Coco Chanel was the costume designer for Jean Renoir’s brilliant 1939 comedy of manners, La règle du jeu . She had also designed the costumes for La bête humaine (1938). At its release, the film was denigrated by the public, dismissed by the critics, re-cut by the producers and finally banned by the French government as demoralising and unpatriotic. On the surface, a series of interlinked romantic intrigues taking place in a country chateau during a weekend shooting party compose the basic plot. It’s in fact “a war film, and yet there is no reference to the war”, as its director says in his book, My Life and My Films. The satire is a sharp depiction of human nature and a study of the corruption and decay within the French society on the eve of the outbreak of the second world war.
This look, from a publicity shot (many times outfits show much better in publicity shots), is the one that stroke me the most as classic Chanel. Primarily comfortable. It could easily be made modern today. I remember this photograph of Coco Chanel in the company of Winston Churchill and his son at a Duke of Westminster’s hunting party in 1928 and the designer was dressed in a very similar outfit to this one: skirt with pockets, hunting jacket, scarf tucked into the jacket collar, leather gloves, long leather boots and hat. She always saw the real woman who would be wearing the clothes, embracing comfort and freedom in silhouettes.
Many of Coco Chanel’s designs had the origins in British country menswear. Boy Capel, from whom she borrowed blazers and jodhpurs when riding, had freed Chanel’s creativity, and during her involvement with the Duke of Westminster, from 1926 to 1931, Coco took up the quintessentially English country style and started to use the Duke’s own style as inspiration for her collections. That is also where her ideas for blazers, tweeds and soft belted coats originate. The style she imposed prevails to this day.
photo: publicity still | Nouvelles Éditions de Films