Few items in fashion history have so smoothly traversed the decades as the timeless, restrained, eternally stylish Chanel suit. Perhaps the label’s most famous output, the signature Chanel suit has survived the ebbs and flows of style cycles largely, even stubbornly, unchanged — keeping skirt lengths modestly in their place despite the mini skirt’s cultural explosion, keeping the integrity of the tidy, structured straight-line jackets intact.
Throughout their history, Chanel suits have become associated with the ultimate in couture glamour. Though they are undeniably grown-up (even, dare we say it, old fashioned) they are just as sought-after by the twenty-something fashionista as they are by her eighty-something grandmother. When we think of Chanel suits, we think of Jeanne Moreau, Jackie Kennedy (the tragically iconic pink suit Jackie wore the day Kennedy was killed was a copy of a Chanel design), and of course Co Co herself, marching through Paris in her black-trimmed collarless suits and pearls.
The first Chanel suits can be traced back to around 1916, shortly after Chanel opened her first couture clothing boutique in Deauville, but they came into their own in the 1920’s, as part of the western fashion world’s move towards less restrained, more comfortable looks. The short, body-hugging skirts and masculine jackets were somewhat shocking for the time period, and boldly broke from the fashion conventions of the previous decade, in which women were commonly confined to corsets and ankle-length dresses. As Chanel herself proclaimed, “Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.” It couldn’t have rung more true for women of the 1920’s, or those finding their fashion footing in the decades to follow.
These days we’re often inclined to associate Chanel suits with the 1950’s and 1960’s when two-piece women’s suits were more generally in style, but the Chanel suit has never really dissipated from the fashion landscape. Today the brand is helmed by Karl Lagerfeld, who has served as creative director since 1983. Though Lagerfeld has experimented with fabrics and styles (even raising the skirt hem a bit), the clean lines and essential simplicity of Chanel suits have remained true to their creator. As timeless examples of couture women’s clothing, Chanel suits have remained a must-have for any serious fashion seeker, and we here at N&N can see why.