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Coco Chanel Essay: Impact on the Society in the 20th Century

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Coco Chanel was born in 1883 in France. After her mother’s death, Coco Chanel was put in an orphanage by her father at the age of 12. In the orphanage, Chanel was raised by nuns who thought her skills which is the reason she became a famous designer, they thought her how to sew. Before her career as a designer, she used to be a singer and would perform in clubs where she would be known as ‘Coco’. After her short singing career, Coco Chanel became a French designer. She was the founder of the brand ‘Chanel’ which is a very high-end fashion brand that creates designs for women. Not only did she make clothes for women, but she also created jewelry, handbags, and perfumes. Her signature scent Chanel No.5 is still very popular among people nowadays. Coco Chanel is a huge influencer, even for our modern-day society, especially for women. She showed people that no matter what background you may come from, it is possible to achieve your goals and dreams if you are determined and ready to work.

Coco Chanel was inspired at a young age and began to develop a passion for sewing during her time at the orphanage. She was taught by the nuns who worked at the orphanage. Once she knew how to sew, it became her hobby. One of the main reasons why Coco Chanel became a successful designer and managed to create a business was because of her two lovers called Etienne Balsan and his friend Arthur Capel who agreed to sponsor her business which allowed her to open her first shop Paris where she sold hats. Her designs were aimed at rich French women and eventually her name was spread around Paris and therefore she was able to gain more clients. She realized that she has found happiness designing hats and after some time, clothes. Her first success appeared after she started selling a dress and jewelry which created more profit for her business and therefore she was able to open a new shop in Deauville and Biarritz where she started creating even more of a variety of clothing.

One of the reasons as to why she is an influential individual is a fact that by 1917 which is four years after she had created her own brand, she became famous worldwide and her work was seen in British, French, and American Vogue. The fact that she was in a well-known fashion magazine, gave her the opportunity to be known as a woman designer not only in France but also abroad, this, therefore, increased her popularity as well as her brand. However, in the beginning, she designed simple dresses. She also offered women what were seen as traditional men’s clothing, such as jumpers, sailor jackets, and straight skirts. Her motive was that women should dress as they like and feel comfortable. This is impressive, especially in the 20th century because, during that time, women were still being repressed and not counted as equal to men. This inspires many modern-day women to achieve their goals within their careers. Chanel gave confidence to women and changed the way of how women viewed themselves. One of her quotes was “I wanted to give a woman comfortable clothes that would flow with her body. A woman is closest to being naked when she is well dressed” this quote allowed women to understand that they should not be listening to what society thinks is considered ‘normal’ or follow certain standards, especially since the society was mostly dominated by men. During the 20th century, it was seen as a problem for women to wear what could be considered as ‘men type clothing’ because women were being repressed and had to be seen as feminine not only with their manners and actions but also in the way they dress, for example, in 1919 a writer Luisa Capetillo was arrested and put in jail for wearing a man’s suit in public but the charges were eventually dropped. This shows how important it was for societies to make sure that women were dressed appropriately and met the standards of what was seen as ‘normal for women to wear and look like. One of the aspects which made Chanel stand out from other designers for women was the fact that she used the traditional men’s clothes and added a female touch which made women feel needed and wanted within the society. She made them feel appreciated by being a role model and showing that any woman can run their own business or take whichever career path they dream of. Not only was she idolized by many women, but she also motivated them in a way, especially with her unique designs which other designers were unable to copy. Of course, on the other hand, not all women were able to afford her clothes, only women from the upper class were able to wear her designs, this is a weakness because not all women were able to feel as confident as women from the upper class. Therefore, quite a large number of women were still being intimidated by society. The fact that Chanel influenced women is very important because not only could they show their individuality, but also gave them the chance to show society that they didn’t have to live by the rules that were expected from them. Not only did Coco Chanel inspire women in the 20th century, but she also continues to have an influence over women to this day.

