Saturday, March 24, 2018

Susan Goldman Rubin's "Coco Chanel"

Susan Goldman Rubin is the author of many biographies for young people, including Diego Rivera: An Artist for the People and Hot Pink: The Life and Fashions of Elsa Schiaparelli.

Goldman Rubin applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Coco Chanel: Pearls, Perfume, and the Little Black Dress, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Coco Chanel is half of a double spread photograph showing the faceted mirrors reflecting multiple images of the models presenting Coco’s fashion show. Coco, perched out of sight at the top of the staircase that is also lined with mirrors, watches the reactions of the audience to her newest collection. The photo truly represents the book because it captures Coco’s tension as she waits for the response. Coco’s passion was her work.

The following page 100 gives details of her process. Wielding scissors and an unfailing eye for elegance and comfort, she created her clothes directly on the models. Indifferent to their fatigue and suffering, she worked tirelessly as she strived for impeccable tailoring. “Skirts had to move easily, with the pockets falling at the right place for hands to slide into. Zippers were concealed in the stripes of a plaid.” On the night before a show, such as the one she is presenting in the photograph, Coco ripped apart seams and redid them to make sure “the underside is as perfect as the outside.”

This YA biography gives an honest account of Chanel’s climb to success. Born out of wedlock into miserable poverty, she spent difficult years in an orphanage, yet lied and said that she was raised by unmarried “aunts.” Using her wits, talent, and determination, she managed to make her way as a financially independent woman who became one of the most well known fashion designers in the world.

In the early twentieth century she freed women from corsets and girdles with her casual, comfortable clothes. She dipped into her boyfriends’ wardrobe and created feminine versions of their blazers, polo shirts, and cardigans. But she also enjoyed looking alluring. Some of her memorable firsts include “the little black dress,” the quilted shoulder bag with chain strap, and the perfume Chanel No.5. The book is gorgeously produced with photo illustrations of her fashions as well as images of the fussy dresses and hats worn by her contemporaries when she began her career. Like many great artists, Coco Chanel was as flawed as she was unconventional, and wholly original. A fascinating subject for a biographer!
Visit Susan Goldman Rubin's website.

Writers Read: Susan Goldman Rubin.

--Marshal Zeringue