Coco Chanel: The Creator of Costume
An arbiter of style, most admired for her ability to liberate women through radical dress, Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel and her innovative designs have withstood the test of time. Coco’s impeccable creations, from the classic tweed suit to the little black dress, were a sharp contrast to the traditional and restrictive pieces that dominated popular fashion at the time. Her sporty silhouettes, emphasized by simple and soft lines, encouraged women to free their physical forms in an unprecedented way. After mastering the art of fashion and fragrance, Coco Chanel made opulent costume jewels her next endeavor.
“Accessories are what makes or marks a woman,” Mademoiselle Chanel once confidently declared. And ever since the 1920s, when she first collaborated with expert costume jewelers, Chanel stayed loyal to this proclamation, devoting an immense amount of her time to jewelry design. By mixing Chanel’s iconic but understated garments with more whimsical accessories, the fashion world was immediately awed by these playful design combinations. Until Coco Chanel leaned into the untapped potential of costume jewelry, these accessories were considered a faux pas, perceived as being only for women who couldn’t afford the real thing. As always, Coco was unfazed by the status quo. If anything, she used it as fuel for change. She discovered a provocative delight in mixing precious materials with faux ones and embraced it fully. From piling on necklaces and sautoirs made of faux pearls to layering an unprecedented number of brooches and cuff bracelets, Coco Chanel showed the world that costume jewelry was the wave of the future.
Chanel’s Iconic Motifs
From tweed camellias and enamel CCs to the signature Maltese cross, motifs are Chanel’s precious source of inspiration. These iconic emblems largely began with Coco Chanel herself; namely, camellias were famously Mademoiselle's favorite flower, and the Maltese cross was a collaborative design between her and Sicilian aristocrat and jet-setting playboy, Duke Fulco di Verdura. Yet, it was Karl Lagerfeld who cemented these symbols as mainstay design elements, keeping the connection to Chanel’s eponymous founder alive. During his reign as creative director of Chanel, Lagerfeld adorned runway models in costume accessories from faux pearls to camellia flowers, using these historically rich designs as a natural extension of the collection’s garments.
Signature Styles of the Costume Earring
Highly sought-after for their unique and varied styles, Chanel costume earrings are one of a vintage hunter’s most treasured finds. From Baroque inspired nest clip-ons to the Pearl CC Drop design, these earrings can be anything from an outfit’s finishing touch to a show-stopping statement piece. Additionally, these costume earrings are often accompanied by a matching ring or cuff bracelet, establishing a complete, unified look. Though earrings started to become more of a focus of Chanel costume jewelry collections in the 1990s, interestingly, it wasn’t until the 2000s that the brand introduced pierced earring designs. As such, most vintage Chanel earrings are a variation of the clip-on. The stud clip-ons are recognized for their delicate beauty, often adorned with playful flowers and stars. The drop earring, with a dangling design in colored glass and pearl, tends to highlight the iconic interlocking CC design. Finally, the most dramatic variation is the statement earring, often in a chandelier style with dripping strands of natural stones and cultured pearls. Regardless of era or style, Chanel costume earrings are both glamorous and novel, creating visual interest through their contrast and excess.