Chanel influenced women in society. Women were no longer expected to look a certain way in society. They also began to feel more wanted within the community and were not able to do something to show that they are capable of working. Coco Chanel quotes that “a woman should be two things: who and what she wants” this quote shows us how she was striving to make women more powerful in society and give them a sense of belonging in the community. Her strong character motivated women to be more like her, she was viewed as an idol to women in the 20th century. Everyone viewed her rise to fame as a huge achievement, especially knowing what poor background she came from. Chanel used to live in an orphanage. Many women praised her work from the very beginning “I shan’t buy a thing without showing her. That child’s got more taste than the rest of us put together” stated Kitty De Rothschild. Many people believe that when Chanel was taken to the orphanage, she fell into shock which caused her to become rebellious due to the fact that she was abandoned by her own father. Coco Chanel stated that “they’ve taken everything away from me and I am dead. I knew that when I was twelve. You can die more than once in your life, you know”. The fact that not only was Chanel an orphan and had to deal with her own father neglecting her, she was also clearly very emotionally unstable. Being able to move past that and start her own fashion brand is not just inspiring for others, it’s also a remarkable achievement. Some might say that her past very much influenced her career because she wanted to show the world and prove to herself that she was capable of bringing something new to the fashion industry and making women feel happy and satisfied with themselves. She impacted society by giving a wider range of clothing designs available to women. By creating new trends for women, allowed them to have more opportunities, for example, when pants were designed for women, they were able to ride horses without feeling uncomfortable. Chanel was the idol of her time, she stated “if I cut my hair, others did. If I shortened my dresses, so did everyone else. This proves that women were becoming more and more confident by following her trends. Another way how Chanel influenced society, especially women were by moving on from corsets which were obliged for women to wear, to more comfortable clothes, which was counted as revolutionary. Her brand was also famous for creating the little black dress, which is still seen as fashionable nowadays. Before the color black was seen as a dull, mourning color, however, Chanel changed that and showed that the color black is could be seen as elegant and very feminine if it is worn right.

Not only did she make an influence in fashion, but also in she was seen in literacy and other artistic domains. People used Chanel to add more fame to their business. Chanel met Samuel Goldwyn who was a famous Hollywood producer. He tried to persuade Chanel to design costumes for him by offering $1,000,000 US dollars. He was amazed by her clothing designs and therefore was eager to see what she would design for his productions. Even costumes were influential around the world. Those designs that were worn by famous actresses such as Claudette Gilbert and Marlene Dietrich were inspiring for women, especially since they were worn in romantic films which were very popular. Goldwyn also believed that by having Chanel design his costumes, she would also be able to advertise her brand and have it well known not only in Europe but also in America. After some time, she agreed to his deal. However, the 1929 Wall Street Crash has seriously affected the French fashion industry. Americans were having difficulties with travelling to Europe since it was too expensive, therefore this required Chanel to cut her prices and to start using cheaper materials and unfortunately staff cuts were also made within her business which slowed her production. By 1931, the crisis made the exports of French clothing drop by half, which was damaging for Chanel and her brand. However, these difficulties didn’t stop her from continuing what she loved to do most. Which is seen as inspiring to some people. It was also stated that there were no fakes sold of Chanel’s designs which made her business easier and she didn’t have to deal with other individuals stealing her ideas and having to have competition with a cheaper version of her designs which could have harmed business knowing that the cheaper version would be more affordable and therefore more women would be able to buy it.

Coco Chanel wouldn’t have made it without Goldwyn within his industry. He made sure she had enough staff, she had over 100 workers working for her and a wardrobe department with professional facilities for her to work. her first project t was the musical ‘Palmy Days’, Chanel had the chance to design a dress for a famous actress called Barbara Weeks. She was also able to travel back to Paris to help out in ‘Tonight or never. The actress called Gloria Swanson was the lead actress, she was described as “tiny, almost bird boned” during one of the fittings. Over a few weeks, she noticed that she started to gain weight due to an unexpected pregnancy. Coco Chanel wasn’t happy, in fact, she was furious that Gloria Swanson gained weight. This is controversial to what Chanel aspired women to be, she wanted them to feel comfortable with themselves yet she was furious to know that Swanson gained weight. Chanel quoted “take off the girdle and lose five pounds. Five pounds. No less”. This is an unhealthy representation of how women should be in society, this is contrasted with how women have represented our society nowadays, many fashion brands have plus-size models which is becoming more of a trend, whereas in the 20th century this would have been unacceptable.

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Other items which were designed by Coco Chanel which became very famous, were the boy bag, the quilted bag, Chanel two-toned shoes, the Breton top, tweed jacket, and the Chanel suit. Each had its own history with Chanel, however, most items were inspired by men’s fashion. The boy bag is a tomboy-type bag that was designed by using menswear. She was inspired by the love of her life, Boy Capel. However, after all these years, Karl Lagerfeld was the one man which was the main reason why the bag was created. To this day, this bag is one of the classics of the Chanel brand and is still very popular among women. Another bag that is also a classic to this day is the quilted bag. A client of hers wasn’t sure about the new design that Coco Chanel created, but eventually, this became fashionable. This bag was made for the elite women of society, this is sown by the straps which made sure that the woman’s hands were free, she believed that carrying a clutch wasn’t comfortable and this was also a breakthrough in fashion, even though it was just a slight change of design, it became very trendy and women moved on from the old-fashioned styles. At that time, women tended to carry champagne glasses, tickets, leaflets, however, this was only among the upper-class women. Chanel’s two-tone shoes were also a major breakthrough in fashion. Many celebrities were seen wearing them such as Catherine Deneuve and Bridgette Bardot, this was more of a promotion of her design to other women, especially since other influential women in society were wearing them. Because the shoes were two-toned, it was much easier for women to match them with any possible outfit which was counted as ‘revolutionary’ to some people. These shoes were also very flattering for women’s feet, the white made the legs look longer and the black made the feet look smaller. many women were happy with the design due to the fact that some, may have had insecurities with their feet and this was yet another boost for their confidence. The Breton was inspired by the sailor’s look (shown by the stripes on the top), this top was loved worldwide, especially since famous celebrities wore it, for example, Brigitte Bardot, Edie Sedgwick, and Alexa Chung. Even though this top had a plain design, it was still a revolutionary design for women as they began to wear more casual clothing. The tweed jacket was also a classic design that Chanel had in her collection. This jacket was also, inspired by menswear, but more specifically, by her boyfriend’s clothing. This item of clothing is still famous around the world, the tweed continues jacket shows sophistication, even after 100 years. Chanel also created the first suit for women. This suit was made out of fused tweed which also gave a masculine but also a feminine look. This suit was very successful and was featured in the Vogue magazine and was remembered by many as it was worn by John F Kennedy’s wife at the time her husband was killed.

