Mary E Davis’ Ballets Russes Style: Diaghilev’s Dancers and Paris Fashion gives some insight into the stylistic goals of Gabrielle (Coco) Bonheur Chanel. 1 Chanel’s style catered to wealthier women in the coastal resorts near the town of Deauville.
These women were sporty, many of them indulging in surfing, tennis, golf, and other athletic activities the town had to offer. Chanel “devised a simple system of dress founded on her philosophy that ‘fashion must come up from streets'”. Her re-imagination of elegance was one of ‘comfort, ease, and common sense’. Her resort couture in Deauville was a very popular place among the clientelle, and while her clothing was made from the ideas of the workplace, it was made of expensive material and labor. The price tags exemplifies this idea. Her shop in Deauville made so much money during the war from its practicality and clientelle that she opened three more shops in Paris. After the first World War was over, Chanel’s name had become renowned. This is all necessary to answering the question, “Why does Chanel have anything to do with French music?”
Gabrielle Chanel met Sergei Diaghilev in 1920 at a fairly low point in the career of Ballets Russes. The company needed a new aesthetic after the war, and much financial assistance. She offered to pay, with the money pouring in from her fashion franchise, a large sum of money to put on a revival of The Rite of Spring. Chanel then took full advantage of her action and became a patron of real seniority in Diaghilev’s circle. She outfitted the dancers of the Ballets Russes for Milhaud’s ballet, Le Train Bleu, and was as heavily involved with the Ballets Russes during the 1920s as Diaghilev, Stravinsky, Nijinska, or Les Six. Chanel brought a new style to both the attendees of these performances with sleek and functional dresses and to the performers, with a “Russian” style of dressing the performers.
This source does well to give an abbreviated history of Chanel’s fashion business as well as her involvement as a patron-stylist for the Ballets Russes, but does not give an in-depth analysis of the importance of her work to French music. Milhaud, a member of Les Six, was a huge figure in French composition, and Chanel’s new lifestyle clothing was exemplified with Milhaud’s music. This was shown off as a scene from a train. Both the music, the choreography, and the style of the performers were driven by everyday life. This is one aspect of Chanel’s impact on French music.
- Davis, Mary E.. Ballets Russes Style : Diaghilev’s Dancers and Paris Fashion. London, GBR: Reaktion Books, 2010. Accessed September 27, 2015. ProQuest ebrary.