First Collections 19131919

Becoming a Professional Fashion Designer

Become a Professional Fashion Designer

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While on vacation in Deauville on the west coast of France in the summer of 1913, Boy Capel found a shop for Chanel to open on the fashionable rue Gontaut-Biron, and it was here that she presented her first fashion collections. With the outbreak of World War I in July 1914, many wealthy and fashionable Parisians decamped to Deauville and shopped at Chanel's boutique. It is believed that she sold only ready-to-wear clothing at this date. Chanel had cut her hair short during this period and many other women copied her bobbed hairstyle as well as bought her clothes. Chanel's time had come: radical in their understatement, her versatile and sporty designs were to prove perfect for the more active lives led by many wealthy women during wartime.

In 1916 Chanel purchased a stock of surplus jersey fabric from the manufacturer Rodier, which she made into unstructured three-quarter-length coats belted at the waist and embellished with luxurious fabrics or furs, worn with matching skirts. That fall Chanel presented her first complete couture collection. The March 1917 issue of Les élégances parisiennes illustrates a group of jersey suits by Chanel, some of which are delicately embroidered, while others are strictly plain and accessorized with a saddlery-style double belt. All are worn with open-neck blouses with deep sailor collars. A 1918 design consisted of a coat of tan jersey banded with brown rabbit fur, with a lining and blouse of white-dotted rose foulard: this matching of the coat lining to the dress or blouse was to become a Chanel trademark. Striking in their simplicity and modernity, Chanel's jersey fashions caused a sensation.

While Chanel's daywear was characterized by its stylish utility, her evening wear was unashamedly romantic. In 1919 she presented fragile gowns in black

19th Century Sailor Clothing

Karl Lagerfield. Lagerfeld appears with models at the presentation of Chanel's 2002 spring-summer haute couture collection. Lagerfeld became chief designer of Chanel in 1983 and was credited with making Chanel goods highly desirable again.

AP/Wide World Photos. Reproduced by permission.

Karl Lagerfield. Lagerfeld appears with models at the presentation of Chanel's 2002 spring-summer haute couture collection. Lagerfeld became chief designer of Chanel in 1983 and was credited with making Chanel goods highly desirable again.

AP/Wide World Photos. Reproduced by permission.

Chantilly lace with gold-spun net and jet tassels and other gowns in silver lace brocade. Capes of black velvet adorned with rows of ostrich fringe revealed a Spanish influence—the very height of fashion that winter. This was the year that Chanel would announce, "I woke up famous," but it was also the year that Boy Capel was killed in an automobile accident.

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100 Fashion Tips

100 Fashion Tips

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