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42 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Couture From an Independent Woman
Coco Chanel concentrated on simplicity and practicality in the clothes she fashioned. She fashioned her own life, however, to be complicated, and she further complicated things by changing her stories (or perhaps her memories) of her past. Fashion columnist and novelist Justine Picardie has attempted to sort out Chanel's life in a satisfying biography, _Coco Chanel: The...
Published on November 21, 2010 by R. Hardy

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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed
I appreciated the photos and Chanel's quotes in this book. If there had been neither, I would have become extremely bored. Nothing grabbed me. The majority of the book is based off of information Chanel told Claude Delay. If I wanted to know about her conversations with Claude Delay then I would have read "Chanel Solitaire" by Claude Delay. Chanel's life was so mysterious...
Published on March 14, 2011 by snazzy2008


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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed, March 14, 2011
I appreciated the photos and Chanel's quotes in this book. If there had been neither, I would have become extremely bored. Nothing grabbed me. The majority of the book is based off of information Chanel told Claude Delay. If I wanted to know about her conversations with Claude Delay then I would have read "Chanel Solitaire" by Claude Delay. Chanel's life was so mysterious and guarded it is nearly impossible to derive facts or truth. She hid the truth and was not an open book. so at the end of the book, I knew almost less about her than when I began reading the book. But one fact you can never take away is that she was one fierce woman: business and fashion wise.
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42 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Couture From an Independent Woman, November 21, 2010
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Coco Chanel concentrated on simplicity and practicality in the clothes she fashioned. She fashioned her own life, however, to be complicated, and she further complicated things by changing her stories (or perhaps her memories) of her past. Fashion columnist and novelist Justine Picardie has attempted to sort out Chanel's life in a satisfying biography, _Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life_ (It Books). Chanel displayed an unusual resilience, overcoming poverty and lack of parental guidance to revolutionize women's fashions, and perfume, and then retiring and starting up again as successfully as before. Picardie says that "... so much of Chanel remains enigmatic - the more you run after her, the more elusive her ghost becomes," and it is easy to see that with Chanel busy making her mark in fashion and making herself into a legend, keeping track of what's real and what's not is often impossible. Nonetheless, even if there are gaps we cannot completely close, Picardie's portrait with all of Chanel's contradictions nicely brings to life this unique artist, bon vivant, and brilliant businesswoman.

Chanel was born in 1883, though of course she did not give this date in her own accounting of her origins. She was placed into a convent, and the austerity of convent life found its way into her clothing designs. She worked afterwards as a seamstress but also as a cabaret singer. Somehow she encountered a roué who set her up as a mistress, along with other lovers, and during these years she learned skills in observation and in such essentials as horse riding. Her lovers set her up in her own Paris hat shop in 1909, and there were soon more than hats. Chanel fancied loose trousers and collarless jackets; the clothes proclaimed that women ought to be comfortable and confident in walking, riding horses, or driving. When Chanel said, "Extravagant things didn't suit me," she meant that she thought such things didn't suit any woman. Her perfume, brought out in 1921, made her an international name brand, but she regretted the agreement she had made with the manufacturer, and tried to use the anti-Jewish laws of the German occupation to claim the company for herself; she not only failed but she tarnished her reputation. She also took a Nazi lover, but got no punishment after the war. She had closed down her business when war was declared, saying, "This is not the time for fashion." She stayed out of clothing fashions, though she had a secure income from her international perfume sales. She was aghast when designers such as Christian Dior came out with extravagant fashions after the war, and disgusted with the reintroduction of corsets. She was seventy years old when she launched a comeback in 1954. The French press, perhaps because of her war record, sneered at her new line, which was a variation on the practical, attractive, and simple designs that she had done before. In the United States, however, the clothes were celebrated in an issue of _Life_ magazine: "Her styles hark back to her best of the Thirties." She became copied even in France, and said of Yves Saint-Laurent that he "... has excellent taste. The more he copies me, the better taste he displays." The Chanel look has never really gone out of fashion.

