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TitleCoco Chanel: An Intimate Life
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Total Pages502
Table of Contents
                            Title Page
Copyright Page
Chapter 1 - Forebears
Chapter 2 - The Bad One
Chapter 3 - The Lost Years
Chapter 4 - Things That I Should Be and Which I Am Not
Chapter 5 - A Rich Man’s Game
Chapter 6 - Captive Mistress
Chapter 7 - Arthur Capel
Chapter 8 - Refashioning Paris
Chapter 9 - The Rite of Spring
Chapter 10 - The End of an Epoque
Chapter 11 - Master of Her Art
Chapter 12 - The War Bans the Bizarre
Chapter 13 - Remember That You’re a Woman
Chapter 14 - Alone
Chapter 15 - Beginning Again
Chapter 16 - The Strangest and Most Brilliant Years
Chapter 17 - Dmitri Pavlovich
Chapter 18 - The Lucky N° 5
Chapter 19 - Entirely in White and Covered in Pearls
Chapter 20 - Reverdy
Chapter 21 - At the Center
Chapter 22 - Bend’Or
Chapter 23 - The Crash
Chapter 24 - Schiap Had Lots of It but It Was Bad
Chapter 25 - War
Chapter 26 - Survival
Chapter 27 - Von Dincklage
Chapter 28 - Exile
Chapter 29 - Return: 1954
Chapter 30 - I Prefer Disaster to Nothingness
Chapter 31 - I Only Hear My Heart on the Stairs
Document Text Contents
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Coco Chanel
Lisa Chaney
Viking Adult (2011)

The controversial story of Chanel, the twentieth century's foremost
fashion icon.

Revolutionizing women's dress, Gabrielle "Coco'' Chanel was the
twentieth century's most influential designer. Her extraordinary and
unconventional journey-from abject poverty to a new kind of
glamour-helped forge the idea of modern woman.

Unearthing an astonishing life, this remarkable biography shows how,
more than any previous designer, Chanel became synonymous with a
rebellious and progressive style. Her numerous liaisons, whose
poignant and tragic details have eluded all previous biographers, were
the very stuff of legend. Witty and mesmerizing, she became muse,
patron, or mistress to the century's most celebrated artists, including
Picasso, Dalí, and Stravinsky.

Drawing on newly discovered love letters and other records, Chaney's
controversial book reveals the truth about Chanel's drug habit and
lesbian affairs. And the question about Chanel's German lover during
World War II (was he a spy for the Nazis?) is definitively answered.

While uniquely highlighting the designer's far-reaching influence on
the modern arts, Chaney's fascinating biography paints a deeper and
darker picture of Coco Chanel than any so far. Movingly, it explores

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d’être of artistic modernism. For the postwar Dadaists and surrealists, to shock
was virtually orthodoxy.
Schiaparelli not only surrounded herself with artists, just as Gabrielle had, she

also persuaded them to work with her on her creations. (Gabrielle believed that
art came before artisanship and, when working with artists, put herself very
much in second place.) Schiaparelli was forever pushing her artists to
experiment, the more suggestively and outrageously, the better. Bettina Ballard
quoted the great couturier Cristóbal Balenciaga commenting wryly that
Schiaparelli “was the only real artist in the couture,” which didn’t mean that he
thought that art and dressmaking were good companions.2 These, of course, were
Gabrielle’s sentiments exactly. Balenciaga was one of the only colleagues for
whom she had real respect.
Gabrielle was on the defensive, but her understanding of fashion was

profound. And she now declared that novelty was not necessarily modern. She
went further, saying that superficial seasonal changes were not what she offered.
What she offered was “style,” and that wasn’t the same as fashion. When
Gabrielle objected to Schiaparelli’s work, she was accused of going against that
very avant-garde couture she had led since before the First World War. She
retorted that her own modernity derived from placing herself in the classic
tradition and understanding something more fundamental about her times. At her
best, Gabrielle had created a style that was almost “beyond fashion.” In creating
clothes for a century whose art had lost much of its elitist character, her
underlying theme had been inspired by a powerful aesthetic: superrefinement
without elitism. Angered at feeling misunderstood, she lashed out with the
brilliant comment that Schiaparelli’s “futurism” was an optical illusion that had
“nothing to say of the future.” Looking carefully at what Gabrielle meant, it is
correct that surrealism is an “optical illusion,” and this was not what Gabrielle
believed dressing, or style, was about.
During the thirties, women’s bodies had gradually reemerged, and the angular

