Coco Chanel’s legendary vision forever redefined how women dress. And though her name is often used synonymously with femininity, many of her genius designs were actually sparked by menswear. Here’s a peek at some of Mademoiselle Chanel’s most memorable borrowed-from-the-boys looks.

Coco Chanel with piled-on pearl necklace

Styling with Jersey
Knowing it was inexpensive and figure-flattering, Coco purchased a surplus of jersey to use in her first collection. Until then, the fabric had only been used for men’s underwear – très scandalous!

Creating the Jacket
We can thank the staff at the Baron Pantz hotel in Austria for the classic Chanel jacket. Why? The elevator operator’s uniform jacket, with four pockets and braided trim, was the inspiration behind the now-famous 1954 design.

Reimagining Tweed
In the 1920s, Coco took up with the Duke of Westminster, one of the richest men in Britain. After raiding his closet, she was motivated to experiment with tweed, which turned into one of her signatures.

Inventing the Chain-Strap Bag
In 1929, tired of constantly holding her clutch, the on-the-go designer took note of the straps soldiers used to carry their bags. She then added thin metal chains to her own handbag and voilà! – the first Chanel purse was born.

Our Style Icon: Classic Looks Inspired by Coco Chanel Boutique opened Wednesday, August 19, at 11 AM ET.

By Elizabeth Burns, Assistant Fashion Editor

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August 19, 2015

This past fall, Chanel launched a series of short films recounting the history of its now-iconic brand. And last week, the online storyboard (aptly named Inside Chanel) released its 11th chapter. Giving viewers an inside look at the label’s key colors and what they meant to the brand’s visionary, Coco Chanel, it’s the most interesting installment to date. Don’t believe me? Check out the clip below.

For the fashion set, this short film is pretty eye-opening. It proves that although black and white are signature Chanel colors, Coco was also loyal to beige, gold, and red in her designs.

To dig deeper into the history of Chanel, check out the entire series.

By Jillian Hudon, Staff Writer

Want the lowdown on fabrics and more? Follow our What Are You (Really) Wearing? column.

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May 30, 2014
From the coveted interlocking Cs to the quilted leather, there’s no doubt Chanel handbags are iconic. But what you may not know?
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  1. The recognizable burgundy lining represents Coco Chanel’s childhood uniform.
  2. That iconic (swooned-over) chain strap symbolizes the chain that her caretakers kept their keys on.

 
Our Chanel Boutique opens Thursday, November 21, at 11AM ET.

By Brianna Lapolla, Staff Writer

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November 21, 2013

As reliable as it is comfortable, jersey is the go-to fabric for floor-length maxis – but what is it about this material that has us draping for joy?

BLG-1683 What are you really wearing - Jersey

Continue reading “Fabric Rundown: A History of Jersey” »

August 20, 2013

Fashion Books We LoveWhile most of us have mile-high stacks of Vogue at our desks (for professional purposes only, of course), we do dive into more substantial reading from time to time. Here are our favorite fashion-forward texts:

Nostalgia in Vogue: This compilation includes a selection of Vogue’s famous “Nostalgia” columns published since 2000.

Coco Chanel: An Intimate Life: This controversial account draws on letters and other records to reveal the less-discussed (and scandalous) chapters of this influential designer’s life.

Grace: A Memoir: Vogue Creative Director, former model, and international icon Grace Coddington gives us a witty, blunt narrative of a life lived fashionably.

The Fashion Book: Aptly named, The Fashion Book is a coffee table book to end all others. This A to Z tome takes a comprehensive look at the most important names in fashion, dating all the way back to the 1860s.

The Little Dictionary of Fashion: A Guide to Dress Sense for Every Woman: Penned by the one and only Christian Dior, this indispensable source covers the fashion fundamentals every woman should adhere to.

By Lauryn Paiva, Staff Writer

What are some of your favorite books about fashion? Share in the comments below, or tweet us at @ruelala.

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February 28, 2013

AN INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR KAREN KARBO

Chanel

We love the deliciously readable book, The Gospel According to Coco Chanel by Karen Karbo. So we were (very) excited to get the author’s takes on modern icons, personal style, and the state of fashion. (Like us on Facebook and read the entire interview in our Notes.)

Rue La La: The Gospel is more than just a biography, it’s almost a self-help guide – did you set out with that mission in mind?
Karen: Absolutely. One of my abiding interests in female icons is why they continue to be iconic. What is it about their lives that continues to hold our attention? Chanel’s life was immensely satisfying and she lived it exactly as she wanted, decade in, decade out. I was fascinated by what we might learn about the way she lived that that would enrich our lives. I joked to someone that The Gospel was “a biography for a self-absorbed time,” but I wasn’t kidding!
Continue reading “Five-Minute Pow-Wow: Karen Karbo Talks Chanel” »

October 28, 2010