When Chanel’s Creative Director Virginie Viard began conceptualizing the Fall 2021 Haute Couture Collection, she seemingly looked back to fashion trends inspired by the revolutionary dress code of the 1920s. This was a time in which glamorous fashion was inspired by luxurious parties that functioned as an escape from the world events that preceded the 1920s: World War I which coincided with the end of the 1918 influenza global pandemic. The current state of the pandemic and our return to normalcy is open to question, yet the French brand seems optimistic as far as celebration goes with their return of a contemporary “Roaring Twenties” look: dropping hemlines, saying ‘goodbye’ to corsets, and one that now features pants in a woman’s wardrobe. 

The 1920s was not the only inspiration for Virginie Viard; the Chanel Designer also found inspiration through the iconic Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel herself who helped create soiree clothes during the “Roaring Twenties.” Coco Chanel herself dressed in bustles and crinoline for society balls that set fashion expectations during that era. Viard observed early paintings of Coco Chanel that caused Viard to reflect on Impressionist practices from the 19th century. Impressionist art was defined by its goal in capturing emotions or experience, rather than accurately depicting an event. This style was characterized by the use of bright or light colouring in the foreground contrasted with shadowing in the background. However, the colours were softly blended into each other in order to make this construct very subtle. In a preview of the line in Chanel’s studio, Viard spoke of two female Impressionist artists: the renowned Berthe Merisot, sister-in-law to Manet, and the Cubist painter Marie Laurencin, a key figure in the avant-garde movement whose delicately coloured works included a portrait of Coco Chanel. These inspirations are seen through the use of bold paint strokes found with Impressionists contrasted with the subtle pointillist dabs that create images of fresh flowers, mostly notably found in Lemarié’s gardenia-strewn cardigan jacket.

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Despite changes to the dress code since the 1920s, Chanel’s lively 1920s influence can be felt throughout this new collection. The collection featured many dropped hemlines that provided a child-like image, especially with the addition of bows and sashes added to the hemlines and the models’ hair. Pantsuits and trousers were seen with a masculine cut and emulated a vintage feel through its choice of buttons, tweed material, pocket and shoulder shapings. The black and white spectator pumps brought back important moments from the 1920s as this style was considered to be a vulgar display for attention; these were the shoe choices of “divorcees” who wanted to challenge the traditional idea of what it meant to be “lady-like” by advocating for autonomy and independence, as well as partaking in “male-activities” such as drinking. The shoe was nicknamed the “co-respondent shoe” as a pun to its opposing colours of black and its reference to the legal term regarding adultery. 

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As always, Chanel finished the show with a bridal design. The gown was floor-length and brought to mind vintage modesty with its puff sleeves and lack of embellishments. The beautiful gown was worn by actress Margaret Qualley, who wore a nostalgic pillbox hat with a beautiful, subtly-jeweled veil covering. This soft-pink satin gown reminds us of the pre-World War II Era as the pillbox hat resembles that of the one Coco Chanel wore herself in a 1930s portrait that hangs today in the Chanel studio. 

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With the hopeful and nearing transition to a post-pandemic world, the question becomes whether people will be able to trade in their sweats for glamorous clothes once again. We have yet to see what will happen in this “Roaring Twenties” reboot by Chanel.


HEADER IMAGE SOURCE: https://www.vogue.com/fashion-shows/fall-2021-couture/chanel



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