From the little black dress to the Burberry trenchcoat, these iconic fashion items have stood the test of time.
WORDS Victoria Tait
1. Chanel 2.55
In 1955, Coco Chanel was to change fashion history with the introduction of the Chanel 2.55. Tired of carrying handbags and inspired by the bags used by soldiers, Coco Chanel added a long strap that enabled the practical 2.55 to be worn over the shoulder. It was an immediate success. In the first year, the Chanel fashion house had to refuse orders because of the high demand. This changing moment in fashion history made it acceptable for upper class women to carry a bag on their shoulders.
2. Dior Ballet Skirt
After WWII, fashion yearned for something more frivolous, colourful and playful. Christian Dior presented just that with the voluminous ballet skirt. The iconic shape he represented was called the ‘New Look’. Today the ballet or full skirt is still popular and is often combined with an edgy leather jacket.
Christian Louboutin’s red soles were inspired by his assistant. The story goes that she was painting her nails in a bright-red colour, Louboutin took the nailpolish and began to paint the sole of the shoes. And so the bright red became the signature colour of Louboutin. The now-famous Louboutins are worn by many famous designers and celebrities.
4. YSL Smoking Jacket
At the height of the feminist movement Yves Saint Laurent introduced the ‘Le Smoking’ – the first tuxedo for women. The 1966 design was a turning point, allowing women to be feminine and masculine all at once. It was the first time women could wear a smoking jacket to dinner and other events, too.
5. Hermès Birkin
In the ’80s, Jane Birkin was seated next to Jean-Louis Dumas, the CEO of Hermès, on her flight from Paris to London. Jane was complaining that she never found the perfect weekend bag. Shortly after their meet-up, Jane Birkin received her personalised bag with a note. From that moment on, the Birkin became the most-recognised luxury handbag in the world, now selling for anywhere.
6. DvF Wrap Dress
Launched in 1972, Diane von Fürstenberg’s classic jersey wrap dress became an instant classic. The designer explains the success of this cult classic item perfectly: “Clothes have to reflect women’s liberation. Women today want versatile, simple, classic, comfortable, slimming clothes. This is the story of my success.”
7. The Chanel Suit
Chanel’s most iconic item almost never was. In 1923, Coco Chanel invited journalists to preview her new collection – and the Chanel suit barely even got a mention in the press reviews. It wasn’t until after WWII, when Coco reintroduced the suit, that it became a huge success.
8. Burberry Trenchcoat
Famously worn by British officers in WWI, the Burberry trenchcoat was designed to withstand harsh weather conditions. The D-shaped belt ring was used for attaching small items such as maps. Later the coat was modified and now is the brand’s most recognisable item.
9. Calvin Klein Slip Dress
In the 1990s, Calvin Klein gave the little black dress a makeover… by turning it into a casual-looking nightie. Made famous by Kate Moss, the slip dress was in the style of a petticoat and traditionally cut on the bias, with thin straps. Today, the dress has made a big comeback in what’s known as ‘the pyjama trend’.
10. The Little Black Dress
Before the 1920s, women used to wear black only while mourning. It was considered distasteful to wear it on any other occasion. One woman changed this view forever. Coco Chanel’s little black dress design graced the pages of Vogue in 1926, when the magazine published a sketch of the dress. Decades later, when Audrey Hepburn wore a Chanel dress in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), the fate of the cult item – as a true wardrobe essential – was sealed.