In the world of fashion, Coco Chanel is a name that needs no introduction. The French fashion designer revolutionized the industry leaving an indelible mark on the way women dress and now the latest exhibition “Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto” at the V&A Museum in London confirms this even more.
But it wasn’t just her impeccable sense of style that made her a trailblazer, it was also her daring attitude that turned her into such an ageless icon worth celebrating.
She devoted her long life to creating, perfecting and promoting a new kind of elegance based on freedom of movement, a natural and casual pose, a subtle elegance that shuns all extravagances, a timeless style for a new kind of woman. That was her fashion manifesto, a legacy that has never gone out of style.
In this article, we explore the lessons we can learn from this fashion legend and how to apply them to our own lives.
Coco Chanel’s life lessons
Despite her association with glamour, there was a time when Gabrielle Chanel, also known as Coco, was far from it. She went from being a poor, orphaned child in France to leading one of the world’s most successful fashion empires, leaving a lasting impact on history with her personality and aura.
“She was really quite a radical person,” says Valerie Steele, director of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City and author of Women of Fashion. “She grew up very poor—a kept woman who didn’t want to just be somebody’s mistress. She identified with wealthy men. She wanted to have the independence that they had.”
Above all, she was such a brave soul: she never doubted herself and always listened to her heart. When she decided to embark on her new journey, she was all in. She didn’t care what anyone else thought and stayed true to herself. She was unapologetic and always stayed faithful to her own beliefs.
Here’s what women can learn from such an amazing icon.
- Live Life on Your Terms | “My life didn’t please me, so I created my life.”
Chanel’s determination and perseverance are a perfect example of her unwavering commitment to living life on her own terms. She remained focused on her own vision and built her entire life around it.
Chanel once boldly stated, “I couldn’t care less about what you think of me. Your opinion doesn’t even cross my mind.” Now, let’s take a lesson from her inspiring story. What is it that your heart truly longs to rebel against? What creative ideas are burning inside you, waiting to be brought to life? Just like Coco, why not give yourself the freedom to carve your own path and design the life you desire?
- Be a Heroine | “If you were born without wings, do nothing to prevent them from growing.”
Despite her humble beginnings as a seamstress and cabaret performer, she refused to be defined by her past. Instead, she chose to be a heroine. Take a lesson from her and don’t let your past define you. You have the power to write your own story and reinvent yourself if you choose to.
- Keep it Simple | “Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.”
We often make the mistake of adding more to our lives to create happiness, but Chanel teaches us that subtracting is more important (not only in terms of style). What if you got rid of everything that didn’t align with who you desired to be? That’s simplicity!
- Always Look Your Best | “I don’t do fashion, I AM fashion.”
Chanel was a hard-working woman who built an empire, but she always made sure to present herself elegantly. She knew that if you don’t take control of your life, it will control you.
She once said, “Why would a woman leave the house without looking her best? It’s just polite. You never know when you might have a date with destiny, so it’s best to always look your prettiest.” So, take the time to invest in yourself and show the world the woman you want to be.
- Embrace Aging as a Natural Process | “You can be gorgeous at 30, charming at 40, and irresistible for the rest of your life.”
Coco Chanel had a unique perspective on ageing, too. She believed in embracing the natural process of getting older and finding confidence in one’s own beauty. She believed that age should not be something to fear or hide, but rather something to celebrate.
During the Second World War, the designer found herself forced to withdraw from the fashion scene briefly, only to return in 1954. A the age of 71, she was regarded by critics and peers as on the verge of imminent decline. Yet in what is now an unsurprising turn of events, Chanel debuted her iconic knit suit, turning instantly into another wardrobe staple.
“At 79, she still had an impeccable posture and stood erect as a ballerina“, celebrity photographer Douglas Kirkland remembers. “She couldn’t have weighed more than 90 pounds and moved around with great energy. Everyone always showed her total respect. She made opinionated statements, and I don’t ever remember disagreeing with her“.’
Once again, she didn’t allow age to stop her from being so fabulous. She knew that only by accepting the changes that come with age, we can cultivate a sense of confidence and self-assurance that radiates from within.
Remember, the world is your oyster (or your runaway) and your future is in your own hands. “You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old“, she said. So, stay determined and never let anyone or anything dampen your spirits. You’ve got this!