chanel 1930s

Evening ensemble 

Design House: House of Chanel (French, founded 1913)

Designer: Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel (French, Saumur 1883–1971 Paris)


Culture: French

Medium: silk, feathers

Location: The Met

With the introduction of her couture shop to the Parisian fashion radar in 1914, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel did not adhere to the exoticist constructive details or extravagant surface elaborations of many of her peers, but seemingly created an entirely new female fashion persona. Governed by an alternative modernism, her oeuvre catered to idyllic comfort and moveability, while her finishing techniques and intentionally ostentatious accessory items provided the Parisian upper classes a fashionable exclusivity. Streamlining both silhouette and texture, Chanel’s eveningwear was as elegant as her daytime designs were practical.
This gown and matching evening cape, constructed from Chanel’s signature black silk crêpe and embellished with combed ostrich feathers, embodies the fluid movement and elegance equally suitable for the 1930s dance hall and the private cocktail party.

Jewellery designer Fulco di Verdura holding a Verdura Maltese Cross Cuff, and Gabrielle Coco Chanel (54), 31 rue Cambon, Paris, Photo by Boris Lipnitzki, 1937.

The Chanel Years.

A meeting in 1919 put Fulco di Verdura on the path to discover what would be his life’s work. That year, he met Linda and Cole Porter – two of his biggest supporters and early backers – in Palermo. Six years later, during a party hosted by the Porters in Venice, Linda introduced Fulco to Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, who would go on to hire Fulco as a textile designer in 1927. Quickly identifying his talents, Chanel asked him to update the settings of jewelry she had been given by ex-lovers, including Bendor, Duke of Westminster, and the Russian Grand Duke Dmitri. Impressed with his work, Chanel began what would be an eight-year collaboration by making him head designer of Chanel jewelry.

Not long after Fulco started working for Chanel, he created her now iconic Maltese Cross Cuffs, setting a gold cross adorned with bright cabochons in white enamel. A year later, Chanel boutiques sold a piece of costume jewelry modeled after the cuffs Fulco created. The cuffs are considered the hallmark of the Verdura brand and they have been copied many times over the years. (x)