tyranny of la garçonne—the flat-chested, Eton-cropped figure of the twenties—
was banished. Clothes remained slim line, but had rediscovered the curves of
women’s bodies and now followed the line of the bust, the waist and the hips.
Smooth, sultry fabrics such as satin were much in vogue, and cutting cloth on the
bias, so as to accentuate the curves of the body, became popular. The bodice was
often slightly bloused and waists were emphasized with tight belts, while below
the fitted hips, skirts were very feminine and billowed out and flowed. Bias-cut
clothes were the invention of Madeleine Vionnet, a couturier admired by
Gabrielle for her simplified “architectural” styles. She disliked anything
distorting the curves of a woman’s body, and her clothes were sought after for

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accentuating the natural female form. Influenced by Greek sculpture, the
apparent simplicity of Vionnet’s styles belied their lengthy process of creation:
cutting and draping fabric designs onto miniature dolls before recreating them on
life-sized models.
Gabrielle began using big bows at the neck, and shoulder pads (Schiaparelli is

supposed to have introduced them) to exaggerate the smallness of the waist. The
hemline had dropped significantly to approximately six inches above the ground,
while full-length evening dresses were once again the mode. As an escape from
the challenging financial climate of the period, evening wear became more
luxurious and sometimes exaggeratedly feminine. Pale satins were the rage
throughout the thirties, and Gabrielle succumbed, too, making her own versions
of the fashionable white, cream and peachy pinks.
At this time, her suits were made of gently fitting tweeds with contrasting

open-necked white shirts, showing cuffs or crisp frills around the neck.
Gabrielle’s signature look for the time became these same white collars and cuffs
as the contrast on a black dress. Black and white had become the underlying
theme of many of her day clothes, with hints of green, red, brown, purple and
mustard. From the midthirties, she used the new patterned elasticized fabric
Lastex, afterward called latex, an up-to-date version of her favorite, jersey.
Schiaparelli was now making jackets with tightly pulled-in waists and stiffly

jutting peplums set over narrow skirts of pin-thin pleats. Gabrielle had come to
be regarded by some as the designer for unassertive, self-conscious women
whose elegant reserve made them fear, above all else, the epithet “bad taste.”
Schiaparelli’s increasingly avant-garde designs were for the woman who saw
herself as daring, and who was acquiring a new kind of notice with the
designer’s intentional “bad taste.” This group of Schiaparelli devotees were self-
assured exhibitionists who loved the attention caused by their red eyelashes,
black gloves with red fingernails, pancake hats and blue satin leggings, revealed
under the lifted hem of a black evening dress.
The magazines and newspapers luxuriated in the rivalry of these two very

different designers, and reported that the new mode “is neither
streamlined nor sentimental, it is casual, bold and chunky.” In 1934, put
Schiaparelli on its cover and made a definitive statement, saying that Chanel was
no longer the leader in fashion. Instead, Schiaparelli was one of “a handful of
houses now at or near the peak of their power as arbiters of the ultramodern
haute couture . . . Madder and more original than most of her contemporaries,
Mme Schiaparelli is the one to whom the word ‘genius’ is applied most often.”
Schiaparelli’s surrealist clothes were challenging the notion of good taste, giving
exotic and outrageous flights of fancy an allure previously confined to fancy

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57. At rue Cambon, the bust of Thomas Capel on mantel, Gabrielle’s astrological
lions on the table and a Coromandel screen behind.

58. An elderly Gabrielle in her salon with her chandelier of personal symbols, c.

Page 502

59. Gabrielle’s funeral mass in the Madeleine church, January 13, 1971, her
coffin draped in flowers. Her models, in Chanel, stand at the front.

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