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'Fashion does not exist unless it goes down into the streets. The fashion that remains in the salons has no more significance than a costume ball.' -Coco Chanel

So you want to look like you're all about Chanel, huh? Well, my advice is don't. At least not so much so that you look like a fashion victim buying whole pre-made outfits right off the runway. The key with Chanel, as well as any other designer really, is to add pieces to what you already wear and love. Wear a Chanel tank top with it's interlocked CC with a comfortable pair of tweed pants and your favorite coat. It's not only a way to advertise your taste (and all clothes are, in some way, an advertisment of who we are and what we like) but to show a little origionality. Basically the idea here is to mix and match. Because it doesn't matter if you shop at K-Mart or Michael Kors, when you wear a whole outfit head-to-toe from a designer it looks somehow like you are the Fashion Victim. Mixing and matching also doesn't look like you are trying to show off your good taste to impress others. Instead it looks like you found a great piece you love and you have some imagination. Fashion shows are shows and not usually based in real world street fashion. So taking something you love from a collection and using it as a layer in your other clothes, shows true style.

That said, here is one exception: The Chanel suit. (Yes, this article could be applied to many designers, but I'm sticking to Chanel) The boucle suit with the chain in the hem to give it just the right drape. Loaded with 2-10 pearl necklaces and possibly a lovely pair of two-tone pumps. That is a fashion INVESTMENT. I loved it on Sex and the City when Carrie needed to extract a serious promise from her boyfriend and so, in her closet, asked "Do you swear on the Chanel?". It was a Chanel suit. It is a classic. It is also butt-expensive. However, if you want the Chanel look without the Chanel price (for the suit I mean) here are a couple of ideas.

First, make it yourself. A Google search of "Chanel Patterns" revealed some nice vintage patterns that are really sweet. Add that contrast trim all around it's hemlines and 2 to 4 pockets on the front (again, with contrast trim) and it's got a nice Chanel look. If you are not the seamstress, but have some sewing talent, you can buy a nice already-made cardigan and matching knit knee-length skirt (I think Ivory would be a good choice) and add the trim all around, taking a look at a picture of a Chanel suit you wish to emulate as you add decoration. And Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel was a big fan of fake pearls and costume jewelry herself, so don't forget to get several strands. Urban Outfitters is good for that right now, as they sell a few necklaces made of several different sized strands of faux pearls and silver chain. A chain belt is a good Chanel-esque choice too. But try to be a little subtle. If you use every Chanel-style fashion element you get bogged down. Better to have a nice look that doesn't scream "SEE? It's Chanel!" but instead whispers her name.

Don't forget that you CAN own the real thing as well. Either you save your pennies with great discipline or you can head on over to e-bay and type in Chanel. Not only does this give you access to the real deal, you also have a nice selection of Chanel accessories to wear for a more subtle Chanel influence. And subtle is GOOD. For example, when I went in for my last eye exam I fell in love with some black Chanel frames I had seen advertised in Vogue. I may not be able to afford the suit, but I could afford the glasses, so I wear a little Chanel every day. I don't like my glasses BECAUSE they are by a designer who's house produces clothes I usually like, but that does make them a little extra nice.

Lastly is the Chanel you can own that doesn't break the bank. By this I mean cosmetics. The Chanel make-up line has some lovely better-quality pieces. You'll pay $29 for a really nice eyeshadow, but you will be owning and using the real designer product. If you want to buy that instead of Max Factor, you go right ahead. Naturally too is the famous Chanel No. 5. You may dislike all Chanel clothing but that is, if I remember correctly, the best selling perfume in history.

Not everyone likes Coco Chanel. She was a talented woman but had many flaws too. Some believed her to be a racist and a Nazi sympathizer. I don't know if this is true. I know she wasn't overly generous with her workstaff. In a recent biography of her I read that she didn't pay her models much, citing, "They are beautiful, let them take lovers" as a reason, sort of. But the woman did have a good eye for style and design. She helped bring pants to women's fashion and the Little Black Dress. Thanks Coco, where ever you are.

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