The story of Gabrielle Chanel begins with her entry to the world as an illegitimate child born to poor merchants who eventually married and raised their growing family amid struggle and poverty. The untimely death of Gabrielle’s mother resulted in 11 year-old “Coco” being sent away to live her childhood in a convent orphanage in France, humble beginnings for one of the world’s greatest legends of fashion.
I, for one, am always interested in a good underdog story about anyone who overcomes insurmountable odds to reach success and victory. It’s easy to hear the name Chanel and assume that this legendary designer must have always lived a posh and glamorous life, which, is actually quite contrary to the truth of Ms. Chanel’s upbringing.
But one thing is for sure, adversity often brings out the best in us, and Gabrielle Chanel was no exception to this. She became an ambitious innovator and a visionary who transformed the world of women’s fashion miles ahead of her time and broke the mold of structure and discomfort to allow women practical and functional clothing in which they could thrive. From her no-frills understated hats to her sporty-chic menswear-inspired designs, Ms. Chanel was out to prove that women could do everything just as well as a man, and look good while doing so.
In the early 1910s, Coco Chanel opened a boutique in France. It was there that she sold her hats and deluxe casual designs made from comfort fabrics that had originally only seen use in men’s undergarments. She found success in her fashions, as they appealed to those opposed to the confining fashions on the market. Chanel’s success skyrocketed in 1912 due to the famous actress Gabrielle Dorziat appearing on stage wearing a variety of the designer’s hats.
And then there’s the Little Black Dress.
We all have one tucked away in our wardrobe. That closet staple that we pull out for every party, wedding, funeral, dinner date, or whatever the occasion may be. That one simple black dress that fits our figure to a tee and makes us feel like the most beautiful woman in the room.
I imposed black; it’s still going strong today, for black wipes out everything else around.Coco Chanel
Chanel’s aspiration behind the black dress was to clothe women as equals in a versatile, affordable and widely-accepted color and form. She unveiled this trend in 1920 and one hundred years later, it is still a relevant and reliable form of fashion. What a visionary, indeed!
As a seller on Poshmark the little black dress is a great resale staple to have on hand. The beautiful thing about the little black dress is that it is universally made and sold by nearly every designer out there, to which Chanel describes the copy-cat effect as “the greatest compliment one can receive”. The little black dress can be found in a variety of styles and patterns, designers, and price points making it nearly impossible not to find your ideal dress.
Here is a sampling of a few of my favorite LBD thrifted finds:
My thrifted LBDs include a gorgeous silk kimono style dress from BCBGMaxAzria, a banded satin form-fitting Laundry by Shelli Segal garb, an Art Deco-inspired dress from Diane Von Furstenberg, and a simple, classic zipper-back sheath from Oleg Cassini, the late Jackie Kennedy’s go-to designer. And speaking of Jackie Kennedy, the famous pink suit and pillbox hat that she was wearing in Dallas when her husband John F. Kennedy was shot was designed by none other than, Coco Chanel.
Coco Chanel went on to design handbags, accessories, and her signature scent, Chanel No. 5, a jasmine and sandalwood fragrance described as embodying femininity. When choosing from fragrance samples numbered 1 to 5, Chanel choose the latter. Her signature fragrance debuted one hundred years ago to this day, May 5, 1921, (the 5th day of month 5) and keeping the name No. 5 as it was already called would “bring good luck”, according to Coco. Whether luck or ingenuity was the driving force behind her success, it seems Ms. Chanel was gifted with both.