Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Channeling Chanel

Coco Chanel's style of effortless elegance has swung back into fashion with a vengeance! Two movies, one yet to be released in English (although I'd love to get my hands on the French version) and one released last year on the life of Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel has made her classic style very much in vogue.

Here's some ideas on taking elements from the movie and mixing and matching them affordably to create your own modern take on Chanel.

Little Black Dress & Pearls
These two iconic elements that symbolise elegance and class are both thanks to Coco. The little black dress (or LBD) was designed by Coco (as so many of her pieces were) for her own convenience. When she was in mourning, she created the timeless LBD that would take her to any event or function once dressed up or down with the right accessories. As for pearls.. well, she adored them.

Masculine Dress
Coco was revolutionary in her love for mixing and matching masculine with feminine. She found the tightly corseted overly fussy ladies dresses impossible "to think in". And yet despite her "masculine" oufits, Coco remained very feminine. Details like a black silk bow, the figure-hugging waistcoat, and beautifully cut jackets and skirts allowed women the freedom of male-dressing without losing an ounce of elegance or prettiness.

Here was my take on the masculine look.

White and black, cream and black, Chanel adored pairing the combination. Her love of monochrome has given us what we envision as the "classic french look". It's all due to her. She was also known for using less luxurious but more practical materials like jersey and tweed to craft her clothing. She used to demand why women could not be both elegant and able to breathe and move freely. She also believed devotedly in affordable elegance - something her label is now no longer known for sadly. Look out for two-tone pieces - cream cardigans with black borders or two-tone shoes for example. Or simply pair a white crisp shirt with black slacks or a skirt and a cute jacket. Make sure the cuts are unique or you'll look like a waitress!

White scarf
Although Hermes has become known for the square white silk scarf, an element that was teased and played with throughout the Coco Chanel (2008) movie was the long, elegantly draped white scarf. It was usually draped freely around the neck or shoulders.

Shoulder bag
Chanel even invented the shoulder bag so she could have her hands free! In those days most women used wristlet-like bags, or ones with tiny handles. Thus was born the classic Chanel 2.55 known for its quilted leather and chain & leather straps.

As an aside, rather than try and buy a cheap exact dupe, why not have fun with the style and pick up something that honours the style without trying to imitate.
This little purple quilted bag with a long cross-body chain and "leather" shoulder strap is a fun way to channel the look. I picked it up at Alice Wonders for RM39.90 (on sale).

Perhaps my favourite design element to play with is the white camellia that Chanel so loved. You can find dupes of the stiff leather version that was designed by her, or pick up a flower pin like this to pin onto hair, jackets, dresses - the possibilities are endless. This little RM12.90 pin immediately jazzed up and feminised an otherwise plain and simple black outfit.

By the way, rather than go for large round pearls which are impossible to afford if they're real and look tacky if they're not, try irregular seed pearls like this. This necklace, bought at Paperdoll Boutique for about RM80, is of real freshwater pearls. Their irregularity gives them a far more genuine look while at the same time lowering the price. I find it a more modern updated version of the traditional string of pearls.

My outfit
This was the Chanel-inspired look I wore to work the other day. Sadly the day was too busy to take snaps of my outfit, but I adored every minute I sashayed around in it. It doesn't look that special on the hanger but I assure you it looked much better when worn. I didn't use the scarf or bag though or it would have gone from "homage" to "halloween"!

Jacket: Paperdoll boutique (RM75)
Dress: H&M London (£7 on sale)
Pearls: Paperdoll boutique (RM80)
Camellia pin: Suzanne's at the Curve (RM12.90)


Meldee said...

Loves it! <3

Tine said...

Work the pearls, babes. They're so Chanel ;)

sush86 said...

i need to get myself a flower pin as above. been hunting for one for too long.

Eli said...

The boy took me to watch "Coco Avant Chanel" a couple of weeks back. I wanted to laugh when I saw the crowd. Almost all the women walked in wearing stripes or tweed with a glass of wine in hand.

Most of my clothes are in cream, black or some monochromatic colour actually. My eye just isn't automatically drawn to prints.

Kahani said...

meldee: Thanks sweetie =)

Tine: I love pearls. I'd wear them all the time if I could.

sush86: When you get back we are going to go wild.

Eli: Augh! It's out on OZ? Why can I not download it with subtitles? *cries* How was it? And I would have totally been there in an LBD and pearls!

Her said...

I really loved your blog..
I'm doing a presentation on Wed and I have to talk about Chanel's contributions to fashion.. and I found what you wrote VERY useful!
Thanks a lot!

Kahani said...

Her: Hey thanks very much! I'm glad you found it interesting =) I have another chanel post on two-toned shoes lurking about btw!