These two titles tell us about main characters who rose from rags to riches. They also tell us a great deal about modern fashion history. The first is a biography of Coco Chanel, the second, a Cinderella retelling with a fashion-centric twist.
This picture book biography focuses on how Coco Chanel came from nothing and succeeded through her own hard work and ingenuity, that she bucked conventions of femininity, and that she has had unfathomable influence on fashion right up until today.
She embodies simple, sophisticated cool.
Coco learned to sew and embroider in the convent where she grew up after her mother died. I love the image of that giant nun looking over the girls and can’t help but notice its simplicity and starkness, a signature for Coco’s later self. I also love how Haeringen has given young Coco red lips. Another signature!
“I’ll never wear a corset!” said Coco. “Nor endless skirts with full hips. I’ll make a dress that you won’t even feel when you’re wearing. A dress you can dance in and ride a bicycle with.” And that’s what she did.
Coco made hats for wealthy people, but hats that were less ridiculous than the day’s typical fare. She made a classic perfume. And, yes, she popularized the little black dress.
Big thanks to NorthSouth Books for images of Coco and the Little Black Dress!
“Cinderella” is full of fashion. The gown, the shoe!!
From Grimm‘s: “They [the stepsisters] took her beautiful clothes away from her, dressed her in an old gray smock, and gave her wooden shoes.”
Guarnaccia’s version makes perfect sense! It’s a fairly traditional telling but with illustrations brimming with famous frocks.
You may notice that this Cinderella looks a lot like Twiggy. One nod to fashion history of many!
And of course Cinderella and her fairy godfather must try on more than one gown to get it just right!
The book has a 60s modern feel; only the cruel stepsisters feel decidedly older-fashioned.
The endpapers serve as a kind of visual glossary and I love how this book could be a perfect foray into fashion for a future dressmaker.
Images of the book from Steven Guarnaccia‘s website.
Kansai Yamamoto bodysuit designed for David Bowie; Varvara Stepanova sports clothing design.
You might also be interested in my post on Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau for some history of fashionable hats!