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Coco Chanel’s London Legacy: The Intersection of History, Art, and Fashion

Coco Chanel was a French fashion designer, entrepreneur, and businesswoman who is still accredited today for her global impact. During the post-World-War I era, Chanel sparked massive ways in the fashion industry. She redefined femininity and gave women a new level of expression, liberation, and confidence through clothing, and eventually perfume. This exhibition will be exploring Coco Chanel’s legacy in one of the biggest fashion epicenters, in London, England.

Many people claim Chanel’s time in London as a mystery, a secret oasis for her to connect to culture and inspiration in a faraway land. Back in the early 1900s, Chanel could be spotted drinking afternoon tea at Claridge’s. She lived on South Audley Street for a period of time, had a boutique on Davies Street, and even held a couture show at Grosvenor Square. Chanel is immortalised in London’s history and was widely admired by the Duke of Westminster.

If you walk around the streets of South London, you’ll discover lampposts that line downtown Westminster. One side showcases a ‘W’ in script text, and the other side displays the prodigal double C’s that create the Coco Chanel logo. It’s said that the Duke was infatuated with Chanel, even stating “there have been many duchesses of Westminster, but only one Coco Chanel.” London’s fashion and history wouldn’t be the same without the presence of Chanel.

The Little Black Dress

In the early 1930s, Chanel’s little black dress changed the future of fashion forever. The simple design was praised as a uniform for any woman with taste. During the Great Depression, an entire generation of women flocked to this timeless design. Today, the little black dress is still essential in many people's closets. This dress symbolized class without tradition, which was monumental during this era.

The Chanel Suit

Chanel mainstreamed her first two-piece set in the early 1920s, which played an astronomical role in female liberation. The set was crafted with a slim skirt, collarless jacket, and beautiful material made out of tweed. Chanel took the traditionally ‘unglamorous’ and made it a statement of feminine power, beauty, and style. This was monumental during the post-war era when women became avid workers in society for the first time.

Nautical Tops

It’s safe to say the nautical style was mainstreamed until Coco Chanel turned it into fashion. Since the 19th century, sailors had been wearing striped Breton tops made out of wool. Chanel took inspiration from these tops, reworking them with Jersey material and styling them with thick belts. Many women were craving a casual style that was an off-the-beaten path from their traditional corsets and long skirts. Chanel paved the way for a new widely accepted feminine look that didn’t sacrifice a high-class appeal.

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