Women We Love: Coco Chanel

Fashion vs. Style – And Why It Matters

by Rehana Wolfe, contributing editor

Which is more important: fashion or style? If you asked this question of Coco Chanel, she would have definitely responded: “style.” Coco Chanel, the designer we have loved for decades, was instrumental in defining modern women’s style.

Image courtesy of CHANEL.

Chanel shifted women to simple elegance and away from impractical, long, flowing, Victorian-type dresses with tight corsets. She was the first designer to put women in chic, stylish trousers and the first woman to design clothing for women. An entrepreneur and savvy businesswoman, Chanel became an industry leader in what was once a male-dominated fashion world.

Why should women have style? How does style differ from fashion? Chanel explained that fashions come and go like the seasons. But a sense of style is forever; it defines you. A woman’s sense of style gives her confidence, presence and makes her iconic in her own way.

Take Anna Wintour, Vogue’s global editor-in-chief since 1988. Her trademark style is a pageboy bob haircut and dark sunglasses. Her dresses and skirts always fall below her knees. That’s what we mean when we talk about style. What haircut, clothing and accessories best define you? It should make you feel “you” – elevated and elegant with a sense of purpose and recognizable style. 

No matter the fashion trend, you can incorporate it into your style without losing your trademark look. Even the little black dress could be suited to your style. Chanel invented the little black dress that we all wear to cocktail parties. The iconic black dress was designed following her invention of Chanel No 5.  

Chanel gave many styling lessons to women. One that I love: “Dress shabbily and they remember the dress. Dress impeccably and they remember the woman.”

As women move through life’s decades, we must be vigilant about how our style evolves. Simplicity is more eye catching, believe it or not. Chanel was so passionate about simple elegance that she thought blue jeans had no place in elegant styling. I agree. Do you ever feel really elegantly dressed in a pair of jeans? Even jeans dressed up with shirts, luxury brand belts and shoes won’t take the place of an elegant suit or dress. Make a statement, whether it’s an office day or a weekend outing.

So what’s your style? What defines you? If you have never pondered this, take a moment to discover your style – your iconic you. And don’t think that style is just for young women. As women get older, we need more elegance, more style.

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