Thanksgiving. This american tradition based on the recognition of the nice things in our life has been part of the traditional folklore of the USA for many decades now. The 25th of November is also, since 1999, the International Day to End Violence against Women. In this spirit of thankfulness and of the fight for women’s right to be treated with as much respect as men are treated, I would like to dedicated this article to the role of fashion in the liberation and emancipation of women.
On this special day, I am thankful for what Coco Chanel and a few years later Yves Saint Laurent brought to these wonderful and powerful creatures, women.
Born in 1888, Gabrielle Chanel was one of the most influential designer and fashion icon of the 20th century. Raised as an orphan by the nuns, she did not have any education or manners which were really important at the time to succeed in a professional career. She already had a “rebel” spirit when she started working for different shops were rich women would bring their dresses to make them adjust. She would advice clients to cut the “haute couture” dresses or to readjust the length which was completely unusual coming from an assistant.
Later in her life she started creating hats and clothes. What made her so avant-garde was the fact that she wanted to create practical and comfortable clothes for women. She would abandon the waistline to free women’s bodies. It was new in the sense that women were still covered by accessories and tons of fabric in their dresses which made them look more like a cake rather than women wearing dresses. Pants were also an idea from Chanel, she did not understand why women were not allowed to ride horses in pants for example, so she tried later on in her career to insert them in her collections. The kind of masculine/feminine style was the first steps to the liberation of women and their control over their body as well as their independence.
Yves Saint Laurent, born and raised in Algeria was considered to be the genius of fashion until his death in 2008. First intern at Dior were the code of the traditional haute couture, rigid and type of “leisured” women style, were still in place, he took the head of the house when Christian Dior passed away. In 1998, Yves starts his own haute couture house. What is exceptional about Saint Laurent is that he found the perfect harmony between feminine and powerful.
During the 60’s and after, women were fighting more and more for their rights to be emancipated from men. YSL understood them. In 1966 the famous “smoking” tuxedo was created. This attire was exclusively reserved for men at the time. Following this, he created the “saharienne” and the first high waist pants for women. This was the perfect opportunity for women to mark society saying “ I am a working woman, I am powerful and I am still feminine!”.
Parallel to this development of an independent woman kind of clothes, he had the perfect idea to keep it feminine. He brought to the world the new (maybe choking) transparency in clothes. Giving women the possibility to be in control of their own body. Yves Saint Laurent was the first one to launch a ready to wear collection while having his haute couture house. It is really important for women because they had the possibility to carry clothes with a statement. Emancipation and freedom from their body.
To finish this article, I would like to thank every women who for their rights around the world.
Happy Thanksgiving and do not forget to thankful for what you have!