“Remember, Coco, you’re only a woman”: Mademoiselle Chanel by C.W. Gortner
From C.W. Gortner’s Mademoiselle Chanel, I learned the secret behind Chanel’s logo…
“Boy” Capel, the man whom Gabrielle Chanel (her birthname) loved and would never forget even after his death, warned her once by saying, “Remember, Coco, you’re only a woman.” Boy was Coco’s most loyal friend and supporter, as well as lover, and even as he warned her, he did everything he could to help Gabrielle Chanel achieve her goals. He also told her, “What we do not earn ourselves…is never truly ours. It can always be taken away. But even if we lose everything we work for, the achievement is ours forever.” This helped Gabrielle as she made sure that what she achieved belonged to herself, including the shops she opened where her various clothing items would be sold. After Boy’s unexpected death, Gabrielle Chanel made him part of the logo that anyone would recognize even today:
“Capel and Coco, Coco and Capel, Capel and Coco . . . C and C. In time, I would revert the positions, interlocked but facing outward, independent yet together. Always. It would become my emblem. It was how I would honor him.”
Even though Gabrielle was fierce and passionate about her work, one thing that she dealt with throughout her life was the expectation that women needed to be married to rich men to be satisfied for the rest of their lives. Right now, I am at an age where women usually get married and have children. Actually, if I were still in Korea, it would have been considered a late marriage for someone at my age, and I’m still in my late twenties. I don’t have thoughts of marriage on my mind, but I am constantly wondering if I should. In C.W. Gortner’s Mademoiselle Chanel, Gabrielle Chanel wonders, “Did nothing else matter if I failed to accomplish the one feat that defined women? Was my lack of a husband and child to become the seed of my discontent…?” Even as she designed clothes for women that made them freer to enjoy everyday work, she still was faced with this barrier of society’s definition of “woman.” If someone were to ask me the question: “What is more important to you – marriage, or career?” I would not know what to say because I honestly do not know the answer. Therefore, I found it admirable that Gabrielle Chanel was aware that for her, work was more important than anything else.
I was also reminded of my sister while reading this novel. Similar to Gabrielle Chanel, my sister is passionate about fashion, always coming up with her own designs, and creating her own pieces. She is also unwavering in her belief that she will make something of herself, and as far as I am aware, marriage is not on her mind at the moment. Even as Gabrielle Chanel doubted herself at times, she was unwavering in her belief in her goals, and she pursued them with dogged determination. As for myself, I am still wavering in what exactly it is that I want for myself, even to this day. For this, I admire people like Gabrielle Chanel and my sister, for their strength, insight, and determination.
Coco Chanel left behind to the world a design of clothes that allow women to move more freely, to feel unique, and to feel beautiful. In his novel, C.W. Gortner quotes Coco Chanel who once said:
“Simplicity is true elegance. A woman is closest to being naked when she is well dressed. Her clothing should be seen only after she herself is.”
Gortner, C.W.. Mademoiselle Chanel: A Novel. HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.