Coco Chanel (1883-1971)

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The legendary fashion designer Coco Chanel is credited with revolutionizing women’s fashion. Recognizing that women needed more functional apparel for modern life, she used her sleek, elegant designs to encourage women to abandon the stuffy, complicated clothes of the 19th century. This contributed towards a gradual change in the way society viewed women over the 20th century.

From her origins in a strict Catholic orphanage, Coco built a fashion and perfume empire during the early 20th century, employing over 4,000 women.

Winston Churchill and Coco Chanel with a dog photographed in the 1920s.
Coco Chanel and Winston Churchill in circa. 1920s. Wikimedia Commons

Never married, she wore her independence as a badge of honor. She enjoyed relationships with many key figures in the fashion industry, before she died alone in 1971, after a hard day’s work. Her life story has been told in countless books and films, including the Broadway musical Coco, starring Katharine Hepburn.

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