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One cannot think of Paris and fashion and not think of Coco Chanel– an icon who changed the world of fashion (and came up with the idea of “the little black dress”). Chanel redefined womanhood in the 20th century, and through her building of a fashion empire, we can all learn lessons on style and savoir-faire.

Be a Heroine

“If you were born without wings, do nothing to prevent them from growing.”

Chanel wasn’t born into money or from a mother who wore luxurious suits. Instead, she was orphaned at the age of six when her mother died and her father abandoned her.

Before changing the face of fashion, she worked as a simple seamstress and cabaret performer.  Talk about humble beginnings!

Chanel had every reason to play victim; instead, she refused to be a prisoner of her past. She chose to be a heroine, instead.

Lesson: How do you allow your past to define you? Where are you playing victim? Realize you get to write your own story (and you can even give yourself a different name and make yourself 10 years younger, as Chanel did).

Keep it Simple

“Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.”

When it came to design, she aimed for a simple, comfortable and feminine aesthetic – the tailored jacket and little black dress as two great examples. Nothing ornate. Simple.

Chanel said, “I get rid of every­thing I can, every thing that is not use­ful. Until I reach simplicity…”

Often, we make the mistake of trying to add more to our lives in order to create happiness.  Chanel teaches us that a beautiful life is more about what you subtract than add.  <tweet it>

Lesson: From design to writing to how you live your life, what if you got rid of everything that didn’t align with who you desired to be? That’s simplicity!

Be Unique

“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”

When the Duke of Westminster asked for her hand in marriage, she turned him down, saying “There have been many Duchesses of Westminster. There is only one Chanel.” (Bravo Chanel!)

Had Chanel chosen to conform to the societal rules of the 20th century, she would have remained unknown and Chanel No. 5 would not exist (quelle tragique). Instead, Chanel believed, “in order to be irre­place­able one must always be dif­fer­ent. Peo­ple laughed at the way I dressed, but that was the secret of my suc­cess: I didn’t look like any­one.”

She didn’t try to avoid judgement like the plague, please the masses or be the good girl. She owned who she was, without apology.

Lesson: How are you not showing up as 100% you? What is your fear around judgement? Digging into these questions will help you excavate the authentic, beautiful YOU!

Live Life on Your Terms

“My life didn’t please me, so I created my life.”

In an era when women wore skirts with bustles and hats with plumes, the rebellious Chanel rejected a lot of the feminine style of her time. In fact, she was the first woman to wear trousers in public.

All of the styles that have made her a revered icon – the classic black and white palette, menswear-inspired design and the little black dress – are what made Chanel a rebel during the 1920s and 30s.

Persistence, tenacity and pure grit displayed Chanel’s commitment to living life on her terms.  While it’s easy to follow the conventional path, I applaud Chanel for ignoring the nay-sayers and critics.  She once said, “I don’t care what you think about me. I don’t think about you at all.”  Instead, Chanel focused on her vision and formed her entire life around it.

Lesson: What does your soul desire to rebel against? What are you dying to create? Give yourself permission (as Coco did) to chart your own path, design your own life. As an old African adage goes, “You can never fetch the ripest fruit in the bush by following a charted path.”

Change Your Hair

“A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life.”

Chanel believed in the reinvention of a woman through style.  And, what a bold, fabulous way to shake things and change the trajectory of your mind, style and life than through a new hair style?  In working with thousands of women, I’ve witnessed this phenomena over and over.  When a woman gets a new hair style, watch out.  She’s up to something fabulous.

Lesson:  Have you had the same haircut for years?   Is there a part of you that’s dying to try something different. Perhaps, even a new color?  Do it!

Always Look Your Best

“I don’t do fashion, I AM fashion.”

Chanel used fashion as a way of self-expression – stating who you are through fabric, design and confidence.  She said, “I don’t understand how a woman can leave the house without fixing herself up a little – if only out of politeness. And then, you never know, maybe that’s the day she has a date with destiny. And it’s best to be as pretty as possible for destiny.”

In Chanel’s world, if a woman was too busy to look her best, her life was running her, not the other way around.  Chanel was a hard-working woman who ran an empire, and yet, in every picture I’ve ever seen, she always looked elegant.  She took the time to always present her best self to the world, because she was a planner of her destiny!

Lesson: Do you sometimes use the the excuse, “I’m too busy” to avoid looking your best?  Invest in the effort to present yourself to world as the woman you desire to be.  Make the world your runway.

Have a Little Black Dress

“Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman.”

We can thank Coco for making the little black dress (aka LBD) a world-wide necessity in every woman’s closet. Chanel published a simple, short black dress in Vogue in 1926. It was referred to as “Chanel’s Ford,” because it was accessible to women of all social classes, like the Model T.

Elegant, chic and versatile, Vogue claimed that the LBD was “a sort of uniform for all women of taste.” And, it continues to be to this day. Merci Chanel!

Lesson: Do you have a little black dress hanging in your closet that you love? If not, you may want to consider making it your next wardrobe investment.

Here are some little black dress looks I love:

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Other Black Dresses I Love

For Evening Elegance:

Adrianna Pappel: Illusion Yoke Pleated Dress

For Chic Days:

Elizabeth and James: ‘Bardot’ Keyhole Dress

For Glitter Nights:

Vivienne Westwood: Sihu Dress

For Anytime:

T by Alexander Wang: Gathered Jersey Dress

Books About Coco Chanel

The Gospel According to Coco Chanel: Life Lessons from the World’s Most Elegant Woman

Chanel and Her World

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Are you ready to channel your Inner Coco?

I’d love to hear your thoughts below!

To Being Classy and Fabulous,

Signature

Tonya

 

 

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