The 2014 theme for Women’s History Month is Celebrating Women of Character, Courage and Commitment. This celebration originally started out as an international one day event on March 8, 1911 in Europe. It has since then expanded United States from one week to one month in March. The theme is thought of every year by the Brooklyn based organization, National Women’s History Project.
Although she is not on the list of honorees this year, we would like to honor the works of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel (1883 – 1971). In the world of fashion, this famous designer has become an icon for character, courage and commitment. She is notably famous for creating clothes allowing women to free them from wearing corsets. Working with fabric and styles adapted from menswear, most of her clothing is made using jersey fabric. These designs allowed women to stop wearing corsets for a more relaxed look during the World War I era. She opened her first shop in Paris in 1913 and continued to design in the 1920’s and ‘30s. In 1926, Vogue credited her with designing the “little black dress” which continues to be a female wardrobe staple today.
Chanel closed her successful store in 1939 when France declared war on Germany. After the war, she watched Christian Dior enjoy success of his “new look” - full skirts and nipped in waists. She thought Dior’s designs were not modern or suitable enough to meet the needs of women who had just endured another war. With that, she came back in 1953 (age of 70) with a couture collection updated with tweed fabric which appealed to wealthy women and celebrities. The fabric became a status symbol of wealth with signature details (collarless jackets with braid, gold buttons, patch pockets and gold colored chain sewn to hang properly from the shoulders).
After her death in 1971, Karl Lagerfeld took over the line and was careful to preserve Chanel’s vision. His designs incorporate Chanel’s signature looks and fabric. He is responsible for including the now famous linked “CC” logo which is seen on handbags, shoes and clothing.