Looking Back on Coco: MUMSY CHIC!
Marlena Dietrich did it right…
An article in this past Sunday’s New York Times mis-credits Coco Chanel as a forerunner of tailored androgyny. Something about how she was against “lace frippery.” The attribution and statement was most likely created because a biopic about Coco will debut this summer (“Coco Avant Chanel” starring Audrey Tatou!) and a documentary about Chanel will close this week’s Cannes film festival. But upon close inspection, it can be found that Chanel herself was not a queen of the chic pantsuit. Rather, she wore knit dresses and those signature pearls, her head often topped with a boxy hat, like those tidy English ladies at afternoon weddings. Yes, she did don fitted knit jackets, but looking back she seems to front more eccentric mumsy than cool and ready to face economic blowout with an edge.
No fedora, no pinstripes. There’s one archived shot of her in a tweed pantsuit, perhaps more somewhere in a vault in Paris, but nine out of ten times, she’s wearing skirted looks, necklace, red lipstick. Frippery! Not “lace frippery,” but frippery nonetheless since according to Merriam Webster’s dictionary, frippery means “an elegant or showy garment, something foolish or affectedly elegant.”
So, let’s now credit real forebearers of the tailored mystique: Marlena Dietrich. Greta Garbo. Leonard Cohen, who is currently seducing audiences worldwide on tour, and Cohen’s collaborator, singer Sharon Robinson, plus their ethereal back up musicians, the Webb Sisters. They wear it with ease, as only women (save Leonard) with true self confidence can. Frippery, already forgotten and left to Mumsy Coco.
Of course, Coco could probably wrap her pearls around men like sex toys. If nothing else, the broad had attitude and reams of style, but not without effort.
Master Poet Leonard Cohen, also a muse of the tailored non frip aesthetic