Flashback Friday: What did a Chanel catwalk show look like in the 1920s?

From the birth of LBDs to Athleisure

Image: Coco Chanel Portrait by Douglas Kirkland

Scroll through Instagram and you’re likely to encounter at least one pithy quote from Gabrielle Bonheur ‘Coco’ Chanel. Whether it’s ‘In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different’ or ‘The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud’, in an era where profound quotes equate to likes, Chanel’s spirited legacy has enraptured the digital age just as much as it did in the 1920s.

Today is Coco’s 133rd birthday, and to celebrate we’ve let our imaginations drift back to her groundbreaking heyday. Instead of 2016, it’s 1926 and we’re sat on the front row in a palatial French maison – perched between esteemed fashion editors and moneyed aristocrats – waiting for Coco Chanel to present her latest radical collation. We chart just some of Coco’s seminal changes to the fashion landscape through an (imagined) show report on the collection…

Trousers

WTF?! Coco has thrown us a total curveball today after sending her models out in men’s pants. Pants! Fashion editors literally toppled off the front row in shock when the models stepped out in their mannish tailored slacks. Speaking backstage, Coco – who’s renowned for her own offbeat fashion choices – explained she was inspired to bring this ‘borrowed-from-the-boys’ garment into the women’s market having donned a pair herself recently. Deciding that there was no comfortable way to ride a horse while wearing a long skirt, she took the pants off a male rider and made them her own. So, ditch your corsets and skirts ladies, next season it’s all about raiding the men’s aisle.

The LBD

Ladies, a new fashion term has been coined. Meet: The LBD, aka The Little Black Dress. While bright colours, prints and heavy embroideries have dominated the catwalk for some time now; Coco has proposed an ebony shift as the dress we’ll wear forever. The frock has split the industry with sceptics calling it ‘a fad’ while American Vogue herald it ‘a Ford’ (in reference to its simplicity and its potential for enormous and long-lasting success, not because it’s a total car crash). We’re not so sure, could such a plain dress really have such enduring success?

‘Boxy’ Jackets

Another new addition for this season were a set of collarless boxy bouclé jackets with a braid trim, fitted sleeves and metallic embellished buttons, replete with interconnecting Cs. Styled with a matching slimline skirt, now this is look we’re on board with. 

Athleisure

Ath-what-ure? It seems Coco has definitely spent some time plundering the men’s department this season. She’s taken jersey – the material of choice for men’s underwear – and recast it as casual day dresses and separates for playing sport in. When asked about her curious choice of material, Coco explained: ‘I make fashion women can live in, breath in, feel comfortable in and look younger in.’ Sold.


Costume Jewellery

Rarely seen without a grand pile of pearls (real and faux) around her neck, Coco has added her signature strings of necklaces to her catwalk offering. Designed to be worn by day, her affordable jewellery means we can accessorise every outfit rather than sticking with a few simple gemstones for occasion wear. Okay, the woman’s a genius.

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