Coco Before Chanel: The Wardrobe

Today’s wardrobe recap is on a movie which I only just watched recently – Coco Before Chanel, starring Audrey Tatou. When I first watched the movie, I assumed I wouldn’t have the opportunity to do a wardrobe recap as I had read reviews that this was definitely not a movie about “fashion”. However, this was still a movie about Coco, who as we all know had incredible style.


Please note that this movie is yes, Coco before she became “Chanel” – so most of what you see is of her early life, as she’s beginning to define her formative style. It was amazing to see how many of her early looks are still relevant today. I thought the movie was very inspiring – her life, her conviction, and yes, her style. Enjoy!

Our first look with Coco – here in her part time day job as a seamstress. Hmm, I wonder where that leads to?

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Next, Coco in her full “traveling” outfit. I love the hat she wears, and you see it throughout the film. So refreshing, especially once you realize that during those times most women were wearing giant, jeweled feathery things on their heads!

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Next, a quick shot of her nightgown in bed. Isn’t it simple and chic? Makes me want to buy one of my own and lounge around in it all day, especially come summertime.

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Next, austere in a perfectly pleated blouse.

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This is one of the first scenes where Coco begins to customize her lover’s clothing to suit herself. Here, she’s just snipped off the long edges of his tie to make herself this bow.

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I like this scene. This is when she’s walking to dinner in this super floofy dress…

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…and then decides that despite the fact that her lover gifted it to her, she can’t bear to wear it. Instead she grabs one of his shirts and starts customizing.

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And this is what she ends up with! I love this dress and she wears it throughout the movie.

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Next, lounging in silk pajamas. So chic! I never thought of silk pajamas for myself (just seems so luxurious), but I found this nice set for under $150 that I’m really thinking about.

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Next, an evening menswear look. I love the white cuffs sticking out, very elegant.

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Out for a walk by the sea in a men’s tweed coat. Beautiful fabric and love the little hat. I do think you have to have delicate features to pull off this look and still have a feminine air…and of course and it doesn’t hurt to be as pretty as Audrey Tatou.

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I know it’s not the best shot, but I had to include the best screen grab I could get of the evening dress Coco designs. So light and elegant compared to the gowns around her. And no opera gloves!

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And in her classic sailor’s breton tee. I love this. I still wear and love my old Splendid one and the brand’s dolman version is one my wishlist.

If you want one like Coco’s, it’d be hard to do better than the original from Saint James!

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Later on in the movie, you see the tee again – but she’s belted it to give it some shape.

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This is what I call Coco’s “Judy Blume” moment – agonizing over decisions to be made under a tree. I love her little tweed blazer, and you can find a very similar jacket at under $250 (even less when there’s a code/sale) from J.Crew.

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I couldn’t resist adding one more shot of this custom shirtdress of hers – I love that they made this one of her signature early looks in the movie.

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Ah, well…now we see Coco…embracing the Chanel! In her studio (making hats), and you see her style has already shifted. I spy a classic Chanel pin.

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Next, we continue to see more of the sophisticated Coco (and the adorable Audrey Tatou we all know and love) with some evening looks. You see the hint of a sequined gown here.

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But what I really love is the jacket and little white silk scarf she layers on over the gown when they leave their event. It makes a sequin jacket seem like an almost practical purchase…though if I were to pick one up, I’d probably choose a less expensive version like this Topshop velvet one, for under $75.

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Lounging again in a new pair of silk pajamas. I actually found a pair of pajamas from Olivia Von Halle which I think is inspired from exactly this look (just read the product description). Warning – a bit pricey though!

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Out again for some evening entertainment. I chose to include this look because I think it looks quite classic and modern even for today – just a white blouse under a clean black jacket and some scattered diamonds on a long chain.

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Next, we see Coco throwing herself into her work and starting to make clothes. I included this shot because I love her classic black onyx pink ring. Super chic and a great signature piece to have!

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Next, in a classic white silk blouse, navy skirt and draped pearls. This could come out of a catalogue today – maybe made more modern with the sleeves rolled up, with booties.

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And next, almost in the reverse, with a navy long sleeved blouse tucked into an ivory tweed skirt. Gorgeous!

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A few shots of Coco’s first fashion collection. Isn’t it amazing how so many seem like they were from recent collections? It’s a reminder of how strong the brand’s aesthetic is.

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And one final shot of Coco – in her signature suit in pearls, making sure every last detail is to her liking. I think this was the perfect outfit to end the movie in.

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Wow – that was a longer wardrobe recap than I thought (and I had to edit some items out too!). Lessons learned?

1. Comfort is key. A point that Coco makes throughout the film is that women should feel comfortable and not restricted in their clothing – only then can they move freely. An apt observation in the age of tight corsets and binding skirts with too many layers. A reminder that when buying clothing, whether for an evening event or just casual use – always make sure that you can move and feel at ease.

