History of Fashion: Coco Chanel

Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, French fashion designer who is best known for her little black dresses and trademark suits, was born in France. She grew up in orphanages where she was taught to sew by the nuns, a skill that served her well.

Coco Chanel got her nickname from her brief singing career. She opened her first shop in Paris in 1910, where she started selling hats, later adding two other shops through which she sold clothes. By the 1920s, the style icon launched her signature perfume Chanel No. 5. In 1925, she introduced her legendary Chanel suit that consisted of a collarless jacket and a well-fitted skirt.

Chanel’s influence went beyond fashion, she was well known in the Paris literary and artistic worlds. During World War II, her business suffered a huge blow and she fired her workers and closed her shops. She then made a triumphant return at the age of 70, winning over critics with her easy-fitting, feminine designs.

Coco Chanel died on January, 1971 at her apartment in the Hotel Ritz, having never been married, despite several controversial romances.