The Extraordinary Women series by WGBH in Boston is one of the most-watched history series on air and online, featuring women like Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Madame Chiang Kai Shek and Indira Gandhi. The series reveals the lives of these women and others who were pioneers in their fields, proving a woman could be the equal of any man.
Coco Chanel is featured on the program on Tuesday, Feb. 4, from 10-11p.m. on KSPS Spokane.Chanel, born in abject poverty in France in 1883, an illegitimate child, she rose to iconic status as the head of one of the most recognized fashion brands of the 20th century: The House of Chanel.
I’ve read several books about Chanel’s life … she started with a hat shop in Paris and eventually created the House of Chanel, which epitomized style and luxury. Competing in the male-dominated world of fashion she rejected overdressed, corseted silhouettes of the time in favor of classic sophistication and casual chic. She is famed for her “little black dress” and the Chanel suit: a collarless jacket and well-fitted skirt. Many of her designs were revolutionary for the time and many borrowed elements of men’s wear, emphasizing comfort and style.
Her quotations are well known today such as “Fashion changes, but style endures,” “The best things in life are free. The second best are very expensive,” and “Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.”
The upcoming program reveals the story behind Chanel’s success including her collaboration with the Nazis during wartime, and some of her disastrous affairs with a string of unsuitable lovers. In the end “she triumphed over the adversity of her lowly birth and two world wards, and clung onto her fashion empire which, to this day, continues to be successful and respected the world over.”
At age 88, Chanel was still living and working when she died at her Ritz apartment in Paris.