Sunday, 14 June 2009

Bag Lady

Yesterday I had the misfortune to find myself locked out of my apartment...distracted by the prospect of purchasing a very cute navy blue mini-sailor dress I had discovered in a local boutique, I had run out of the house without my keys, grabbing only my mobile, handbag, and iPod on the way out.

A locksmith thankfully managed to open my front door in a couple of seconds, but in the temporary panic prior to the great relief of being back on the right side of the door, I was forced to wonder whether I would have been able to survive the rest of the weekend with only a Chanel 2.55 bag, and the omnipresent Blackberry, for company?

A Chanel 2.55 handbag is many things: classic, perma-stylish, and most importantly, ever-chic. But a rucksack it is not. It cannot hold a change of clothes, industrial quantities of cosmetics, a varied choice of heels...let alone a silk sleeping bag, or anything else one would need to set up a fashionable camp.

Originally issued in February 1955 (hence its name "2.55") this much-loved accessory
was actually designed to hide Coco Chanel's love letters - she kept her lover's billets doux in the zippered pocket on the inside of the front flap. Her money, meanwhile, she stashed in the back outside flap.

Instantly recognisable, the Chanel 2.55 has become an iconic symbol of elegance and voguish sense, and remains one of the world’s most sought after bags - hence spurring many (poor) imitations. Like Tom Ford after her, however, who has always maintained that when you are copied by others, you know you are doing something right, Coco Chanel used to say: “I would shed tears the day no one copied me.”

The style elements that have kept this accessory at the top of the fashion charts include its famous quilting, inspired by the quilted coats worn by jockeys at the race track, horse racing being a sport Coco Chanel loved. The trademark chain, however, was an idea from the childhood she spent in a convent orphanage, where the nuns kept their keys on a chain tied around their waist. It was also a novel invention, enabling women to carry their handbag on their arm instead of in their hand, as was fashionable at the time. Coco Chanel realised that her clients might prefer to hold their Champagne coupes, nibble on canapés, and peruse their opera programmes, than hold onto their handbag.

As Coco Chanel said so succinctly: “In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.”

In order to be unforgettable, one must also always be different, which is perhaps why I always remember to dash out of the house with a 2.55 on my arm...but the keys often get left behind.

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