Changing Possibilities

For our anniversary this weekend, my husband gave me perfume.
I asked for this kind of perfume, but I didn’t really expect him to get it.

So a fancy little box that was heavier than I expected was presented on the day of our anniversary. I could not guess what it was, until the box slid into my hand

Chanel No. 5

It smelled even better than I remembered. And so, for the rest of our meal, we did one of the things we do best.

With the help of our phone browsers we learned all about Coco Chanel and her perfume and fashion empire.

This perfume is from 1921, almost a hundred years ago.

I remember reading in old regency romance type novels, how women who were invited to balls were often told what perfume to wear. This was to keep the scents from becoming confused.

Eau de cologne was popular before. And scents were a message about what kind of woman you were.

Which is what Coco Chanel wanted to change. She chose a signature scent, which was different from all the others, and let a woman be what she chose to be.

And she didn’t stop there. She created a whole new kind of suit for women.

I had an idea in my mind of what a Chanel suit looked like, from photos of Jackie Kennedy in the 60s. Tailored, kind of tweedy, but very proper.

The first Chanel suit was very different. Taking a big step away from the corsets of the Victorian era, this suit was slouchy and made out of knit fabric. There was about as much shape as a bathroom.

I could never imagine Jackie Kennedy in an original Chanel suit.

But I could also imagine the women taking off their corsets to be more comfortable and active in these loose suits. What a big change! Just by creating a new option, women could renegotiate their place in the world.

Chanel lived through two world wars, and even famously collaborated with the Nazis when Paris was occupied. I do not admire that part of her story.

I do admire her ability to take her life out of the very humble beginnings and imagine new possibilities for everyone. That’s a nice thought on my 12th anniversary, as I smell this historic perfume on my wrist.

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