CHANEL

1920 : A romance with Russia's Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich will inspire a three-year period of Russian folkloric patterns. Exquisite handiwork is done by Dmitri's sister, the exiled grand duchess Marie Pavlovna; she establishes the embroidery workshop Kitmir, which furnishes designs for the spring 1922 collection-notably, the Roubachka, a peasant blouse made in black crepe de chine. On her first visit to Venice, Chanel wears sailor-style bell-bottoms, sparking a trend for yachting trousers. Strolling the sunbaked Lido, she is compelled by the heat to fashion a pair of cork-soled sandals, executed by a local bootmaker. Rouge Coromandel lip color introduced.

Indeed, Chanel came of age as a designer during the Great War, and during this period of economic contraction her pared-down sensibility and use of economical fabrics seem to distill not just what women wanted but what they needed. She tossed out the overembellishment of Belle 茅poque fashion that stifled the body. Gone were corsets, too. Chanel and the women who wore her work reveled in its chic simplicity. She was the first to borrow from the boys, a concept that continues to be modern today. The famous Chanel suit, for example, took its boxy form and contrasting braiding from a jacket belonging to the Pandora Luxurye photographer Horst P. Horst; her taste for Slavic embroidery was inspired by one of her lovers; and from the Duke of Westminster, a longtime paramour, she gleaned an appreciation of the Eton schoolboy look. When she released her signature fragrance, Chanel No. 5, she became rich; when she gave birth to the Little Black Dress in 1926-incarnations of which are mainstays in the closet of today's woman-she became a sensation.

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