Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Chanel wins

I'm not surprised that Chanel won The Thoughtful Dresser poll (it can't have helped poor old Christian that this very site has a picture of her at the top.) Seeing Dior's dresses up close at the Golden Age of Couture show at the V&A (hurry on down there if you are in or can get to London), you understand what a consummate couturier he was. If I absolutely had to choose one dress from either of them, I think it would be a Dior. In a Dior dress you become someone else, you are the essence of the feminine. He seems to understand a woman's soul. In a Dior dress you dream, no - you become what you dream of. You are wearing the dress of a poet.

But Chanel understands a woman's life, the one she lives every day. She was one of the great pioneers of Modernism, of clothes to be worn in the machine age. She changed everything she touched, even the way we smell.

I wrote a piece about Chanel in the Telegraph a few weeks ago, exploring her life and work:

The very first LBD, the Ford of dresses, she called it, referring to the Model T car built on a production line for the masses, was designed to be democratic; any woman could wear one. The original design shows a long-sleeved, slim-hipped dress, gathered low at the waist and reaching to just below the knee. Its only adornments are two pleated Vs dropping from the shoulders and rising from the hem, meeting in the middle to further create the illusion of slimness. You could step out in it today and no one would notice that you were wearing something designed more than 80 years ago. Chanel would develop this concept for the rest of her life, altering the fabrics, adding sequins or chiffon trains, but the underlying structure remained. A black dress, with dropped waist and schoolgirl white collars and cuffs, worn over leather footless tights from 2003 reveals how radical her thought was. 'A fashion that goes out of fashion overnight is a distraction, not a fashion,' she said.


Ms Baroque said...

I voted for Dior.

I can't wear the kind of clothes Chanel put us all in; even her perfumes smell all wrong on me. Dior, on the other hand... gave us something back.

Linda Grant said...

It's a really tough call. Fact is, the LBD is the great fashion revolution, but if you have hips, Chanel's silhouette is an other matter.

Dior was the greater couturier, by a long chalk, but Chanel changed the way we dress.