By Kathy Megyeri
Book review of “Chanel in 55 Objects: The Iconic Designer Through Her Finest Creations” by Emma Baxter-Wright
This little gem of a book is an exquisite collection of illustrations and summaries of Coco Chanel’s gifts to us all: the little black dress; extravagant costume jewelry; the best-selling perfume ever; Chanel’s iconic innovations in fashion, fragrance, jewelry and accessories; and the places, motifs, and people that inspired her.
The book details Chanel’s humble beginnings and her rise to become one of the most successful women in the world. She took us from a male-dominated couture to physical freedom and understated elegance and she believed passionately that a newfound shift in simplicity would help women evolve in our changing world. She reshaped fashion so the House of Chanel established a global legacy built on must-have items that we still purchase today. Even without marriage or family, she left a legacy that impacts our daily lives and liberated the female body.
The book features many interesting stories about her that will fascinate the reader, including:
At 18, she became a vaudeville performer known as “la petite Coco” and thus her nickname endured along with the double C logo.
Her lifelong passion for horses inspired the metal strap interfaced with leather on her handbags.
Wealthy clients at the fashionable seaside resort of Deauville, France were among the first to wear her “nautical chic” striped jersey sweaters, wide-legged loose trousers, belted cardigans and fluid skirts.
Over 100 years ago, she produced knee-length shorts, striped bathing suits, tank-top vests and popularized sun-bathing to promote a healthy skin glow. She also cut her hair in a boyish bob because long hair “annoyed her.”
Her astrological sign of Leo is embossed onto gilt buttons and brooches to symbolize the courage she needed to continue in the fashion business.
She believed jewelry should not be saved only for glamorous occasions, and freely mixed affordable paste pieces with valuable gemstones because “a very white earring on the lobe of a well-tanned ear delights me.”
Chanel used her acute sense of smell and belief that a “woman who doesn’t wear perfume has no future,” to make the most expensive perfume in the world. (When movie star Marilyn Monroe said that she wore nothing to bed but Chanel N° 5, worldwide sales skyrocketed.)
Chanel has secured her position as the most influential designer of the 20th century. From glass beading, crystals, and sequins on flapper dresses; to her trademark red lipstick; to the radically simple black sheath dress; to decorative bows; to chunky cuff bracelets and gilt chains; to quilted and chained handbags; to the pink Chanel suit and pillbox hat worn by First Lady Jackie Kennedy on that fateful day in 1963 – all these are widely recognized hallmarks of the House of Chanel.
Chanel wrote in her book of aphorisms, “May my legend gain ground—I wish it a long and happy life,” and this small book of “Chanel in 55 Objects” is a delightful way to honor her legacy.