It’s almost impossible to speak of 20th-century fashion without mentioning Coco Chanel (1883–1971).
Her first shop opened in Paris in 1914, and by the 1920s she was one of the leading designers, producing everything from the little black dress to costume jewelry. The clean lines of her suits and the timeless style of her accessories earned her the devotion of women enjoying the new freedoms of the 1920s.
It was not until 1955 that she released her famous handbag, known as the “2.55.” Chanel believed modern women should not be encumbered by a hand-held bag, so the 2.55 was designed to be like a French soldier’s shoulder bag. It was diagonally hand-stitched to give it a quilted appearance. The house of Chanel still makes updated versions today.
Chanel enjoyed a revival from 1983, when Karl Lagerfeld took charge. He introduced a wide variety of new designs, including the printed clutch bag shown here.