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Of Elegance and Style: the Unique Universe of Gabrielle Chanel with a Gourmet Gazette Slide Show

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Richard Avedon. Gabrielle Chanel and Suzy Parker dressed by Chanel, Paris, January 1959 © The Richard Avedon Foundation

Paris, France — Her long life began in in 1883 when she was born in the Saumur Hospice in the Maine-et-Loire region in Western France to a family with a modest background. Gabrielle Chanel would go on to become one of the most influential fashion designers of her time and beyond, liberating women’s clothing and women in general. She was a rule breaker bringing in elegance through the simplicity of style. From the little black dresses to the suits, sporty models to the accessories and perfume, the unique universe of Chanel set the gold standard in chic style the world over.

Hat between 1913 and 1915 Black braided straw, black silk satin ribbon Paris, musée des Arts décoratifs Photo ©Julien T. Hamon

The Palais Galliera, the Fashion Museum of the City of Paris, is presenting the first retrospective in Paris of this unique and remarkable fashion designer. The show, which brings together some 350 pieces from the museum’s permanent collection as well as international and private collections corresponds with the re-opening of the museum after a splendid refurbishing and extension. The show has been organized with the support of the house of Chanel. Even if you can’t come to France right now, The Gourmet Gazette brings to you the show, entitled Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto, followed by a slideshow featuring the creations of Gabrielle Chanel.

View onto the Palais Galliera. Photo©GM for the Palais Galliera

The first part of the exhibition is chronological and recounts her early career through the emblematic pieces including the famous 1916 sailor blouse in jersey. The visitor can trace the development of her unique style from the little black dresses to the sporty clothing of the Roaring Twenties and the sophisticated dresses of the 1930s, already giving you a good idea of how everything she did was fluid and flowing as you enter into a room that is devoted entirely to Chanel N°5 which was created in 1921. The first compounded perfume, it was as Chanel had intended it, radically different. It has no specific scent but rather is composed of more than 80 different components selected by the master perfumer Ernest Beaux. It would become and remain one of the world’s best selling perfumes.

Parfum N° 5, 1921 Glass, black cotton cord, black wax seal, printed paper Paris, Patrimoine de CHANEL Photo ©Julien T. Hamon

The second part of the exhibition is themed and gives over to a spectacular display in the round of her suits, the two-toned pumps, the quilted bag and her use of colors, black and beige and white but also red, gold and blues. The suit embodied the elegance and style of Chanel. The jacket was soft and more like a cardigan sweater than a constricting jacket, the skirt did not nip the waist but rather rested more comfortably on the top of the hips and fell to just below the knee.

Chanel worked in soft fabric like jersey and tweeds, silk chiffon, georgette and silk tulle. « It’s the material that makes the dress and not the ornaments that can be added to it, » Gabrielle « Coco » Chanel would say. For evening wear she combined the lightest of materials like lace and tulle, she created chiffon dresses that were incredibly simple and sometimes inlaid with decorations like subtle beading or sequins.

A selection of fluid evening dresses by Gabrielle Chanel at the beginning of the exhibition Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manfesto at the Palais Galliera. Photo© Pierre Antoine Courtesy Palais Galliera. Handout via The Gourmet Gazette

She was an advocate of costume jewelry, however she also created fine jewelry and notably a collection composed solely of diamonds mounted on platinum in 1932. A collection that she would exhibit in her private mansion on 29 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. These included the comets, stars, feathers, fringes and ribbons to be worn into a décolleté, on the wrist or on the nape of the neck. Her costume jewelry was prodigious and some of the pieces combined the real thing with fakes and Chanel felt you could put a piece of jewelry wherever you wanted to like a brooch on a sleeve or the hip for instance. Historical and exotic themes were among the favorites supplemented by floral decorations.

“Comet” brooch, collection «Bijoux de Diamants» 1932 Platinum, old European cut diamonds Paris, Patrimoine de CHANEL Photo ©Julien T. Hamon

Gabrielle Chanel withdrew from fashion in the 1940s. The house was closed during the war and then came Christian Dior and the New Look with a corseted style, constraints that Chanel objected to. She returned to couture in 1954 and once again bucked the trend with a body of work marked by abundance, fluidity and creative elegance beyond anyone’s imagination except for her very own.

This designer who did not make drawings but worked directly on the body would say, « fashion does not exist only in dresses, it is borne on the wind, you can sense it, you can breathe it, it’s in the sky and in the streets, it’s everywhere. It has to do with ideas, with social customs, with events. 
©Trish Valicenti for The Gourmet Gazette

The Universe of Chanel: A Gourmet Gazette Slide Show

The exhibition is showing through July 18th 2021 at
Palais Galliera, musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris
10 Avenue Pierre-Ier-de-Serbie
75116 Paris, France
+33 (0) 1 56 52 86 00

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