Everything to love

If you have ever wondered why Gabrielle Chanel has long been regarded as the epitome of style then look no further than the current exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria – Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto curated by the Palais Galliera, Paris featuring more than 100 fashion works together with jewellery, accessories, cosmetics and perfumes. Make no mistake – here lies a feast for your eyes and dreams.

‘Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance” Coco Chanel Image: Google

In the 1920s and 1930s Chanel’s style came to the fore, exhibiting refined uncluttered elegance. Comfort, simplicity and ease of movement became the hallmarks of her creations that spoke to a modern lifestyle.

Gabrielle Chanel (designer) Ensemble with dress & jacket c1926-27 Silk canvas
Patrimoine de CHANEL, Paris Photo © Julien T Hamon

Chanel swept away the style of the Belle Epoque with streamlined modernity that embodied feminine chic as relevant today as in the 1920s.

The creation of suits saw the introduction of textured wool and tweed. Vogue Paris announced: ‘Every suit holds the secrets of Chanel Luxury. And this luxury is in the details’.

Gabrielle Chanel (designer) Suit 1966 NGV Melbourne
Presented the The Art Foundation of Victoria by Mrs Angela Wood, Member 2000 CHANEL, Paris (couture house)

But it’s the evening wear in this exhibition that will stop you in your tracks. The gowns could be worn today! Show me one that you wouldn’t adore and admire. They all possess the ‘stunning factor’.

Elegance and sophistication is front and centre. The sheer timelessness of the designs is staggering.

This Chanel Evening dress, spring-summer 1933 is totally striking. Flattering in its neck-line and echoing the centre-front bow with the back closure lacing, the gown floats to the floor in graceful style. Totally dream worthy.

Accessories joined the collection with the launch of the quilted 2.55 bag in February 1955. Styled with a chain link strap, to be carried by hand or over the shoulder. The two-tone slingback moderate-heel shoe followed in 1957 designed to lengthen the leg with the introduction of beige leather, and a black toe to give the appearance of a small foot.

In 1921 Chanel expanded her vision of the modern woman by creating her signature fragrance CHANEL No 5 (her lucky number). The presentation was restrained and sedate, reflecting her simplistic and minimalist style. As well, she developed a make-up line and some of the items were scented with CHANEL No 5 perfume.

The jewellery and belts in the exhibition are not to be missed. Chanel took costume jewellery to a new level. Combining real and faux gemstones, pearls and metals in a wide variety of forms she embraced religious as well as floral and exotic motives.

Gabrielle Chanel (designer) Belts Image: GRACIE

One of Chanel’s greatest trademarks has been the iconic Little Black Dress. To learn more about this legacy, watch the NGV video by clicking here.

Gabrielle Chanel (designer) Evening dresses 1932-34
Patrimoine de CHANEL, Paris

From her glittering costume jewellery designs, through to the instantly recognisable Chanel suit and the creation of the Little Black Dress, the Chanel look has survived all the dictates of fashion built on poise, simplicity and good taste.

The NGV’s ‘Gabriel Chanel: Fashion Manifesto’ exhibition is running from December 4 to April 26. You can purchase tickets here.