The legendary fashion designer and a true icon of style, a cultural pioneer, successful businesswoman and the creator of fashion as we know it, Gabrielle Bonheur “Coco” Chanel, was a remarkably intelligent and audacious woman. Apart from her creative ingeniosity and a sharp eye for sophisticated aesthetics, she was an incredibly empowering woman who continues to empower women of all generations.
More than a century ago, Coco Chanel was a modern woman who challenged stereotypes and conventions both in fashion and life and lived by her own rules.
The Bold Kind of Beauty
Defying conventions and the hypocritical conservatism of social circles she swiftly moved through, Coco Chanel single-handedly revolutionized the image of the female body by bringing it back to its natural shape and genuine femininity. Coco literally liberated women - by stripping off the constraints of corsets, she gave them back their right to breathe and introduced a new, modern style of leveraging elegance which women embraced gladly. Sporty, casual chic became the feminine standard of beauty and style - clothes were now made to get you to places, not to restrain you from movement and heading someplace. Chanel was tailored for a bold woman, unapologetic for her womanhood, as its créatrice herself was.
Inspired by a woman who wore pants and smoked in public without any restraint whatsoever and for the simple pleasure of it, women reclaimed power over their bodies and, empowered as they felt, became louder in fighting for their rights and an equal position in a patriarchal male-dominated society. Coco Chanel became the epitome of the bald and beautiful femininity, a symbol, a timeless icon.
The Feminist Icon
But Coco did not just dress women - she truly empowered them through her fashion and her approach to life. With her statement pieces - a pantsuit for women (today popularly referred as the "power suit“) that Marlene Dietrich and Katherine Hepburn so spectacularly wore among the first; the little black dress that became the essential piece of any woman's wardrobe; the pinks suit from the 1961 autumn/winter collection that Jackie Kennedy sent off to eternity; the iconic Chanel No 5 that captures the scent of the seductive force of female sensuality and many other pieces that revolutionized the way women not only looked but carried themselves through life by their own choice, Coco Chanel shared the boldness, passion and audacity she unapologetically lived by (the way she loved was no different either) with all womankind.
Women who choose to wear Chanel master the art of carrying their femininity with pride, elegance, and sensuality and can dominate both the room and any situation in life. Once asked by an agent provocateur journalist what she wore to bed, Marilyn Monroe responded without hesitation: "A drop of Chanel No 5, of course!“ The icon for an icon!
To me, the mere fact that she practically took pieces of men's attire, such as pants, suits, and jackets, and incorporated them into women's wardrobe, is a feminist manifesto in its purest and straightest form - if women can dress and move as men do, they can also DO WHATEVER MEN DO (and look fabulous while doing it!). This is a powerful message that lies in the very essence of feminism and the ongoing fights for gender equality. The way she carried herself, spoke her mind and walked head high through life more than a hundred years ago, make her deserving of the title of a feminist icon as well.
The Coco Chanel Practical Guide
Straightforward and eloquent as she is famous to have been, Coco Chanel shared her wisdom in a form of well-elaborated and well-rounded statements that transcendent time and space. Even today, women seek inspiration and motivation in these lines as they keep them on their desktops, phone screens, walls, mirrors or elsewhere (a friend of mine keeps hers framed on bathroom counters as a good-morning-thought).
To put it into practice - care to remind yourself every once in a while of your qualities, aspirations, and ambition and stick to your positive core. Make that a part of your daily routine - say the words of encouragement to yourself at loud (preferably with no strangers around!) and practice what you preach. Own your power to own your life.
There are a few Coco Chanel quotes I particularly like to be reminded of, which is a small favor I do for myself every now and then. They are captivating thanks to the sharpness of her expression as they summarize deep thoughts about owning your own life, ambition, self-confidence, self-love, beauty, style - the essentials dignifying of a modern woman. I am glad to share a few personal favorites that would definitely go into my version of the Coco Chanel Practical Guide.
"Keep your heels, head and your standards high.“
This has been the thought that often got me through the toughest times in my career, friendships, and romantic relationships and became sort of a personal motto of mine. You know those points of no return in life when you simply don't see any options deserving of your time, effort, emotion? Well, we all have had a few like that. To get through them, an empowering reminder can only do you good. Here is how you can put the CC wisdom into practice:
Never undervalue yourself – there are plenty of those out there who will try to.
Always have in mind your true worth – self-awareness leads to self-confidence and self-confidence leads to self-love. And all are crucial.
Remember who you are, where you come from and where you are going. Walk straight with that on your mind (in high heels or without).
Never settle for less. If you do, that is all you'll ever get.
"The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.“
There is nothing more liberating than having an independent mind. Speak your own mind and master the skill of vocalizing it.
“Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.”
So, build a door. It should be only wide enough to let YOU in.
"There is no time for cut-and-dried monotony. There is time for work.
And time for love. That leaves no other time."
Value your time and distribute it wisely. Make sure to leave room for emotion - you need the balance.
"Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.“
Be your own kind of beautiful. Be bold while doing it.
Coco Chanel is inspiration women look forward to coming back to, as they relish her iconic legacy in fashion, culture, and feminism. The spectacular life journey she took with both passion and elegance empowers us to take our own.
As Mademoiselle herself so nicely put:
Bonne chance, mes dames!