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Coco Chanel's suit: The Legendary Chanel Armour

Details of the Chanel suit
© Draiflessen Collection Mettingen. Photograph By Christin Losta

The Chanel suit, legendary and withstanding the test of time, was originally introduced by French designer Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel in the 1920s and sustained by Karl Lagerfeld until his recent death in 2019. Discover 5 facts about the Chanel suit from the MoMu collection worn by our very own Queen Paola in 1961.

1. Belgium’s fashion icon

In January 2006 Queen Paola brought MoMu an informal visit. On this special occasion the Queen donated three Chanel suits from her own wardrobe to the museum. Queen Paola, who is honoured as a fashion icon, wore this specific suit on the first birthday of her eldest son, the current King Philippe. Other international fashion icons who were also seen wearing this type of Chanel suit are Jackie Kennedy, Princess Diana and Brigitte Bardot.

2. Tweed-dle-yes or tweed-dle-no?

Exhibition 'Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto', Palais Galliera, Paris
Pierre Antoine

The Queen’s suit is made of tweed. Nowadays it’s a well-known fabric used for clothing but that has not always been the case. Tweed was not considered a prestigious fabric for women's clothing in the past, but Coco Chanel was inspired by sportswear and men's clothing. Her passion for feminising tweed by implementing new colours, materials and textures to the then underutilised fabric took the fashion world by storm. Eventually inspiring other French couturiers to employ her methods and making it a definite tweed-dle-yes!

3. Typical Chanel

Exhibition 'Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto', Palais Galliera, Paris
Pierre Antoine

The beige suit shows classic Chanel characteristics – such as the four pockets, the braids, the double holes for the gilded buttons with a lionhead design. But also, the hidden Chanel qualities – like the quilted lining throughout and the gilded chain at the seam of the jacket. According to Women’s Wear Daily Gabriel Chanel started using the quilted lining throughout since her Spring/Summer collection of 1959. The colour beige and the structured tweed were well-known details of the Chanel suit as well.

4. Yves after Coco

About seven years after Queen Paola wore her Chanel suit, another aspiring fashion designer, Yves Saint Laurent took inspiration from the androgyny look Chanel initially introduced. The big difference in ‘Le Smoking’ of Yves, was the combination of androgyny look with a cutting-edge sense of provocative sexuality for women that was absent form Chanel’s vision.

5. A perfect suit for a Queen

Details of the Chanel suit
© Draiflessen Collection Mettingen. Photograph By Christin Losta
Details of the Chanel suit
© Draiflessen Collection Mettingen. Photograph By Christin Losta

The item loaned by MoMu is a magnificent and classic example of the brand with the two C's: beige tweed made of wool and silk featuring a discrete black and white check. The jacket has four buttons and pockets and is decorated with navy-blue edging, crocheted onto strips of red silk. The hem holds a heavy chain, creating a supple fit. The skirt is simple yet refined with four rows of piping at the front, resembling pleats, and an edge bearing the same decoration as the jacket. The sleeveless blouse is made of red silk with additional navy-blue crocheted embroidery.

The exhibition ‘Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto’ in Palais Galliera will run until 14 March 2021 and highlights the greatest creations by the legendary French designer, such as her jersey designs, timeless dresses and suits – including this top item from MoMu's current archives.

THIS TEXT CONTAINS EXCERPTS FROM “CHANEL, THE LEGEND” PUBLISHED BY DRAIFLESSEN COLLECTION.

MoMu is closed for renovations, open to inspire at other locations. Read more about it.