How to Dress Like Coco Chanel
Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel was a French fashion designer who changed the way women dressed around the world. Although she was born to poor, unwed parents and worked as a seamstress in her youth, her name soon became synonymous with style, luxury and class. You may be able to channel her fashion wisdom in your own closet without looking further than a string of pearls and a little black dress.
Dressing the Part
Start with the little black dress. This may be Coco Chanel’s most enduring gift to women’s fashion. Before she popularized the black dress in the 1920s, it was mostly used for mourning periods.
Wear wide-leg pants. Choose pants that fit the current fashion trends, but be willing to try high-waisted and mid-rise versions in white. She wore these pants with espadrilles in the summer.
Buy a tweed suit. This should include a jacket without a collar and a pencil skirt. The jacket often featured a ribbon trim.
- Thanks to Chanel and Jackie Kennedy Onassis, these tweed suits are still sold today. The most elaborate versions include a matching hat.
Wear jersey fabric. Knits were not considered fashionable for the upper class until Chanel took them on. Take advantage of their prevalence in fashion today by combining knits with other textured fabrics, like tweed and denim.
Accessorizing in Style
Find a pair of real pearls. Coco Chanel wore single and multiple strands of pearls as an everyday accessory.
Bring back the hat. Often in black and white or pastels, Coco Chanel’s pillbox hats were structural and often matching the rest of a woman’s outfit perfectly.
Don’t be afraid to sport costume jewelry. Chanel’s jewelry always made a statement. Not every piece of jewelry needs to be expensive; however, statement pieces were also a big part of her design.
Wear several types of jewelry at once. She was often seen with studs, necklaces and rings.
Invest in shoes. A great pair of heels is the icing on the cake. Shine the shoes and keep them well heeled. Patent leather is a great choice for work or evening wear.
- Coco Chanel is quoted saying “A woman with good shoes is never ugly.”
Create your own style. Chanel believed in embracing new fashion and trying unusual combinations. She believed fashion was made to eventually become unfashionable, so take chances.
Try combinations of black and white. This was her favorite color combination, as shown by her little black dress. Color blocking hats, scarves, sweaters, shirts, pants, shoes and coats creates definition and classic style.
- Once you have color blocking perfected with black and white, start adding brighter colors.
Think architecturally. Coco Chanel said, “Fashion is architecture. It is a matter of proportions.” She liked jackets, purses, skirts and hems with straight lines.
- A cropped coat or a blazer can instantly add a designer look to an outfit.
Use a signature scent. It doesn’t have to be a Chanel fragrance, but it should be something that defines you as much as your clothing. Consider switching fragrances between summer and winter.
Things You'll Need
- Little black dress
- Wide leg trousers
- Jersey knits
- Tweed suit
- High heels
- Costume jewelry
- Pillbox hat
- Signature fragrances