The Palais Galliera in Paris houses a retrospective on Gabrielle Chanel until July 18

While the "Gabrielle Chanel, Fashion Manifesto" Exhibition actually opened its doors to public in October 2020, the pandemic had forced it to close on several occasions, and the lack of tourism means very few have had the opportunity to view this beautifully curated retrospective of Coco Chanel's work. Here, we give you a private, virtual tour inside to hopefully temporarily satiate your wanderlust. 

The exhibition begins with Gabrielle Chanel's earliest days. A sartorial rebel, Chanel, who started as a milliner, was a pioneer in many ways during the Twenties, especially for putting women's comfort first. She created simple, jersey dresses with pockets which stood as stark contrasts to the stiff, corseted looks of her day, which then evolved into various floral frocks, simple in shape but intricate in its details, like hand-cut floral appliques that lined their hems. 

Having spent some time with the Duke of Windsor, Chanel also adopted the use of tweed from Scottish menswear and created jackets and dresses alike for women, another daring departure from a time where the curvy, feminine shape was exalted by the likes of Christian Dior. 

Then came the Little Black Dress. Once reserved only for housekeepers and mourning garb, Chanel decided to make it appropriate colour for eveningwear, birthing the now iconic look. Another colour she brought to the fore was beige. American press at the time crowned her the Queen of Beige for her use of the subtle hue in luxurious satin and silk fabrics to make it cocktail-ready. 

Besides the neutral hues, Chanel was also known for her tiered skirts, conservative necklines and plunging back silhouettes, proving to audiences of her time that women can look alluring while also having full range of motion in their frocks. Many of her sparkling evening pieces are shockingly modern; one can still see them worn by women of any age today. 

The basement level featured a seemingly never-ending hallway of Chanel's iconic tweed looks, many of which were inspired by military uniforms. Red was a colour she loved to line her jackets with to add a punchy detail to otherwise monochromatic themes. 

Chanel was also one of the first to elevate the handbag with the launch of the 2.55 flap bag, where she used fabrics once only reserved for clothing like velvet and tweed or reserved for gloves like lambskin to wrap the bag and adorn with jewellery-like chains. 

Last but not least, the exhibition ends with a vast display of costume jewellery so beloved by Chanel. An avid collector, she owned original Byzantine crosses and other antique treasures that informed her costume jewellery designs throughout her career. 

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