Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel was born on this day (19th August) in 1883 to an unmarried mother, Eugénie Jeanne Devolle – known as Jeanne – a laundrywoman. She was Jeanne’s second child with Albert Chanel, a street vendor who peddled work clothes and undergarments. When Chanel was 11, her mother died from bronchitis, and she was sent by her father to a convent where she learned to sew and was able to find employment as a seamstress.
When she wasn’t sewing, she sang in a cabaret making her stage debut singing at a café-concert (a popular entertainment venue of the era). It was at this time that Gabrielle acquired the name “Coco”, possibly based on two popular songs with which she became identified, “Ko Ko Ri Ko”, and “Qui qu’a vu Coco”, or it was an allusion to the French word for kept woman, cocotte (As an attractive cafe entertainer, Chanel was likely to have tantalised the men who frequented the shows…)
Coco Chanel became a licensed milliner (hat maker) in 1910 and opened a boutique at 21 rue Cambon, Paris. In 1913, Chanel opened another boutique financed by her former lover, Arthur Capel where she introduced a range of casual clothes. The brand continued to grow as she developed iconic designs including the little black dress (THANK YOU CHANEL!) and a purse with straps to “liberate women tired of carrying their bags” (We so want a quilted Chanel bag…)
Chanel was 87 when she died at the Hotel Ritz in Paris, where she lived for more than 30 years. We thought to mark her birthday we’d pull together some of our favourite Chanel Bridal (and non-Bridal) looks.
Blake Lively at the Green Lantern Premier:
Poppy Delevingne’s Wedding Dress:
Kiera Knightley’s Cute Chanel Jacket Worn on her Wedding Day:
Kendall Jenner as the “Chanel Bride” at Paris Fashion Week:
Julianne Moore at the 67th Annual Cannes Film Festival:
Rihanna at the Chanel Couture Show in Paris, 2013: