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Coco Chanel and The Little Black Dress

Updated on February 4, 2013

Coco Chanel Then and Now

Have you ever wondered where the little black dress of Coco Chanel began?

It all began when hat designer and seamstress had innovated with jersey fabric use which was an initial triumph since this material was relegated traditionally to undergarment manufacture.

Her traveling suit made of wool jersey consisted of a pleated skirt, a cardigan jacket with a pullover top that was low belted. Worn with shoes that had low heels, this ensemble became the expensive women’s “casual look."

Also, one often-cited contribution of Chanel was the "little black dress" concept. The first version was made of crepe de chine, a thin silk with sleeves that were long. Later, it was named a look that was "fashion forward" and this resonated with fashionable young women of the twenties.

Coco Chanel was by birth known as Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel and was born on the nineteenth of August in the year eighteen eighty-three until the tenth of January in nineteen seventy-one.

She was a French influential designer of fashion, founder of the Chanel famous brand whose pursuit of expensive simplicity, practical design and modernist though made her an influential and important figure in fashion of the twentieth century. In the Time 100 Most Important People of the Century, she was the only fashion designer to be named.

Chanel was born to a laundrywoman named Jeanne Devolle who was also a mother who was unwed. The Sisters of Providence charity hospital in France was where she was born as the second daughter of Devolle.

Albert Chanel was her father and he was a street peddler itinerant who lived a life that was nomadic traveling back and forth from the town markets. The family lived in lodgings that were run down. Later, years after the birth of Chanel, her father wed her mother.

At birth the official registry entered her name as Chasnel with her father registered as travelling and her mother was not well enough to take care of the registration. With both absent parents, the last name was not spelled right due to an error that is clerical.

Having been educated in the art of sewing in the time she was at Aubazine, Chanel was later employed as a seamstress and sang as a sideline in cabarets. This was where the name Coco began, derived from one of her popular songs about a "cocotte" or woman.

Later in life she would tell stories that were fabricated to cover up her beginnings which were humble.

At Moulins, Chanel met an ex cavalry, young French officer and wealthy heir of textiles Etienne Balsan. At the age of twenty-three she became the mistress of Balsan and for 3 years lived with him near Compiegne in his chateau Royallieu. This area was known for its hunting life and equestrian paths that were wooded.

The leisure and wealth of Balsan allowed cultivating a social set who reveled in the gratification of human appetites and in partying.

Chanel was lavished by Balsan with pearls, dresses and diamonds. It was while she was with him that Chanel started hat designing and later this became an enterprise that was commercial. One thing led to another and the rest, as they say, is history.


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    • Faith A Mullen profile image

      Faith A Mullen 

      5 years ago

      Interesting hub! I love Coco. Thanks for posting :)

    • girishpuri profile image

      Girish puri 

      5 years ago from NCR , INDIA

      A great fascinating hub about coco chanel, thank you so much.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I love Chanel because of the story of Coco, I watched various of movies about Coco and I think it is the most inspirational thing in life. I mean she has nothing when she was young and then opened up a store, fought all the adversity and made a 'brand' that have become so famous today. I love especially the 2.55 Chanel reissue bag, cost around 5k right now (I'm not lying Gonna get it probably next year, I hope!

    • austinhealy profile image

      Bernard J. Toulgoat 

      5 years ago from Treasure Coast, Florida

      Long live the little black dress. It always worked and probably always will. The simpler the better, just add some pearls and you have it. Thanks for a very good and informative hub.

    • thewritingowl profile image

      Mary Kelly Godley 

      5 years ago from Ireland

      Love the story of Coco Chanel, her childhood is a bit unclear but she definitely found her niche. Thank God for her invention of the little black dress it is a wardrobe favorite of mine. I've had many over the years, its the only forgiving thing to wear on a special occasions I find.

    • Suzie HQ profile image

      Suzanne Ridgeway 

      5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Coco Chanel was an intriguing woman who has been someone I have admired through the years, You did a great job on giving an overview of her life and beginnings.Voted up,interesting and shared :-)

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      5 years ago from North Carolina

      Great hub, Elle-I love the concept of the 'little black dress' b/c it reminds me of my mother (now deceased) and her ongoing love for fashion. I greatly disappointed her b/c I didn't follow her love for shopping, haha.

      I will always remember though, her love for Coco Chanel and telling me to make sure I have at least 'one' black dress in my wardrobe. :) Thanks for sharing so much interesting info about this fashion icon. Rated up and I

    • elle64 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Scandinavia

      Thanks christy ,spy and sorenson, thanks for taking the time to comment

    • msorensson profile image


      6 years ago

      You continue to amaze me with your knowledge...I would love to meet you some day...

    • unknown spy profile image


      6 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

      Wow great write! Fascinating hub bout Chanel.

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 

      6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I enjoyed learning more about Chanel here!

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 

      6 years ago from California

      What happened to Etienne Balsan?

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      Coco Chanel is a fascinating person and you did a great job


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