Design: Day Ensemble
Designer: Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel (1883-1971)
Date: ca. 1927
Country of Origin: France
Materials: Silk, wool, metal
Background: Although Chanel is a household name today, the fashion house widely accepted as a purveyor of good taste and impeccable style, this was not always the case. When Coco Chanel made her way onto the fashion scene, her pointedly sparse designs—in key with the avant garde Modernist sensibilities of the time—might have come as a shock when paired against the more traditional, frilly garb of her time’s elite. Paul Poiret, a contemporary designer noted for his lavish, over-the-top designs, famously referred to Chanel’s work as “poverty de luxe,” a jab at the un-ornamented simplicity of her designs. Although Chanel’s clothes were light on ornamentation, they spoke to a different type of luxury. Simple and open-formed, free of corsets and weighty fabric, her designs were more concerned with comfort and leisure than visual ostentation. Outfits like this 1927 Day Ensemble are emblematic of the archetypical “Little Black Dress,” a modern-day fashion staple that owes its immense popularity to none other than Coco Chanel.
Illustration by Libby VanderPloeg.