Chanel is unquestionably one of the top fashion houses in the world. Every time Chanel releases a bag or perfume, they become highly iconic and sell out immediately. The genius behind the house of Chanel was Coco (Gabrielle) Chanel, who singlehandedly changed the fashion landscape with her designs. She did not produce fads. As she said about her collections, she said, “I created the most well-known style in the world, because fashion is ephemeral, but style is eternal.”
Born in 1883, Chanel was influenced by men's fashion, and heavily used its fabric like tweed from men's tweed jackets to create her own version of the coat. She also always kept comfort in mind. During a time where women only wore skirts and dresses and never pants, she created her own roomy trousers in 1920 based on men's wear. If it wasn't for her, we might've never seen women wearing pants. And she also made it acceptable for women to wear flats during any occasion. Before her ballerina flats, women only wore high heels. Designed for comfort as well, those flats became an instant success, as the flats didn't go as far up as normal flats, which meant no more blisters.
Of course, Coco Chanel is most famous for designing bags like The Boy Bag and the 2.55 Quilted Bag. Like all her pieces, these bags and much more--there are many quirky and fun bags designed by artistic director Karl Lagerfeld each season--have been in vogue for many decades as they are still coveted to this day. Here, we take a look at 30 of the most iconic pieces from Chanel over the years, from 1910-2018.
30 The Boy Bag
This definitive bag is designed exactly to Coco Chanel's high standards. Simple but elegant, she wanted the bag to be comfy and the size to be small. Chanel actually got her inspiration for this now iconic bag from her lover, Arthur Capel, whose nickname was "Boy." Today, the piece is one of Chanel’s most sought-after bags and it has become one of the classics of the label. Details like heavy gold hardware and a unique lock round out the bag. (Source: TheRealReal)
29 2.55 Quilted Bag
Chanel has many bags for sale since its inception, but some stand out for their luxurious design. The 2.55 is such a bag, and was made so that it could be carried around hands-free. In February 1955, in commemoration of its 5oth anniversary, the bag was updated and re-released, which is why it's called the "2.55." The 2.55 now comes with a full chain link chain and an interlocking C clasp. This iconic bag will let the world know that you have very good taste and are stylish. (Source: MarieClaire)
28 The Breton Top
The Breton top was the uniform for the French navy in the 1850s. A trip to the French coast inspired the designer to create the sailor shirt, which is covered in black and white stripes. The shirt became part of Coco Chanel's nautical collection in 1917, introducing to women the casual shirt. It was also a statement piece, meant to show that she made more than heavily corseted fashion at the time. The shirt became so popular that James Dean, Pablo Picasso, Kate Moss and Alexa Chung have worn it. (Source: StyleCaster)
27 The Little Black Dress
It's the one essential that women must all have: the little black dress. It can take you anywhere, from work to a lunch meeting at Le Bernardin, and to cocktails and dinner at Gramercy Tavern all in one day. Coco Chanel did not invent the dress. (You can see the dress in Breakfast at Tiffany's, where Audrey Hepburn wore it). It was actually inspired by Vogue in 1926. The magazine published a drawing of the dress, simple and elegant in black crepe de Chine, and ever since then, the Chanel version of the black dress became wildly famous. (Source: MarieClaire)
26 Faux Pearls
Back in the early 1920s, Coco Chanel once again made history by introducing to the world the use of faux pearls to complement your outfits. The fake pearls caused a fashion sensation and became a trend. Chanel liked to combine real jewelry with costume jewelry and also to put them on liberally. And they look classic against her clothing line that's all about minimalism, with a penchant for the color black. Today, sophisticated women around the world can be seen wearing a multitude of costume jewelry and probably don't know its origins. (Source: SusanJaneJewels)
25 The Tweed Jacket
