Contrary to the image she projected to the world, Coco Chanel's early life was far from glamorous. As chronicled in the 2009 film Coco Before Chanel, the fashion house's founder was an orphan who toiled in obscurity as a seamstress and performer at a bar. It was through a tryst with a wealthy patron that she was able to enter polite society, find her fashion voice, and start dressing the influential women whose patronage would make her a powerful force in the world of designer style.
Chanel broke boundaries by producing clothing for women that moved with their bodies rather than constraining them. Her silhouettes flattered a lean, boyish figure, especially the striped sailor-inspired marinière shirt she favored. She played a large part in popularizing the Little Black Dress and costume jewelry for daily wear. Her tweed jacket and quilted handbag were released in the 50s and are now iconic pieces instantly recognizable as the Chanel brand.
Coco Chanel's Chanel perfumes were complex, using as many as 80 different ingredients to achieve a complex scent that was far more refined than the basic floral or jasmine-influenced scents on the market in the 1920s. Her favorite of those scents, the Chanel No. 5, would become a signature of the fashion house and a favorite scent of icons such as Marilyn Monroe and Nicole Kidman.
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