When she was old enough she left the boarding school and the nun's helped her find work. She found a job as a seamstress at a local boutique named the House of Grampayre. In her free time Chanel began going to La Rotonde the local cafe. They invited amatures to sing in between shows. One night she sang a song of a sad girl who's dog had died and the dog's name was Coco. The crowd began to repeat the song lyrics and chime Coco! Coco! Which is how Chanel was given this life long nickname.



One night at the cafe she met a man named Etienne Balsan a calvaryman from a wealthy french family. Etienne Balsan invited Chanel to come to his horse racing farm in 1903. Chanel and Etienne Balsan started seeing each other but their relationship didn't last because Balsan was a player and was obsessed with horses and parties. Due to her spending time with Etienne Balsan Chanel developed excellent horse riding skills. She began designing hats for the female horse racers. When someone appeared at the racetrack with one of Chanel's hats the tabloids always took notes of the new styles. This was the start of Chanel's revolutionary career.


In 1914 Chanel met her true love, Arthur Chapel and set up a business shop in his apartment. People grew more and more interested in Chanel and her designs and they would stop by frequently even if it was just to see what she had on that day. She grew more and more famous as the years passed until she became the iconic Chanel we all know and love.

What did Chanel like best about the 1920's?

Coco Chanel adored the art of expression through fashion. Many females wore the traditional tight corset and dresses with lots of ruffles. Chanel's accomplishment was creating comfortable yet classy styles the common person could mimic.

What did Chanel like the least about the 1920's?

The older generation did not like the change of tradition in what females were beginning to wear. They did not appreciate the "trendy" fashion in fact they believed it was scandalous and rebellious. Chanel didn't like this fact because she so invested into this passion. She didn't like feeling like someone wanted to take her expression of individuality and uniqueness.

Noticable accomplishments that made Chanel famous

Coco Chanel created clothing that was based on functionality and comfort unlike the current styles of the twenties that greatly emphasized frills ruffles and tight uncomfortable features. Chanel's designs emphasized straight flowing lines with plain colors, usually grey, beige, black, and navy. This was another way an air of elegance was displayed throughout Chanel's styles.

How does Chanel see Herself impacting the society and culture of the 1920's

I suppose i hope to see myself change the way that any common woman would look at herself. I believe every woman should be comfortable in her own skin and if i can make this a reality then i most definitely will.

What is Chanel's idea of the most important issue in the 1920's?

Fashion has become to much of a "cookie cutter." Everyone has the same absurd idea that it's unladylike to wear trousers. I came up with the idea of feminine trousers to propose a more modest look. if we all branch out and explore ideas of expression everyone will be entirely unique and that is definitely most beautiful.
Mini Bio: Coco Chanel

Questions from the video

What inspired Chanel's perfume fragrance?

How do you think you are going to be remembered in 2015?

I want to be a fashion icon, identifiable just by the description of a perfume or a purse. If my success were bigger than life then that is how i'll be remembered. One reason i am remembered so fondly is because I took risks in fashion and went against the status quo.

Based on your life and role in the 1920's what do you see as the legacy of the 1920's and how should this decade be remembered in American history?

The life of the twenties was so fast paced but fashion in general was changing very rapidly.

The length of our skirts/dresses shortened. We stopped wearing the tight corsets and many women followed my lead in a rebellious world of fashionable comfort.