A separate item that was designed by Coco Chanel is the number 5 perfume. This perfume has become known worldwide and is still very popular in our society. It seems to have become a breakthrough in the perfume market in the 20th century. It stood out from other perfumes due to its abstract, unusual scent. Most perfumes for women were flowery scents which mostly consisted of flowers such as rose and jasmine, whereas this perfume had aldehydes that gave off a slight champagne scent. Even though there was an accidental overdose with the aldehydes, but that’s what made the scent so unique. The fact that the perfume was different compared to other fragrances, made women curious, the unique texture of it made this fragrance popular at a very high rate.

Feminism is another major aspect of Chanel’s role in society. By inspiring women around the world, and giving them more clothing design options, allowed them to be freer. The sense of feminism carried on through the 20th century when women were finally allowed to vote. The word feminism means equality within economic, political, social, and personal goals for both genders. Chanel gave more of an insight as to what problems women faced within their society. Some might say that Chanel was one of the main individuals who ignited women to become more aware of the misogyny going on within their society. Even after Chanel died, her ideas stayed with women as they fought for their own rights and equality. Even now her brand is still continuing to grow and is still very famous and is still counted as one of the most unique brands for women. People used to call Chanel ‘Grand Mademoiselle’ of the fashion industry. The fact that she was known for being the best designer already proves that she will have influence over many people seeing as she is powerful not only within the fashion industry but in society as well.

World War One is a big example where Coco Chanel showed her influence in society through fashion. Not only did people view her designs as something fresh and new during this time, but also important because fashion was also a male-dominated industry. Chanel was seen as a woman that opened doors to new fashion trends, her designs were unusual and modern at that time, which made her stand out from other designers. However, at the same time, many wealthy people decided to stop wearing flashy jewelry “shy away from precious jewelry, which had an unpleasant association with the unpatriotic, inappropriate frivolity of the4 wives of war profiteers” said Mulvagh. This could’ve caused a few difficulties for Chanel because one of her main aspects of the brand is jewelry, but she managed to still make designs suitable for women during wartime. During the mid-20s, Chanel had her own signature look which was known as ‘Chanel look’ which was a wool jersey suit with a plain jacket. She also wore skirts that were cut short and her hair was often put up with bobby pins as she wore her sailor hat. This look was not the traditional clothing option women were expected to wear, which made it eye-catching and trendy.

During the second world war, Chanel closed all her shops which ended up with around 4,000 women losing their jobs. Chanel was also very clear about her political views at the time, she believed that Jews were a threat to Europe. Not only was she anti-Semitic, but was also in love with a Nazi officer called Hans Günther which proves her support for the Nazis during the war. She also worked for Nazis in Madrid to show her encouragement. During that period of time, it may have seemed normal to state such an opinion and may not have affected the way people looked at her, however, the war divided many countries among themselves which meant that many people just didn’t think it was the right moment to be worrying about fashion. Also, due to the different political opinions within countries, it may have been difficult for women to look up to Chanel as their political opinions contradicted and therefore perhaps her sales were also negatively affected by this, however, it could also mean that women perhaps agreed with her opinion because she was viewed as an idol. This is counted as an influence on society, however, this is definitely not positive encouragement for people. She also stated that “war is no time for fashion” which meant that she closed down her shops during the war.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Challenges Did Coco Chanel Face as She Worked to Achieve Her Dream?

Obtaining funding or financial support, obtaining new staff or personnel, looking for new fabrics, competing at age seventy against a new generation of designers.

Who Influenced Coco Chanel?

She was taught by the nuns who worked at the orphanage. Once she knew how to sew, it became her hobby. One of the main reasons why Coco Chanel became a successful designer and managed to create a business was because of her two lovers called Etienne Balsan and his friend Arthur Capel who agreed to sponsor her business which allowed her to open her first shop Paris where she sold hats.

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