The suit is an alliance of opposites.
Symbolizing the respectable woman, with a touch of power, the suit makes women feel safe and give them a masculine attitude. A triumph of ambivalence, between sexy and modest, masculine and feminine. It’s an eternal symbol of sophisticated and understated elegance.
And the suit is coming back.
Editors and bloggers have been snapped all around the world, outside fashion shows, wearing a colorful, embroidered, tailored or simple suit. Next winter be prepared to find a frenzy of suits in your favorite boutiques.
So what’s the story behind its creation?
The concept of a coordinate suit is believed to have been initially inspired by the first tailor-made suits for women, created by English designer John Redfern in the late 19th century.
Then the infallible Coco Chanel created her eternal, classic version of the suit, stealing it from her men’s wardrobe. Taking inspiration from Boy Capel’s outfits, her lover and the epitome of English elegance, she captured the real essence of being chic. The timeless suit was first shown in Paris in 1954 and it could be considered the last act of the incredible life of Coco. Her innovative mind established the most influential fashion rules for modern women. She was the undisputed protagonist of the first half of 20th century, shaping the future of fashion.
The suit was firstly created by Chanel in 1917, made with comfortable and soft jersey and it immediately became the uniform for avant-guard ladies. The suit consisted of a collarless boxy jacket and a slim-line skirt. Design was straight and simple, iconic and revolutionary.
In 1954 she added to the jacket braid trims, patch pockets , gold buttons and—sewn into the hem—a gold-colored chain, ensuring that the jacket hung properly from the shoulders.
The suit also came in a new fabric. Tweed was the innovative choice of Chanel. The fabric was the symbol of men’s working class outfit and she decided to dignify it, creating the future uniform for working girls.
In the 1950s the skirt was longer and slimmer, while in the 1960s it became more A-line and the hem gradually rose. The couture suit usually came with a simple silk camisole-like bodice. The jackets were quilted to add comfort and the linings related to the color of the blouse. Chanel took enormous care over the construction of the sleeves and how they were inserted, preferring a higher-set armhole and narrow sleeves.
Karl Lagerfeld once said that Chanel invented the equivalent of men’s suit.
Chanel suit gained immediate success among the post-war modern girls generation, who wanted to make a career in a working world ruled by men’s power.
The suit was the decisive tool to shape a new kind of woman. Strong and ambitious, this self-confident woman wanted to pursue her professional goals.
Jacques Prévert once said:” A tomboy is a successful girl.”
The ladylike polish look was a hit during all the 60s. Jacqueline Kennedy was a huge fan of Chanel suit, which she used to wear with a pillbox hat. Princess Grace of Monaco was photographed wearing it at Christmas with her children. Romy Schneider and Elizabeth Taylor wore Chanel suit on screen and off. Every wealthy woman and celebrity emulated the style of Coco Chanel, who was the most alluring ambassador of her own attitude and style.
Chanel suit is timeless classic, smart, comfortable and it’s wearable today as when it was made. Combining comfort with minimalism and seemingly effortless style, the same Chanel suit can be worn by different generations, which can feel equally empowered by it.
After Chanel’s death, only one man was able to transform the precious ideas of the designer and gave them new life.
Karl Lagerfeld knew perfectly how to inherit all the great creations of Coco, making her myth eternal. Possibly perceiving in Coco Chanel some of the character traits of his own mother who “could not bear the slightest error of taste”, Karl Lagerfeld now presents ten Chanel collections every season.
My final thoughts
After almost a century of existence, the Chanel suit continues to be a timeless standard, eternally young. It is a phenomenon unaffected by the passing of time. The suit was a classic symbol of French elegance, a “fashion statement of the century”.