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Coco Chanel and Audrey Hepburn: Two Icons with Class

Updated on January 10, 2022

Channeling Chanel and Audrey

Victoria Moore in a 1940s dress and hat.
Victoria Moore in a 1940s dress and hat. | Source
Victoria Moore wearing a flowered headband.
Victoria Moore wearing a flowered headband. | Source
Multicolored Chanel purse bought at a thrift store.
Multicolored Chanel purse bought at a thrift store. | Source

Coco Give Me A "C", Audrey Give Me An "A"

   Coco Chanel was one of the first fashion designers who was her own muse. Born in 1883 in Saumur, France as Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, she transformed a life of poverty into worldwide fame and immortality.

    "What really made her stand out among 20th century designers was her quest for comfort and the construction of her clothes," said Cynthia Amneus, exhibition coordinator, for the Cincinnati Museum exhibit, "The House of Chanel". Time hasn't diminished her popularity, causing vintage and contemporary designs from her company to become highly coveted by well-dressed women everywhere. To show our appreciation I suggest we all give her a silent cheer and flatter her with beautiful knock-offs if we can't afford the real thing.

   If you aren't familiar with Chanel I've listed some of her contributions to fashion and the look of the modern woman below.

1) Chemise: She started making these simple dresses in 1914.

2) Haircut: As a famous garconne, she cut her hair into a boyish coif during a time when women didn't do that.

3) Accessories: For maximum effect she'd mix real and costume jewels together.

4) Elegance: She understood its secret and let it direct her.

5) Low-key: Casualness and comfort inspired some of her designs.

The Chanel Look Made Fashion History:

1912-1914: Simple hats, loose blouses and chemises.

1918: Cardigans and twin sets. Reconstructed men's sweaters paired with straight skirts.

1920s: "Yachting pants" (i.e., "wide-legged pants based on sailor's bell bottoms"), tweed skirts with sweaters accessorized with pearls, reconstructed pea jackets and raincoats, the little black dress, collarless jackets with tweed skirts, large black bows, blazers emblazoned with gilt buttons, slingback shoes, and purses with gilt handles.

1930s: Costume jewelry commissioned by Verdura.

1950s: Chanel's "comeback" suit.

    You know an icon has become a true classic when she's immortalized and knocked off in "Teen Vogue" because that proves their influence has spanned generations. In their October 2005 issue they featured in their "Fashion Crisis" section the dilemma of a 15 year-old reader, Brooke, who asked how "to channel the classic look of the late, great star" with contemporary clothing. Although she discovered Hepburn for different reasons than I did, we both seem to be fascinated with her flair with capris, crisp button-down shirts and ballet flats, and searched for a way to imitate her look.

     Originally born Edda Hepburn van Heemstra, she travelled from her native Brussels, Belgium to London in 1951 to train as a ballet dancer. Dance would one day be one of the motivating forces behind the versatile, chic and sometimes quirky ensembles she wore in films like "Funny Face" (1957) and "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (1961).

     I've examined her style in various books written about her and in her movies and this is the breakdown of components you need to get her look today:

1) Boatneck top

2) White button-down shirt

3) Black turtleneck pullover

4) Capri pants

5) Black chemise dress

6) Black ballet flats

7) Kitten heels or low-heeled pumps

8) Large handbag

9) Oversized glasses

10) Flowerpot hat

    Despite the years that separated Chanel and Hepburn they still have something in common as two icons who changed the world of fashion by being themselves. 

Feeling like an "It" girl

I really felt like Audrey Hepburn in this black hat and shades.
I really felt like Audrey Hepburn in this black hat and shades. | Source

Chanel and Audrey are still relevant

Do you have a little black dress?

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