Chanel #5 isn’t as Bourgeois as you think it is

Posted: May 5, 2015 in Uncategorized

For starters, the word Bourgeois means social middle class as seen by the working class.  Yes, I know Bougi has come to mean Jersey Shores and spray tans carrying knock off coach bags.  And that’s not far from the definition.  It’s new money, stupid money, and flashing money you don’t really have.

And Chanel #5 isn’t old money, rich elite either no matter how expensive it is.

What it is is a perfect example of survival and empowerment and adaptation, but mostly it’s grief and recovery.

Coco Chanel was sent to the Church of Aubazine orphanage at age 12. Born out of wedlock, her stepfather abandoned Coco and her sister after their mother’s death.

She left the orphanage at 18, took work as a seamstress and sang in dance halls until she was 23, when a rich man took her as his open mistress.

At 26, she moved to a Paris apartment paid for by a new lover who would later spark her signature Chanel #5 perfume. The interlocking CC’s used in her company logo come from the stained glass windows of the orphanage chapel. The name #5 is said to be because it was the 5th sample she tested but she, herself, has stated that it was a hat tip to the modern art movements such as Cubism, Dadaism and Surrealism that were all the rage in Paris then, and that she never wanted the perfume to be dated. The perfume relies heavily on Jasmine, but it is unique in that it has no top or low (or defining) notes and is seen as a perfect blending of 80 separate scents into one detectable perfume. Coco Chanel gave French Perfumer Ernest Beaux an old sweater from a lover and a list of scents he regularly wore and asked him to recreate his smell after his death. At the time, it was considered the most expensive perfume in the world.

While the perfume is an icon to this day, consider that Chanel was the first fashion house to design for women without corsets or petticoats. Her styles were dance hall practical and marketed to the Paris elite. She designed Audrey Hepburn’s Little Black Dress, but changed fashion by necessity when her lover died and she had to design a spring campaign with no money for the miles of expense material that was then the style, instead she shocked fashion by presenting Jersey fabric (previously only seen in undergarments) in light, airy, comfortable dresses that took fashion from the Gibson Girl to the Flapper.

She survived betrayal, working in the sex trade, a world where women couldn’t own property, and the death of a loved one to build an institution that was based on practical designs made with low cost fabric in an era of velvet and steel boning and maids.  She changed fashion, and when she had the money she paid to have a lost lover immortalized as a perfume that has stood the test of time.

And now you know where to send it if you have an unwanted bottle lying around……………

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