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Chanel: A Woman of her Own by Axel Madsen
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Chanel: A Woman of her Own (1991)

by Axel Madsen

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The opening sentence of the book is “She made up things.” Some facts about Coco Chanel’s life may vary, depending on which biography you read, or what interview you saw, but Alex Madsen listed close to 100 references for the contents of this book, and does mention, in some cases, several different variations of incidents, conversations, and misc. details. One thing is certain. Coco Chanel was a fascinating woman, and one of the most influential women to ever work in the fashion industry.

Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel was born in a “poorhouse hospice”. Her mother died when Coco was 12 years old, and her father abandoned the family, leaving Coco and her siblings to be raised by nuns and extended family. Chanel tells the incredible story of Coco’s meager childhood, her self-discovery of an innate sense of what looks good on women, and her successful career capitalizing on that information: hats, sportswear, the first use of jersey in everyday clothes, the first bathing suit, furs, animal prints, pearls, the “suit”, a crisp white shirt, the little black dress, a revolutionary still popular perfume, and much more. She believed in sophisticated simplicity. In the 1920’s Coco Chanel said, “Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only; fashion is something in the air….it’s in the wind…. you feel it coming, you smell it. Fashion is in the sky, in the street; fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.”

She mixed with royalty (Churchill and members of the Romanov family), famed artists (Picasso) and musicians (an affair with Igor Stravinsky), and the Hollywood elite. Some of her many acquaintances were models for Proust’s characters in his series In Search of Lost Time.

At the peak of her career, when very few women even had careers, she employed 3000 seamstresses, and was worth over $1,000,000,000 (yes 1 billion) when she died.

This book tells it all. Not just Chanel’s success in the fashion industry, but also her personal triumphs and failures and details about her family, friends, lovers, and rivals. Alex Madsen did a great job of gleaning all the material and composing the facts into a fascinating profile and thorough biography of Gabrielle Chanel. ( )
1 vote LadyLo | Aug 3, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805016392, Paperback)

Alex Madsen brings to life Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, the queen of fashion who revolutionized women's styles forever.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:20 -0400)

A fascinating look at the real Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, the designer who forever revolutionized the way women look. She was a free spirit, brilliant business woman, and beauty who never found reciprocated love. Madsen, with authority, delves into this fashion doyenne's business and private lives to reveal one woman's extraordinary progress: from orphan to millinery shopkeeper, from lodestar of feminine style to a very rich woman with a closet full of dark secrets.

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