Before Gabrielle Chanel came along, the women of high society—and anyone out on the town for an upscale evening—dressed as though encased in an over-frosted wedding cake. The full, satiny skirts, crinolines, and bows were de rigeuer in the 1950s. But at 71, Chanel was as dynamic as a woman half her age: tThese overblown gowns would not do. Drawing inspiration from men’s suiting, she created the Chanel jacket, the more famous half of her archetypal suit. Here was an outfit as sleek and minimalist as it was classy.
Now you can see the suit (and compare it to its puffy precursors) in The Jacket, a short film that is part of a series about the life and career of Gabrielle Chanel. The Jacket explains exactly why Chanel’s design was so revolutionary, right down to the buttons. (The film is accompanied by spirited sketches by Karl Lagerfeld.) And even if you can’t afford to own a Chanel yourself, chances are, the style has woven its way into your wardrobe; if you’re wearing a blazer and jeans, you have Gabrielle to thank.