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Looking Back on Coco: MUMSY CHIC!

May 19, 2009


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.

LeonardCohenMaster  Poet Leonard Cohen, also a muse of the tailored non frip aesthetic

4 Comments leave one →
  1. rebsy permalink
    May 19, 2009 9:07 pm

    I just watched the Lifetime Coco Chanel biopic a few months ago! And I cried.
    But I’ll take more Coco biopics. Maybe they can do a retrospective at The Met of what Coco herself wore- the mannequins will be Coco at different ages like the evolution exhibition at The Natural History Museum (AMNH.)
    Also saw Leonard Cohen at Radio City Music Hall this weekend and was wishing I was one of those three women!

    • itsthattimeagain permalink*
      May 19, 2009 10:09 pm

      Ditto on seeing Leonard this weekend. He is MAGIC as are the girls behind him. I had the honor of meeting Charley and Hattie Webb who are backing him up on tour. They each play several instruments and sing like angels, in addition to the cool tailored chic.(Plus they can cartwheel!) I also support a Coco exhibit with the proviso that the guests actually DRESS THEMSELVES in various eras of her look and they can only borrow ONE ITEM… the rest must come from in house Chanel stock or something inspired by the vintage look turned modern. Push the marketing aside for some real creativity, just like they used to do.

    • itsthattimeagain permalink*
      May 20, 2009 5:24 am

      Forgot to ask the most important point. Why did Coco make you cry?

      • rebsy permalink
        May 20, 2009 10:55 pm

        When Boy Capel dies in a car accident. I looked it up later and Lifetime definitely took some liberties with the time line to make it the most heart wrenching scenario! Also, I might have been off my meds that week.

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