Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel (1883-1971) distinguished her design aesthetic through a strict insistence on comfortable, lightweight garments and a pared-down silhouette. Chanel's interest in simplicity is seen in her earliest millinery designs from the 1910s, which relied on a single, dramatic embellishment for decoration rather than the "assemblage of materials" then in vogue.1 This interest in "less is more" also demonstrated itself in her earliest garment designs, ready-made suits and dresses often made from inexpensive wool jersey. These garments, almost the exact opposite of popular feminine fashions, launched Chanel's career. Throughout her career, Chanel adhered to the basic principle of crafting soft, lightweight fabrics into functional (yet luxurious) garments.
Though Chanel produced a variety of garment types throughout her career, one that reappeared over and over was the suit. Borrowing from menswear, Chanel created a feminine suit which offered ease of movement and capitalized on the implication of power inherent in the masculine suit. The basic, stripped down silhouette remained consistent, but the textiles changed with the times. It became a classic and functions today as shorthand for the designer herself.