Chanel – A Woman of Her Own by Axel Madsen

Date of Publication: 1990, Henry Holt and Company

Number of Pages: 337

Synopsis: Chanel. The name alone evokes fashion and perfume, emancipation and allure. In this revealing, intimate biography, Axel Madsen brings to life Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, who was born an illegitimate pauper and rose to become the reigning queen of fashion, revolutionizing women’s style forever.

Madsen traces Chanel’s extraordinary life, from her beginnings as an orphan, to the first small boutique she opened in 1910 (using her lover’s financial backing), to the founding of the House of Chanel where she altered the look of fashion entirely, inventing sportswear, the “little black dress,” costume jewelry, and the perfume that Marilyn Monroe said was all she wore to bed. Although loved by many men, Coco remained wed only to her business, and when she died in 1971, at the age of eighty-eight, she was wealthy, and international celebrity, and utterly alone. ~Blurb from back cover

Review: As an enthusiastic admirer of Coco Chanel’s style and of the fashions she created, I was excited to read this book. I was surprised to find out that Chanel was an immensely complex and interesting person, even aside from her creative life. She came from very humble beginnings, lived through two world wars, survived tragedies, heartbreaks, and scandals, and through it all, she worked hard to realize her dreams of success. She is someone whom even non-fashionistas can admire. She was tenacious and clever, and her innate sense of style came through in everything she did.

This book features wonderful photographs of Chanel, a handy index, and even a guide to the author’s sources. For anyone who is even remotely interested in fashion, this book is a god-send. For everyone else, this book tells the story of a courageous and complicated woman who fought for her success and did things her own way. This was one of the best books I read in 2007, and I will definitely re-read it in 2008!

Rating: 10/10

Reviewed by Sarah

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