Book review: Coco Chanel: Pearls, Perfume, and the Little Black Dress, by Susan Goldman Rubin

Rubin, Susan Goldman. Coco Chanel: Pearls, Perfume, and the Little Black Dress. Abrams, 2018. $18.99. 133p. ISBN 978-1-4197-2544-9. Ages 10-14. P6Q8

Chanel No. 5 perfume made Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel famous among the masses in the United States, but the French fashion designer, born into poverty and later hated for her anti-Semitism and closeness to the Germans during World War II, survived the obstacles throughout her 88 years by sheer grit. Rubin’s biography illustrates the culture of the early and mid-20th century in a time when women controlled fashion design and women’s clothing moved to comfort from earlier dresses mandating girdles and corsets. Chanel’s innovation of more masculine clothing changed the way that women dressed despite her competition from Elsa Schiaparelli.

Verdict: Archival photographs of Chanel’s fashions and simple colored stripes and page borders provide an elegance to the book’s design, and Rubin’s biography gives a female perspective to the last century.

May 2018 review by Nel Ward.

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