2. Don’t be afraid to be “different”. Sorry to sound like an elementary school poster, but it was very inspiring for me to see how Coco rebelled against the traditional fashions of the times and wore what she simply liked best. Sometimes I can feel a bit weird when I like the dress that none of my friends do (or to be honest, when I like the dress that everyone else does, because then you end up matching). But either way it’s best to just follow your gut and wear what you like…life’s too short to worry about what everyone else thinks!

3. Chanel is forever. I hesitated a bit with this one because I don’t want to seem like I support just buying all kinds of Chanel items with abandon, because unless you have unlimited funds and space, that simply isn’t practical, or true. Plus, let’s face it – like with any brand, Chanel makes some duds. But seeing some of Coco’s clothes in the film and how timeless they are is a reminder that if you pick the right Chanel item that makes you feel great – whether it be a bag, jacket, shoes, jewelry – and take care of it, you can probably wear the piece forever.

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  • Sarah
    January 26, 2015 at 1:42 pm

    Wonderful post. Will be back to study it in detail, but your last 3 points hit the nail on the head.

  • Oonagh
    January 26, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    I think the fashion show pieces are actually contemporary Chanel.

  • betsy
    January 26, 2015 at 8:47 pm

    have you seen this? i love this site, but this blog post is on pyjamas

  • Emily
    January 26, 2015 at 11:06 pm

    To be honest, after I watched this movie, I was so turned off by Chanel. For her to create and sustain such an elitist culture with her couture and her brand when she herself came from such humble backgrounds and shady morals (sleeping with married men)? I know it’s just a movie though, so I shouldn’t take it too seriously. 🙂

    • D.
      January 27, 2015 at 7:55 am

      Not to mention her anti-Semitism and collaboration with Nazis. It’s obviously in the past, but it does taint some of her “glamour” for me. She has obviously done a lot for fashion, though, and I suppose it’s getting far enough away in history that we can try to separate that out from the less fragrant parts of her history (it’s tricky to judge people in the past by our own standards), but I do find it interesting that this part of her biography is swept under the rug so much. Most people don’t give Margaret Mitchell, for example, that much of a pass for her racist attitudes in Gone With the Wind. Even people who like it (and I do) will be careful to note that they don’t condone them. I don’t know why Chanel gets to be above that. The power of fashion?

  • Kimberly
    January 27, 2015 at 1:45 am

    Thanks for the recap! Would you consider doing one for Coco & Igor? I liked the clothes in that movie even better than Coco Before Chanel.

  • S
    January 27, 2015 at 3:15 pm

    Hi Katherine, Wishing you a very happy New Year!
    Great post! Thank you.

  • Luxuriously Frugal
    January 28, 2015 at 11:48 am

    A great post! Love this series! Any Coco Chanel book you would recommend? There are many books about her, not sure which one would be a good start. I have always loved your book recommendations.

    • Katherine
      January 29, 2015 at 8:42 am

      Oh I haven’t read any great books about her unfortunately…great request though! I’ll keep it in mind and update if I find one 🙂

  • ZC
    January 28, 2015 at 3:57 pm

    Bad news for Cadbury 🙁

  • Ava Lon
    January 29, 2015 at 10:11 pm

    Dear Katherine,

    “Judy Blume” moment- lol! That was so cute and so apt! 😀
    This was a good movie and I completely agree with your number 3. Sure, Chanel makes some duds, sometimes a lot of them, and sometimes multiple in the same season, but I have to reluctantly admit, no other item of mine gets as many compliments as my Chanels do. I am speaking strictly accessory-wise here. Each time I wear their footwear, necklace, earring, I get massive compliments. The only other thing that garners nearly as much is a special order CDC and even that does not glean as many envious stares. I think part of it has to do with the wide spread comprehension of the logo and the ravenous media visuals of particular runway pieces which make odd looking runway items “seem” more “mainstream” (recognizable).

    For me, I don’t care much for the compliments as I do for how it makes me feel. Every time I wear any necklace of theirs, I find myself picking up the strand and staring at it marveling at the design, how it’s made, the wittiness, etc. and I take great pleasure in that. Same goes for their shoes. Even their cosmetic items, I take great pleasure in using them (and I’m relatively new to make up) and I really genuinely enjoy the fragrance of their cosmetics which I know some find a bit too strong – I love it.

    Each time I open my nearly finished tube of Rouge Coco Shine, I enjoy the visual packaging, the smell of it, the color, etc. even if it looks JUST like my Burt’s Bees lip balm in “Rutabaga”! lol 😉 It’s just so much more enjoyable (and I really like the smell of peppermint)! Their baked eye shadow quads are the softest I’ve ever felt; their bronzer smells so divine I tend to over bronze in the summer getting swept up in enjoying the scent – lol! Then I have to wipe it all off. ;-P

    Great review and very good points made!

    I am curious to see what you got at their most recent sale (if you got anything) I was very good and did not buy anything! Instead, of course my friend and I ended up pre-ordering a bunch of things from Salzburg…but not sure if I will love it all in person. Here’s to hoping I don’t! Lol!