Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel was one of the 20th century's most influential couturiers. A milliner by training, she moved beyond hats to become a rebel and a trailblazer of the fashion world, creating a new sartorial style that liberated women from corsets and lace frills by offering them sailor shirts and wide-leg pants instead.
Chanel didn't invent women's pants - they had already entered wardrobes during World War I, when women started taking jobs traditionally carried out by men. But she undeniably popularized them as a fashion garment.
The designer liked wearing pants herself (she often borrowed them from her male lovers), and, as early as 1918, began sporting flowy "beach pyjamas" while vacationing on the French Riviera. Drawing inspiration from the straight, wide cuts of sailor's pants, giving them a loose, comfortable shape, she matched them with oversized shirts or sleeveless tops.
French sailors and fishermen had been sporting Breton tops - striped sweaters made from tightly knit wool to protect them from the elements - since the 19th century. Chanel, however, turned them into fashion.
She reworked them in jerseys, giving them patch pockets and accessorizing them with thick belts.
Soon enough, Breton stripes could be found in the pages of both British and American Vogue. And even today, chances are you have some in your closet.
The little black dress
In 1926, Vogue published a drawing of a simple, calf-length black dress fashioned from crêpe de Chine. It featured long narrow sleeves and a low waist and was adorned with a string of pearls. The magazine described it as "Chanel's Ford". Its unique combination of features: affordable, accessible, chic, simple, timeless and feminine. It still is! Today every woman has a little black dress hanging in her closet.