Coco Chanel was a pioneering style maven who was born in the 1890s, and was apparently orphaned at a young age. The movie Coco Avant Chanel begins with young Gabrielle arriving at the orphanage, although it was later made clear that Coco was not actually an orphan, but that her father left the family when she was young and never returned. (Coco Avant Chanel, 2009). Perhaps it was this unusual early childhood that inspired Chanel’s iconoclastic personal style that was so completely different from the prevailing style at the turn of the century. It probably was also a basis for Chanel’s strong sense of independence, and her ability to make her fortune in a male-dominated society.
Chanel was different from all other women during this time, for she not only was not satisfied with the lot bestowed upon women, but she also did not dress the part. This was a period of time when society women were in invariably in corsets, high boots and large hats with feathers. In contrast, Chanel opted for comfort, simplicity and clean lines. While other women wore corsets and frilly dresses, Chanel dressed in menswear, simple dresses with no corsets, low-heeled shoes and unadorned hats. (Coco Avant Chanel, 2009) Chanel saw that the fashion of the day was not comfortable for women, nor practical. At first, it seemed as if Chanel simply rebelled against the societal restrictions, in that she chose to wear men’s wear and comfortable clothes, while the rest of the women went about their day in fashions that were no doubt impossibly hot and uncomfortable. She did not necessarily aim to change societal fashion. She just did not go along with it. She was her own person in a society where individualism was not necessarily admired.
While it might not have been her aim to change society, this is exactly what she did, with the guidance, encouragement and financial