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Coco Chanel: An Orphan From Rags to Riches

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Coco Chanel, with her ingenuity, elegance, and simplicity, gave so much to fashion.

Coco Chanel Famous Words

Coco Chanel Famous Words

Coco Chanel's Philosophy

Coco Chanel's Philosophy

Coco Chanel No. 5

Coco Chanel No. 5

Life of Coco Chanel

Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel was born in poverty in 1883 in Saumur, France. Her mother died when Coco was twelve years old, forcing her father to farm out his sons and place his daughters in an orphanage in Correze, France. Coco would never see her father again. Coco was taught to sew by the nuns and would be the foundation for her life-long passion.

As was the rule of the orphanage, Coco was forced to leave at age eighteen. The nuns helped her find employment at a cabaret where she began signing and not too well, but she acquired the nickname that would last her throughout her life, the name Coco.

It seems hard to imagine how starting from nothing to live a life of high society and luxury. Coco never married but had a string of love affairs along the way. Some of those affairs included Etienne Balsa, Arthur "Boy" Capel, the Duke of Westminster.

She was fortunate with her lovers financing the start of her fashion empire, but Coco had a knack for fashion and a determination and independence to succeed independently. She would give women freedom from constraints and corsets with materials like jersey for movement. She started out being a licensed milliner, progressing to her jersey dresses, famous suits, and the little black dress.

Her first shop was at 31 Rue Cambon, Paris, and instantly became a success. Coco was designed with elegance, and women flocked to her shops.

Coco was a remarkable woman, generous and fair to her workers, had a dark side to her for a while during WW II but overcame it. She managed her business with tenacity and dedication. She was a true pioneer in the fashion world, and her name is forever ingrained in it.

Marilyn Monroe once asked her what she wore to bed, and Coco answered, "a few drops of Chanel No. 5." And, that says it all.


Coco's Jersey Dresses

Coco's Jersey Dresses

The Little Black Dress

The Little Black Dress

The Coco Chanel Suit

The Coco Chanel Suit

Coco's Own Style

Coco's Own Style

Short Timeline For Coco Chanel

A short timeline:

1883 Born Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel in France

1895 Mother dies, Coco's father abandoned her to the orphanage.

1901 Age 18, leaves the orphanage and works in cabaret and gets nickname Coco.

1909 Opens her millinery shop at 31 Rue Cambon, France, financed by her lover Arthur "Boy" Capel. They had a nine-year affair until he died in 1919. When he died, Coco cried for the first and last time in her life.

1921 Launches Chanel No. 5, her famous Chanel Suit and the Black Dress.

1923 Meets Duke of Westminister in Monte Carlo, and their affair lasts till 1930. their affair lasted years.

1931 Meets Samuel Goodwyn in Monte Carlo was offered one million to design for MGM.

1940 Meets Baron Hans Gauther von Dincklage. Coco was confirmed as a Nazi spy #F7124, code name Westminister. She endued ramifications for her wartime dealings with the Nazis. With the help of Winston Churchill and although questioned, she was never convicted. Coco had cozied up to Baron, an officer in Abwher, and had sympathies for the Nazis.

1945 Coco moves to Switzerland and lives quietly for a time, avoiding publicity.

1954 Coco returns to the fashion world, this time with help from the Werthimer family she had fought with for years. She managed to get her signature Chanel No. 5 with a settlement. Today, the Werthimer Brothers market and own the Chanel products.

1971 Coco lives an almost solitary life at her apartment over 31 Rue Cambon, Paris but spends nights at The Ritz Hotel. Coco died in her sleep at the Ritz and is buried in Cimetiere du-Bois-de-Vaux Cemetery, Switzerland. She left the bulk of her estate to hew nephew, Andre Palasse, and his two daughters.


Coco's Grave Marker, Switzerland

Coco's Grave Marker, Switzerland

Awards Given to Coco Chanel

Awards for Cocco:

1924 Time Magazine Woman of the Year

1938 Neiman Marcus Award for Distinguished Service

1957 Neiman Marcus Award

1963 Time Magazine International Fashion Award

2012 Induction to the Fashion Hall of Fame

coco-chanel-an-orphan-from-rags-to-riches
coco-chanel-an-orphan-from-rags-to-riches
coco-chanel-an-orphan-from-rags-to-riches

Comments

Rosina S Khan on November 23, 2020:

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fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on November 16, 2020:

Thank you Rosina for your visit and comments. Very much appreciated.

Rosina S Khan on November 15, 2020:

Wow I am impressed with Coco. What an interesting life account! She sure contributed to fashion and style. I can tell she was an extraordinary person, winning so many awards. Thanks for sharing a wonderful article, Fran.