Friday, 29 August 2008

The Colour Champagne

I have been wondering when the colour Champagne actually got its name. Champagne covers several pale shades of beige, peach and pale gold and reflects elegance and luxury. So when did beige become Champagne? Given the popularisation of Champagne in the late 1860s by the music hall song Champagne Charlie maybe the fashion industry woke up to the fact that designs would be more appealing if linked to the drink itself. The Roaring Twenties certainly had flapper dresses in Champagne (which incidentally are making a comeback this year) but it's not until the 1950s that you start to see the colour actually using this name.

Coco Chanel, France's greatest couturier, created the Chanel 2.55 bag so that ladies could carry their purse over their arms leaving their hands free to drink champagne. The bag was revolutionary in its time due to the addition of a chain strap. Coco declared that she only drank champagne on 2 occasions . . . when she was in love and when she wasn't.

Coco added the chain straps after becoming tired of holding her own bags in her hands, and losing them. Interestingly, the double chain is said to be based on her experiences as a child, in an orphanage, where the caretakers would dangle keys from their waist. Coco was born in 1883 in Saumur. Her mother worked in the poorhouse and died when Coco was only 6 years old. She opened her first millinery shop in 1912 and rose to become one of the premier fashion designers in Paris, France. All of her clothes were emblazoned with the famous Chanel symbol; this, however, was not of her own design. The symbol was given to her by the owner of the Château de Cremat (a Château on the outskirts of Nice in the south of France).

Coco replaced the corset with comfort and casual elegance, her fashion themes included simple suits and dresses, women's trousers, costume jewellery, perfume and textiles. Her modernist philosophy and pioneering spirit in design made her arguably the most important figure in the history of 20th century fashion.

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