How to Dress Like Coco Chanel

23 May

When it comes to timeless fashion, what name first comes to mind? For me, it’s Coco Chanel. Coco’s fashion weaves through history over the last two centuries. I can’t possibly imagine how many ladies she has inspired. I almost took Coco Chanel’s fashion for granted because I’ve seen Chanel ads all over the place, fashion magazines, billboard, etc, until one day I watched the Coco Before Chanel and Chanel Coco & Igor Stravinsky movies and now I’m inspired like never before. Because of these movies, I got Chanel fever and wanted to have a set of Chanel-style clothing in my wardrobe badly. Being inspired by the movie, I will DIY my own movie look-alike Chanel style. So…How to dress like Coco Chanel? Here are two keys:

Key #1: the contrast of striking black, or navy-blue, and white.


Chanel likes the combination of black (or navy-blue) and white contrast. One thing I’ll never forget in the Chanel Coco & Igor Stravinsky movie is that when Catherine (Igor’s wife) first visited Coco’s house and how she reacted to the colors in the house. As soon as they entered the villa, Catherine saw white walls and black lintels and White flowers. When Coco showed the family the girls’ room, Catherine looked around with distaste at the walls. She was a bit shocked and disliked Coco’s deep-love of the black and white contrast, which is how Coco separated herself from millions of women out there who like to wear lots of colors and complicated print patterns at once like Catherine…and to do this successfully, you have to manage proportions well.

Key #2: wisely proportion the use of black (navy-blue) and white colors.


Simply black and white combination won’t work in Coco Chanel’s dress book. If you pay attention to how Coco used the black and white colors together, you will notice how she liked to play with the color proportions. Coco liked to space out the black and white color, by using either striped color or ribbon in the form of geometry to make the colors contrast and stand out even more. Think before you dress, is it 80% black vs. 20% white or is it 60% white vs. 40% navy blue? As Coco said, “Fashion is architecture: it is a matter of proportions.”

Let’s take a look at the wardrobe of Coco Chanel in the Coco Before Chanel movie. In the picture above, you can see how Coco dressed: from left to right, navy-blue top with creamed white tulip skirt on the top left; striped navy-blue long sleeved cotton shirt on the top right; white Chanel suit with black shirt inside on bottom left; creamy silk blouse at the bottom right, and in the middle, and navy-blue robe with classic black ribbons white pajama inside.

Based on Coco’s wardrobe inspiration, I came up with the following outfit:
From left to right, striped navy-blue tulip skirt ($20 from Bora) paired with white silk blouse with navy-blue bow in the middle ($28 from Bora), and a pair of shiny black leather platform wedge heels ($98 from Star Couture). You can wear that to semi-professional business casual networking event, high-end restaurant for dinner, or a public speaking engagement.
Lastly, let’s enjoy one of Coco Chanel’s famous quotes: “Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.”

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5 Responses to “How to Dress Like Coco Chanel”

  1. Elina June 23, 2011 at 9:37 pm #

    I was wondering what the store Bora is and if they have an online store. And great job! The movies and Coco herself do inspire. :)

    • chalseachen June 23, 2011 at 9:44 pm #

      It’s a boutique store locates in San Gabriel Valley. They sell all kinds of fashionable clothes imported from Korea. I don’t think they have an online store yet. But will let you know once they do. Thx for the reading and the feedback! :)

  2. Yuan May 26, 2011 at 2:07 am #

    Ignor Stravinsky?? this name sounds familiar, in Paris, in front of the Pompidou center, there’s square, named Place Ignor Stravinsky, next time when you go, it’s interesting little square with cute fountain

  3. Mike Rasbury May 25, 2011 at 12:34 am #

    Admittedly, when I think of timeless fashion, I think first of Audrey Hepburn, but Coco Chanel is right up there. It’s apt to compare the two also as both are known for their use of black, or another, similar dark. I know that I’ve gotten into discussions — arguments, rather — about the validity of both Audrey and Coco’s “style-factor” as “just about anyone can wear black and look good (which isn’t true, but, yeah).” Not every woman can put on a L.B.D. and look stunning, sadly.

    As you expertly pointed out, it’s not just wearing black and white contrast, but how it’s done that makes these two woman so fabulous. Coco’s use of black and white was colour-blocking before the term even existed. I suppose it would be “achromatic-blocking” but I digress. The balance of proportion to its spacing across an outfit must not only look good but enhance the strength of those colours over the entire outfit otherwise it’s boring.

    Fashion certainly is a matter of proportions, as it’s essentially designing an outfit and design is much less expression as it is rules, theorums and concepts. At least, I think of fashion more as design than fine art. Accordingly, when styling men and I toss them a tie bar I get two questions. First, “what does this do?” and second, “where should it go?” I always hark back to the tried and true design rule of thirds. The use of proportions along those lines always seems more striking (even when aligning accessories).

    As for your inspirations, I must say my favourite piece is the striped tulip skirt. Absolutely stunning. I’m a bit biased as I am absolutely in love with stripes, but it’s such a eye-catching piece of attire. Plus, it’s not so bouncy that it’s just a fun skirt, nor is it boring, either. It is both demure and flirty, depending on what’s paired with it.

    The blouse, I really wish I could see a detail shot of the bib’s stripes/ruffles/venting, whatever it is, because it seems like it could be a really interesting characteristic I’m missing out on. Also, part of me thinks that the bows should be a touch bigger to bring out the navy on the top a bit better, but overall, it’s a great summer top. It’s got a great feminine twist on a sailor outfit that probably looks great in motion. Or at the beach. Or on a boat.

    While the striped skirt is by far my favourite, as a self-professed shoe whore, I gotta say, wow, those are fierce! I’ve spent enough time in wedges and heels (don’t ask, heh) to give you major props for putting those on your feet! Such a great partner to the skirt. Though I’d love for them to be in navy.

    Overall such a stunning, versatile outfit that could be worn for any event. Coco would be proud. And at only $48 dollars for the blouse and skirt? There’s no reason no woman shouldn’t steal this look! And to get away with only spending $98 on shoes?

    Cheers,
    Raz

    • chalseachen May 25, 2011 at 4:20 pm #

      That’s one of the most complimentary comments I’ve ever gotten, Mike! You hit the nail on the head in reviewing every single piece. Thank you so much for such genuine feedback. Speaking of Audrey Hepburn, you reminded me of one of her movies that I need to catch up with-Breakfast at Tiffany’s. To answer your question of the ruffles on the blouse, it is a very interesting design, would love to show you a more detailed picture another time. In terms of shoes, I totally agree navy is better because it’s coherent color coordination with the outfit. Another alternative, I think white pair of shiny leather heels will also work as well. Btw, you should become a professional fashion critic! Looking forward to more of your reviews in the future. :)

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