Chanel's couture has always been influenced by men's fashion. She loved how the tweed jacket blazer looked sophisticated on a man, so much so that she started making tweed jackets for women in 1924. But it was only in 1954 when she designed what would become the ultimate and highly iconic Chanel tweed jacket. The design of the time was flamboyance, but Chanel went in the opposite direction and once again made her pieces minimalistic in nature and highly functional. Bridgitte Bardot and Grace Kelly wore the tweed, thus making it the must-have piece in a woman's wardrobe. (Source: TheRobinsonStyle)
24 Chanel No. 5
In the 1920s, Gabrielle Chanel became enraptured by the clean scent of soap and freshly scrubbed skin, so much so that she decided to make her own perfume. That would be Chanel no. 5, which had a launch date of May 5, 1921. The name come for her affinity for the number five. When her perfumer gave her test samples, from numbers one to five and then 10 to 24, she chose the fifth. As Chanel later said, "It was what I was waiting for. A perfume like nothing else. A woman's perfume, with the scent of a woman." Thanks to Marilyn Monroe, who claimed she only wore No. 5 at night, the fragrance, even today, is the most popular women's perfume in the world. (Source: BBC)
23 Classic Flap Bag
The Quilted Classic, aka the Classic Flap, was first introduced by Karl Lagerfeld when he first joined Chanel in 1983. Although he kept the same silhouette as the original 2.55, he added the iconic interlocking CC logo. Here you'll find the signature diamond quilted lambskin pattern and the gold chain link shoulder strap. Over the years the bag won't depreciate, which means spending a boatload now won't be such a risk. And because the bag is so iconic, selling it is a major option and you'll probably be able to get a small fortune. (Source: Fashionphile)
22 The Grand Shopping Tote
If you love Chanel but think their bags are a little on the small side (Coco Chanel liked it that way), this Grand Shopping Tote, which dates back to the 1980s, is much larger and roomier to fit in all your essentials. It's no surprise that Jennifer Garner uses it, as she stuffs all her child's things in the bag. While it comes in a wide variety of shapes, materials, and colors, now the original tote is almost impossible to track down, making it the most sought-after Chanel bag in the world.
21 The Camera Bag
Inspired by photographer and reporter cases, the Camera Case first appeared in the Chanel collections of the 1980s. You can get them in different colors, but some are unique, as they have lucky charm symbols embedded on the bag. That's because Gabrielle Chanel was highly superstitious, which you probably didn't know. Like other iconic Chanel bags, the camera bag has a diamond quilt pattern in leather, but unlike others, it also has an Equestrian-inspired finish. This is one of the smallest bags that Chanel made, although today the Camera Bag is made in different sizes. (Source: Designer-Vault)
20 The Diamond Quilted Urban Spirit Backpack
The Chanel backpack, which was part of the autumn/winter 2016 collections, singlehandedly brought the bag back in style. Who carries a backpack? Mostly students, right? But remember this is from Chanel, and it resembles the iconic black diamond quilted lambskin pattern that the fashion house is known for. So, it's a grown up bag. Even Miley Cyrus was seen carrying one, not that she's an adult. BTW, the backpack was first released in 2016 for the Spring/Summer Collection. Upon release, it was in high demand, so we hope that Chanel will reintroduce the backpack for future collections. (Source: PurseBlog)
19 The Perfume Bottle Bag
In 2013, the fashion house once again made history by creating a bag that resembles the Chanel No.5 perfume's minimalistic vessel, a clutch made of durable and clear plexiglass (it also comes in black). It sold out immediately and since its debut, it has not been re-introduced, driving the bag upwards in price online. The bag is such a fun fashion statement and comes with Chanel's signature golden woven chain and clasp. This is a true collector's item. Even Rihanna has one! (Source: Vogue)
18 Lait de Coco Milk Carton Bag
The theme of Lagerfeld's fall/winter collection in 2015 was "grocery by Chanel," pieces modeled after household necessities that can easily be found at the grocery store. Hence, the Chanel Milk Bag, which was made with only the most luxurious materials. The bag is made from lambskin, has an iridescent silver exterior, and a mixture of crystals and pearls spelling out "Lait de Coco." The bag is fun and playful but unfortunately, like other quirky pieces (see the "robot bag" below) released each season, the bag was designed as a limited edition so it's rare to find one these days.
