This beaded black silk dress by Coco Chanel (1883-1971) is typical of her early work after she had reopened her Paris showroom in 1919. As seen in the design below, the dress is unfussy and chic, exemplifying Chanel's work, and her success during the 1920s resulted in a multi-million franc turn-over by 1930. Increasingly the 'Chanel look' developed into a simple, relaxed and very wearable style with the basic ingredients of jersey dresses, cropped jackets, cardigans, and blouses with bows at the neck. However, it was not until 1960 that she launched her first braided suit, a garment that immediately became her trademark outfit. The two suits show below in brown and black are both Chanel suits, the brown one from 1981 and the black from 1983 with the original catwalk promotional photograph.
The popularity of the Chanel suit has meant that, since the 1960s, copies of the style have been widely available and have enabled fashion-conscious people, often youngsters, to get the latest look at a more affordable price. The late 1980s suit by Smarti, shown at the end below, incorporates characteristic features of the classic Chanel suit. The short, loose-weave bouclé wool jacket and gold chain detail are typical, and even the gilt buttons are decorated with the imitation Chanel logo of two interlocking letter 'C's.
Full item descriptions:
"dress" [1985.56], Chanel, Gabrielle (Coco)
"suit" [1994.135], House of Chanel
"suit" [2005.94], House of Chanel, Lagerfeld, Karl
"suit" [1995.165], Smarti, Barnes, Barbara