CHANEL 2.55 BAG (1955)

Rarely has a bag come with so much baggage. This luxurious quilted shoulder bag has become synonymous with the Chanel brand as those two other great fashion icons: the little black dress and the tweed suit.

Hollywood actress Mia Farrow with a Chanel 2.55 bag

Unlike those to garments – the product of Chanel’s salad days in the 1920 and 1930s – the 2.55 was a star product of the designer’s comeback period in the 1950s, after the reputed scandal of her wartime love affair with a Nazi and her temporary eclipse by Christian Dior. For all the canny marketing that lay behind  it, the 2.55 was a deeply personal creation. Its every detail was swathed in the not-so-private mythology of Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel (1883-1971).

Coco Chanel, carrying her 2.55 bag in Paris, 1960

The diamond quilting is said to have been variously inspired by the jackets of stable lads and stained-glass windows of the abbey near her convent school. The burgundy lining was inspired by the color of her school uniform, and the hand-braided chain strap by the key chains that dangled from the waists of the nun. The Catholic-tinged aura of sinful luxury is compounded when one discovers that the zippered compartment in the front flap is said to be a reference to a secret place in her own handbag where she kept her billets-doux (love letters).

Jackie O with a Chanel 2.55 bag

And the code-like name? Well, it comes as something of a relief to learn that this merely records the date of its creation: February 1955.