The Gospel According to Coco Chanel

Posted on December 30, 2009 by admin 

 I just finished reading The Gospel According to Coco Chanel  by Karen Karbo.  It is humorously written and joins a stable of other books and films on this icon of fashion.

Chanel died in 1971 at the age of 87 having influenced women’s fashion more than any other designer.  Much of her success was due to the two wars the world experienced while she was young.  Her simpler, easier to wear clothes and pants for heaven’s sake met the changing needs as women joined the work force.  They found corsets, restricting feminine dresses and huge hats requiring a mound of hair to keep balanced impossible in the workplace.  Coco adapted her ideas from the closets of her various boyfriends and the simpler styles were perfect for her rectangular figure.  She was her own best advertisement. 

Chanel was known for her pronouncements on style, many of which contradicted each other!  “Fashion fades, only style remains, and I am style,” is one of her most noted.   I thought it would be fun to quote some of the fashion edicts attributed to Chanel as we close one year and look forward to the New Year and what fashion has to offer.

She said elegance equates to luxury, which must be invisible and must be felt.  Luxury is simple and the opposite of complication.  It is the opposite of vulgarity or status.  “Luxury is liberty.  Luxury is elegance.”

“And then modern times were upon us, and luxury was no more, according to Chanel.  Women went to dinner in dirty pants and a man’s shirt.  Luxury was replaced by squalor.  And Coco said fashion is always a reflection of its own time, but we forget this when it is stupid.  …And if a dress is shaped like a bubble, a barrel, or any other form that does not conform to your body, you must tear it from your body. 

And if the dress is well formed but also brings to mind a bed sheet, a linen napkin, or a tarp, which may also be used to cover the vessel parked in your driveway, you must tear it from your body.

And if you were to wear pants that rest so low upon the hips that which is called a muffin top is created, you must tear it from your body, and if you wear pants that rest so low upon your hips that upon sitting the cheeks of your buttocks are revealed, you must tear it from your body, for it offends me, also the multitude who pass behind you.”

I am not sure if this is actually quoted from Chanel or what the author thought she would have about today’s styles.  There is, however, a ring of truth when we reflect on recent fashion offerings.    “It is better to possess a few elegant pieces in which one feels at ease” than to follow fashion trends that simply don’t work.

Happy New Year to all!

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Power Jeans

Posted on December 15, 2009 by admin 

 Jeans have now transitioned into being acceptable in high-ranking business and political circles.  Power jean dressing signifies that the wearer is powerful but relaxed as demonstrated by Dmitry Medvedev when he dined with President Obama a few months ago.  Medvedev wore a fine blazer with and impeccable button down shirt, expensive shoes and dark blue, straight-legged jeans according to Christina Binkley, reporter for The Wall Street Journal.  

Jeans started out as work wear but as designers adapted styles to look more cosmopolitan, the younger crowd embraced the modern styles and now even those with gray hair are sporting jeans.   To quote Binkley, “…jeans are now a legitimate part of the global power-dress lexicon, worn to influential confabs where the wearers want to signal they’re serious—but not fussy –and innovative.”    CEOs of luxury products have even embraced the trend.  President Nicolas Sarkozy and Tony Blair are among global leaders who have joined Steve Jobs choice of work-wear.  Jobs, CEO of Apple, has been known since the ‘90s for his work uniform of Levi’s 501s and a black turtleneck.  Of course, this has been the classic work uniform for the tech world for twenty years and anyone wearing slacks was viewed with suspicion.

Powerful men wearing jeans properly takes finesse as Barak Obama learned from the ridicule he received for his “daddy jeans” (baggy and high-rise) when he threw out the first pitch at the All Star game.  Eric Jennings, men’s fashion director for Saks Fifth Avenue, offered a list of “don’ts” for a man to carry off the jeans well.   They must be dark and straight-legged, well fitting, worn with a crisp, well-pressed shirt – no French cuffs.   A distressed or acid washed jean is not appropriate nor is lavish embroidery, metal studs or other extra embellishments.  Baggy high-rise, super-low-rise and jeans with holes also fall into the “no” category.   

Jeans have not become acceptable attire in conservative professions such as banking and accounting.   I would caution anyone hoping to bridge into wearing jeans in a professional setting, to take your cue from senior members of the firm.  If you wish to be promoted or perhaps even keep your job, it would be wise not to be a trend-setter!   However, now that you know the rules, you can knock everyone’s socks off with your great power jeans look during leisure hours!

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The Office Christmas Party

It’s December first.  The holiday party season is upon us and the annual office party is coming up.  What to wear, what to wear?  Navigating through the pitfalls of choosing the right thing can be challenging.  So let’s take a look at some of the possible perils.

Holiday wear this year offers many choices in both color and style.   Since the very short skirts are a popular fashion trend right now, it may cross your mind to choose one of them to show off your great legs.  Then, there’s always the deep neckline plunge or that alluring backless dress.  After all, isn’t the one time you can go a little beyond the staid office wear and flaunt it a bit?  

Hold on just a minute.  After reading articles for several years about the impressions one can make amongst co-workers, I advise caution.  An office party is really an extension of work so should be viewed as just that and not an occasion to kick up your heels.  A recent article quoted comments from men who had  been interviewed.  One of the most telling comments was from one man who stated that he never again looked at his coworker the same way at the office.  He only pictured her in that revealing dress she had worn to the company Christmas party.  You can bet he wasn’t thinking about her competence or what a great teammate she was on the project they were doing together!       

Another pitfall is for a lady to have just a little too much champagne.  If a man gets a little tipsy at a company party, it is usually forgotten within a few days after everyone has had a good chuckle.  The same rules do not apply for a woman.  I have read articles where women have been passed over for promotions just because they had one glass too many at a company party.

There is nothing fair about these realities but they exist.  Your company may be  different but I would encourage everyone to dress conservatively and conduct themselves in business mode instead of party mode at the company  party.  Save that seductive dress and party mode for social gatherings with friends when you are not under the watchful eyes of managers and coworkers.  You have worked too hard to earn that great position.  Don’t risk it by one night of letting down your guard!

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