17 Two-Tone Flats
Coco Chanel designed the two-toned slingback shoe in 1957. Colored beige, the flats have a contrasting black toe cap that is instantly recognized--even now--as one of Chanel's most iconic pieces. Chanel herself even wore them a lot because it was made to her specifications: something comfortable and fashionable at the same time. The style of the flats, according to the Chanel timeline, "creates a uniquely flattering effect, at once shortening the foot and lengthening the leg." (Source: Inside.Chanel)
16 No. 5 Body Oil
A reinterpretation of the smooth and silky N°5, including that perfume's notes of rose and jasmine, the limited edition body oil is a dry oil that leaves the skin soft, supple and subtly perfumed. The oil is not a substitute for wearing body cream. It's somewhere between a moisturizer and a perfume, and you only wear it if you want your body to feel like satin that gives you a touch of sensuality. First introduced in 2016, the N°5 collection, which also includes body cream, a shower cleansing cream, and a foaming bath, among others, was an instant bestseller when released. (Source: NeimanMarcus)
15 Couture and Ready to Wear, 1954
Coco Chanel closed all but one of her boutiques during WW2. She went to Switzerland and returned to Paris in 1954 to a changed fashion landscape. Dior had started making very feminine clothing, the New Look, at the time. She had no shame denouncing the style of Dior and rather than go with the trend, she re-opened her couture houses to bring back her signature style, which included two famous pieces, bell-bottoms, and peacoats. And remember that tweed jacket? Well, she re-introduced it and it did so well that it kept selling out.
14 The Chanel Suit
Like her tweed jacket, Chanel's suit was inspired by men's tweed blazers and suits. But she was also drawn to an actual man, her boyfriend, the Duke of Westminster, whose clothing she wore all the time. Gabrielle Chanel's tweed inspiration started with the tweed jacket, and in 1923, she came out with the tweed suit. Refined and sophisticated, the suit became wildly famous because the actress Ina Claire wore it on the cover of a magazine. Her beloved tweed for women was copied by nearly every Paris fashion house after that. In the 1930s, Chanel added wool, silk, and cotton to the tweed, making it more wearable because it became lightweight. (Source: Designer-Vault)
13 The Reinterpretation Of The Chanel Suit
In 1983, Karl Lagerfeld became Chanel's artistic director, responsible for couture as well as their ready-to-wear collections. It was a perfect match. Lagerfeld looked to the past to create fashion for the present, just as Coco Chanel did. While he kept the company's signature styles, he also helped modernize the brand. For example, the suit was overhauled by Lagerfeld to keep it in step with the styles he was seeing on the runways. In this way, the silhouette of the suit became a tad tighter for a more bespoke look.
12 Behind the Scenes of New Perfumes
In 1981, Jacques Polge, pictured above, was hired by the fashion house because they needed a new nose to create more perfumes. Polge ended up producing perfumes like Coco, Coco Mademoiselle, and Allure. In 2008, Polge created the fragrance Beige. According to Vanity Fair, Beige was described to be the best "embodiment of the couture house's foundation." Polge said, "Mademoiselle Chanel spoke of beige as a . . . color of eternal elegance, not à la mode but something that never goes out of style. My inspiration was to translate the idea of this color into a fragrance that was fresh and floral. My vision of the beige color came alive with the hawthorn note in accord with honey."
11 The Premiere Watch
In 1987, Chanel's first ever watch was released. Called the Premiere Watch, it was inspired by the company's best selling perfume, No. 5 as well as the Place Vendome. The watch above was the one that was made first, and is noted for its clipped corners that give the square its unique octagonal shape. The house of Chanel felt so confident about their first line of watches that they opened up a boutique just to sell its timepieces at 40 Avenue Montaigne in Paris’s posh shopping district. (Source: SpottedFashion)
10 The J12 Collection
In 2000, Chanel introduced the J12 watch collection. Made of all black (an all-white limited edition was created in 2003), the watches were inspired by the nautical world, but today, as back then, they were more known for being made using high-tech ceramic. The ceramic cased watches were made both for women and men. They were so successful that, in 2017, Chanel introduced limited-edition J12 "novelties." One that stood out was the 38mm Mademoiselle J12, which was limited to 555 pieces and came in either black and white. The 38mm is playful and fun, as a caricature of Coco Chanel appears wearing her tweed jacket on the dial and her arms indicate hours and minutes moved by the automatic caliber. Yep, this watch will cost you. (Source: LegattooLifestyle)
9 The J12 XS