There was a Broadway musical about Chanel, and plenty of biographies and memoirs about her, and a couple of recent films, so interest in her extraordinary life has never subsided. Picardie's book packs many anecdotes, and lots of Chanel's own words (often funny or acid, and of course, often misleading) into a full biography. There are on these glossy pages plenty of pictures of Chanel at work, or at play on yachts or on the estates of those even richer than she, and pictures of the fashions that made her famous. Chanel succeeded with her outfits by maintaining creativity while keeping to essentials; Picardie has done just the same in a beautifully produced book.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Book, January 11, 2011
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TinaTinaTina (New York, New York) - See all my reviews
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There are a ton of books out there on CoCo Chanel, this one stays clear of weaving in their personal opinions and tells the great story of her life, unbiasly and with great detail. The pictures are wonderful, many of which I had never seen. The book itself is also very lovely and looks great on the shelf.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars C'est Formidable!, August 22, 2011
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Ms Picardie's research and writing style is the best biography of Mademoiselle to date! Well balanced and brings to play even more of the Mata Hari Couturier's activities during WWII. This is an in depth book. Picardie understands the complexity of Chanel's character and the tenacious and driven capability of one woman to succeed. Well written, well researched and the author beautifully unfolds Chanel's life to the reader. Every year we host an annual Coco Chanel Birthday Party to celebrate Mademoiselle's accomplishments that she gave to women. All attendees invited are women of courage. This book was very much a part of the event this year. New secrets about Chanel's WWii life were revealed and further inspiration for feminine courage emboldened the audience with individual confidence. --Laura Ponter, Concierge Jeweler
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars `Legend is the consecration of fame.', July 17, 2011
The name Coco Chanel is synonymous with style. But what of the woman behind the name: what do we know about the woman who designed simple yet sophisticated clothes, practical but elegant bags and shoes, and presented Chanel No 5 perfume to the world?

There is little simple about Coco Chanel. She was born Gabrielle Chanel on 19 August 1883 - a date that she later changed by hand in her passport. Gabrielle Chanel was born in a poorhouse; her parents were unmarried and, according to Chanel, her mother Jeanne died of tuberculosis when Chanel was aged six. Justine Picardie suggests that Jeanne died of `poverty, pregnancy and pneumonia' when Chanel was aged 11. According to Chanel, her father left her in the care of two unmarried aunts when he actually placed her in a convent orphanage in the village of Aubazine, where she was raised by nuns.

When World War One began in 1914, Chanel moved from Paris to Deauville, and built up a business. Chanel's personal life was also interesting and unconventional. She had a succession of glamorous lovers but it seems likely that the real love of her life was Arthur `Boy' Capel who died in a car accident in 1919.

I picked up this book knowing very little about Coco Chanel and wanting to read a little more about the woman who had such an influence on style during the 20th century. It's an interesting read, beautifully illustrated and informative without being exhaustive. It intrigued me to read that Coco Chanel's favourite novel was `Wuthering Heights', and that the austerity of the convent was a major influence on her design. By all accounts, Coco Chanel (19 August 1883 - 10 January 1971) lived a remarkable life.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent choice if you want to know all about CC, May 31, 2011
The book is well writen, covers all segments of Coco's life and has a lot of information about her life, lovers and fashion. I've read another book about her before and this one is definitely a great choice if you want a lot of biography details and thorough insight into Coco's life.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great photos, bombastic writing, March 29, 2011
The latest biography of fashion legend Coco Chanel looks as beautiful as the designer herself, but sadly, you can't judge a book by its cover or its photos and illustrations alone. While author Justine Picardie makes some fascinating points about how Chanel's style was influenced by her childhood at a French convent -- and shows this beautifully with pictures of the Cistercian abbey's stained glass, which looks eerily like the famous double C logo -- I got bogged down in her prose. Picardie is quite intellectual and writes in an overly dramatic way when revisiting all the places that were important to Chanel. For example, when Picardie walks through the old perfume factory and finds a bottle of the original No 5, she writes that "rare perfume, unlike fine wine, does not improve with age. But even so, it carries with it a strange potency; the precious scent of a vanished woman, the last traces of an invisible ghost." Ah, yes, nothing like a whiff of the great one to send you into feverish descriptions! The truth is, the old perfume bottle stank! I would have liked more of a straighforward, clearly written biography with less of these flowery asides from the author. I do give her credit, however, for digging into all the lies Chanel told about her life and trying to separate truth from fiction. Fashion die-hards will love the photos and illustrations and some of the new insights; I just wish Picardie had written it in a more simple, easy-to-follow manner.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars disappointing, August 2, 2013
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I bought the book for my mother who is a big Coco Chanel fan. She mentioned that it was poorly written and simply uninteresting. She stated that she was very disappointed with the book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent, May 8, 2012
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I FOUND THIS BOOK TO BE A COMPELLING READ. It gave an insight into the life of a very complex person, who was both an enigma but whose life had been both blessed and tortured.This is the fourth book I have read on her life but it was the one I have enjoyed the most.A verywell written book without bias.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Very disappointing, November 16, 2013
This review is from: Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life (Paperback)
I was very excited about this book but after reading 30 pages of it I was absolutely bored. Chanel was a revolutionary on the fashion business but the author focused much more on the gossip about Chanel lovers instead of her work and what it influenced and changed the fashion. The pages and pages about the families of her lovers could've been used to give more details about her process of creation.

I read so many Conversatios about Chanel and Claude Delay on this book that I felt i should have bought instead "Chanel Solitaire", by delay.

The positive is that this book will look good on my bookshelf!
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Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life
Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life by Justine Picardie (Paperback - August 23, 2011)
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