Sound the trumpets and hail Chanel! October 1 marks the Officially Recognized Day of the introduction of the designer’s iconic and history-making Little Black Dress. Yep, it was on this day in 1926 that American Vogue magazine ran a small illustration (left) of what it called Chanel’s “Ford” dress, likening the modest garment to the reliable Model-T of the era and hearkening Henry Ford’s line, “any customer can have a car painted in any colour that he wants so long as it’s black.” This was a time when twice a month, Vogue faithfully offered lengthy reviews of the Paris fashions, page after page of sketches of the latest coats, dresses, hats and gloves from the top French designers. Jeanne Lanvin, Jean Patou, Jeanne Paquin, Madeline Voinnet and Jacques Doucet received pages of descriptions detailing every element of their designs, from cuff to hemlines to buttons, and, occasionally, Mlle. Chanel earned a paragraph or two. But in 1926, Chanel’s casual designs were hardly considered true haute couture to Manhattan society ladies and Vogue editors; her jersey sportswear and unadorned dresses alone didn’t garner the six-day trip across the Atlantic by boat. So when the small sketch appeared in the October 1 issue it barely caused a stir, and it definitely didn’t incite the kind of rapturous praise the LBD, as we now call it, has received in recent decades. No, on this day, Vogue even curbed its usual gushing prose and accompanied the illustration with the following text: Read More »
The words “Lifetime movie” usually bring to mind melodramatic reenactments of real-life, soap-opera tragedies, but on this day in 2008, Lifetime took its best shot at an Emmy with the two-part biopic, Coco Chanel. Did the network put to rest its so-bad-it’s-good reputation with the miniseries depiction of fashion’s most enduring designer? Well, the film earned Shirley MacLaine both an Emmy and a Golden Globe nomination for her portrayal of Coco Chanel in her later years (Barbara Bobulova plays the young Chanel), but the script’s overall focus on the designer’s love affairs over her artistry and drive—a tried and true Lifetime plot technique—kept the story light and somewhat silly. But hang in there, Chanel fans; there’s more: Three days after Lifetime aired Coco Chanel, Sony Pictures Classics began filming a PG-13 take on Chanel’s early years, Coco Before Chanel, all while Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky, Sony Pictures Classics’ R-rated film about the love affair between the two artists, was well underway. (Are you following all of this?) For Chanel buffs, 2008 can be remembered as the year Mlle. Chanel made yet another comeback, this time as a pop-culture caricature.
The obvious question is: Which of these films, if not all three of them, should you see? Well, I haven’t seen Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky, so you’ll have to decide whether Read More »
Confession: I love shopping at Goodwill. I’m not just talking about the fact that I like how the money I spend there goes to a great cause, or how you can find cheap deals on pretty much anything that goes in a person’s home. My love is more serious: I get a goosebump-inducing, pulse-racing thrill from shopping there, and I’ll tell you why: When you score at Goodwill, the score can be epic.
For instance, as I write this, there’s a mint-condition powder pink vintage Chanel suit up for auction at ShopGoodwill.com, and right now it’s going for $601 with 50 minutes left on the clock. That same suit—in that condition, of that style and color, would sell for more than $1,000 on eBay. Now that is the kind of score that gets my pulse racing! (And, yes, I love that the $601 will go toward a great cause. How can you not?)
About 15 years ago I saw a blue Isaac Mizrahi twin set from the early 90s at a Saint Vincent de Paul thrift store and I didn’t buy it. It still had the tags on, and I didn’t buy it. The store wanted something like $39.99 for a Mizrahi skirt and sweater that looked straight out of the film Unzipped and probably retailed for close to a grand, and I didn’t buy it. These are things I think about—the score I missed—15 years later. Read More »
Born on August 19:
Jean Patou, French couturier; 1880
Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, French couturier; 1883
Olga Baclanova, Russian actress, style icon; 1896
Alexandra Tomlinson, American model; 1985
Happy birthday, dahlink! This next year is all about communication for you, my friend. I keep thinking about fellow August Nineteener, the beautiful actress and Madonna dead-ringer, actress Olga Baclanova—who shares this day with some pretty impressive company, so pat yourself on the back! In her day, Olga was nothing to sneeze at, either. She was huge in silent films, but once the “talkies” showed up, Olga’s star became a bit dim. It seems that Olga had a very thick Russian accent. Not that there was anything wrong with her accent, in fact, I would have particularly loved to hear her say, “moose and squirrel,” for example. Read More »
Sometimes when the big one hits, the first few tremors are barely detectable. On this day in 1923, Mlle. Gabrielle Chanel gathered a small group of journalists in her salon at 31 Rue Cambon in Paris for an afternoon showing of her new line, which included what would become—wait for it—the Chanel suit. “Meh,” the reporters sniffed. The tweed separates barely got two lines of copy.
In those early days, Mlle. Chanel wasn’t considered the ballsy revolutionary that we think of in 2010. Back then, her oversized persona didn’t yet garner entire features in magazines; her clothes did not get their own feature spreads. In 1923, she had barely launched her first perfume (No. 5), the first costume jewelry had another year before it saw the light of day and the little black dress was merely a glimmer in her eye. Sure she had already popularized tanning and introduced separates, wool jersey clothing and sportswear—basically invented what is now modern dress—but journalists considered her house a conservative one. Chanel was brisk and businesslike to reporters. But they did perk up a bit over a few details of the boxy coordinating jackets and Read More »