Lagerfeld created the Chanel J12 XS watch collection using Chanel's iconic ceramic case (ceramic is highly scratch proof) to create a smaller version of the original J12, an XS size of just 10mm. The inspiration for the black watch is the attitude of the biker chick; hence the watch comes with black lambskin fingerless gloves and leather cuffs. The J12 XS is lavishly designed, with a diamond-set bezel and a diamond-set strap stay, which holds the strap in place. Although the XS was first introduced in 2016, its limited edition (150 pieces made) status has made the watch highly sought-after. (Source: TheJewelleryEditor)
8 Quilted Ballet Flats
Coco Chanel made it acceptable for women to wear flats during any occasion. Before the ballerina flats, women wore high heels. But you know how uncomfortable those are despite their popularity. Since Coco Chanel designed for comfort, the ballerina became an instant success, as the flats didn't go as far up as normal flats, which meant no more blisters! The iconic quilted flats take a nod from the quilted handbags. After Audrey Hepburn wore a pair in the movie Funny Face, the ballerinas became a success, with Hepburn showing the world that you can be feminine without wearing heels. (Source: TheLuxAuthortiy)
7 The Rugby Ball
Coco Chanel had a strong tie to sports and included athletic details in her designs. These days Karl Lagerfeld has taken that idea literally and designed surfboards and basketballs for the line. And then, in 2015, to celebrate the Rugby World Cup, Lagerfeld created the rugby ball. The ball is clad in the iconic quilted stitching that is synonymous with the brand, and comes in three colors, burgundy, navy blue and black. The balls are so bespoke that you can't just buy one, say, online; they are made upon order and you have to go to a Chanel boutique to order them. (Source: GQ-Magazine)
6 Black Terry Cloth Beach Towel & Beach Bag
Now you can bring Chanel to the beach! Part of the fashion house's 2016 Paris in Rome collection, this beach bag comes with its own towel. And they both definitely look very Chanel as the material of the bag and the towel, crafted from terrycloth, is made to resemble classic Chanel tweed. At $1,650 for both, if you have disposable income or want to look fashionable on the beach, then you can use both items for their intended purpose. But if you ask us, we'd never take this pair to the beach because it costs so much! And then there's the sand that can seep into the bag! (Source: PurseBlog)
5 The Surfboard
In 2010, Chanel introduced their own surfboard. For those who know how to surf and love Chanel, then this board is for you. If you don't, you can still buy it and use it as an art piece because it's so expensive, costing $4,000 and going up to more exorbitant prices. From all the customer reviews we've read, Chanel lovers are doing just that, actually putting them up in their house. The fashion house started with black, white and red, and yes, all of them have big Chanel logos so you can look like the 1% who can afford the boards.
4 Hula Hoop Bag
So, a large hula hoop designed to make it a beach bag. We know, silly, right? But the hula hoop was the most coveted item during the 2013 Chanel spring/summer season. This is obviously the work of Karl Lagerfeld, who is known to be irreverent and somewhat a style genius. We mean, Lagerfeld took a kid's hula hoop and turned it into a stylish beach bag. It's total kitsch, but it's also classic kitsch, as the quilt pattern and the CC are used on this beach bag. Chanel also released a smaller version for those who can't lift this darn thing. The cost is $2,400. We know, that's a lot. (Source: Vogue)
3 The Supermarket Basket Bag
For the Chanel autumn/winter 2014 collection, the theme was supermarkets. Lagerfeld transformed the Grand Palais into a Chanel supermarket where models walked through the aisles while putting their goods in a shopping basket. But it was no ordinary basket. It was a Chanel grocery basket that looked exactly like the plastic shopping baskets you get in store but pumped up with Chanel's distinctive designs. And the cost? A mere $12,500! Now you really don't have to waste plastic bags that they give you at the register. (Source: AlexandraLapp)
2 The Lego Bag
First releases in 2012, this whimsical Lego bag was inspired by Legos, the interlocking toys that can build whole cities, that are as popular now as they were when we were growing up. There are the Lego movies, and the Lego store at Rockefeller Center, for example. But leave it to Lagerfeld to make one of the most fun designs we've ever seen from the house of Chanel. Made of plexiglass, designed with bright Lego-inspired colors and featuring the classic CC logo wide and clear, the bag, which costs around $9,000, was conceived as a limited edition. But even with its high price, the bag was sold out instantly and is now difficult to find.
1 Chanel Robot Minaudiere
Like the shopping cart basket, the quirky robot bag isn't really designed to be used. It's more of a collector's item, a Chanel novelty, one that show's up in the fashion house's lineup every now and then and instantly becomes a sensation. That's what happened to the robot, which became the star of the show when it was released at the spring 2017 collection. The robot is pure Lagerfeld; there's the cute factor (the robot is smiling) and then there's the price factor. As a limited edition, the robot costs $15,500. Yep. You could buy a new car for that money.