Lessons from Coco

Posted on July 25, 2011

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As published on LOVESTYLE.com

A few weeks ago, LOVESTYLE divas, I competed in a 100km running race in Singapore called the Sundowner. Starting at 6pm in the heat and humidity of a city that sits slap bang on the equator, the aim is to run 50km out, 50km back and to then cross the finish line in time for sunset.

This I did … it was tough but a hugely rewarding experience, physically, mentally, spiritually … and as it turns out, style-wise! 

How so you may ask?

Well, when tiredness set in and I needed to switch off from the pain in my limbs and the dehydration hitting my limp body, I started listening to ‘The Gospel According to Coco Chanel: Life Lessons from the World’s Most Elegant Woman’ on audio.  It’s a beautiful book with lessons to learn that will endure long beyond the painful memories of the race … lessons in fact, that every girl should know:

  • Don’t let your past stop you from being who you want to be  

Chanel came from a very poor family and her mother died when she was young yet her complicated family life and difficult childhood didn’t stop her from pursuing and achieving her goals

  • Defy convention

Chanel wore jodhpurs so she could horse ride astride when convention demanded that women were not to wear trousers and must only ride side-saddle. She wore simple headbands of her own design in place of elaborate headpieces. She knew what she liked and didn’t let anyone tell her what she should or shouldn’t wear

  • Try something new

Chanel started making dresses out of jersey, a machine-made knit, which up until that point had only been used for underwear (usually men’s). Chanel wanted women to be comfortable, to be able to move, to be able to be independent. Clearly she was onto something as imagine our wardrobes today without jersey fabrics?

  • Consider comfort

I know not all my sartorial choices are based on comfort (my Choos – prime example) but when buying / wearing clothes, I do always consider how comfortable they will be. Do they allow for freedom of movement? Will they be practical? One of the motivations behind Chanel’s decision to use jersey was to make women more comfortable. She wanted to liberate women from the constraints of corsets, long skirts and other garments that meant women couldn’t even get dressed unaided.

  • Never underestimate the value of simple styling

Chanel used simple, elegant accessories to turn simple outfits into something a bit more special. A brooch, a strand of pearls or a chiffon scarf can transform an outfit from basic to chic. Accessories should enhance an outfit, not compete with it. You can be simple yet effortlessly chic.

  • Work hard and don’t give up

Chanel didn’t become a highly respected fashion designer and icon by giving up. She worked tirelessly, first as a milliner before crossing over into women’s wear. Despite numerous challenges, heartbreaks, setbacks and two World Wars, Chanel never gave up. Her success as a designer was a testament as much to her fierce determination and unwillingness to give up as it is to her impeccable taste.

Finally, some of Coco’s rules to live by each and every day!

  • A girl should be two things; classy & fabulous
  • Pearls will set you free
  • Identify with the most glamorous member of your family
  • The most courageous act is still to think for yourself; aloud
  • Throw yourself into your work
  • Find a way to be generous
  • Count your blessings

For the most part, I found Coco’s ceaseless determination and enduring belief in herself to be nothing short of inspirational. From style and passion, money and success, femininity and living your life your way … every true LOVESTYLE diva should try to inject a little Coco into their life!

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