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Coco Chanel

by Linda Simon

Part of the Critical Lives Series

Coco Chanel Synopsis

To call Coco Chanel a fashion designer hardly captures her social and cultural significance. An iconoclastic entrepreneur, she rebelled against and manipulated gender expectations of her time. With her famous little black dress, her loose jersey sweaters belted jauntily at the waist, her svelte unadorned gowns, Chanel changed women's silhouettes, and she became known as a champion of women's freedom. Chanel, legend has it, changed not only the shape of clothing, but the narrative of women's lives. From 1913, when she first opened a hat shop in the resort town of Deauville, until her death in 1971, Chanel sold more than clothing, accessories and the phenomenally successful perfume, Chanel No. 5: she sold a myth that became as attractive for many women as her coveted outfits. Linda Simon teases apart that myth that Chanel and her public collaborated to create, to explore its contradictions: a self-proclaimed recluse who emerged as one of the most spectacular personalities of her time; a brilliant businesswoman who signed away ninety percent of her company; a genius who claimed she was nothing more than an artisan. She examines the world Chanel both reflected and shaped, setting her life and work in a broad context of women's history in France and America, from before the First World War up through the profound social changes of the late 1960s. Drawing upon rich archival sources, Simon provides a lively, clear-eyed biography of a woman whose influence and legend transcend the world of fashion.

Coco Chanel Press Reviews

'For those who want an up-to-date bio that's swift and savvy, there is Linda Simon's Chanel. It's a slim volume, but even here we get details we don't get elsewhere, including a full chapter on the musical Coco, which opened on Broadway in 1969 starring Katharine Hepburn (tellingly, Chanel's first choice for the role was the much younger Hepburn: Audrey).' - Wall Street Journal

Book Information

ISBN: 9781861898593
Publication date: 1st August 2011
Author: Linda Simon
Publisher: Reaktion Books
Format: Paperback / softback
Pagination: 224 pages
Categories: Fashion & textiles: design, Individual designers,

About Linda Simon

Linda Simon is Professor of English at Skidmore College, New York. She is the author of The Biography of Alice B. Toklas (Bison, 1991), Genuine Reality: A Life of William James (Harcourt, 1998) and Dark Light: Electricity and Anxiety from the Telegraph to the X-Ray (Meriner, 2005).

More About Linda Simon

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