Today is Coco Chanel's 127th birthday. Of course, she's still alive. Get over it.
Details of Chanel's early life are ambiguous. Mademoiselle has a fertile imagination and reworked her story as often as she reworked her creations.
In a family life's absence, a child invents one. Chanel was no different. For once.
Her story wasn't the only thing the rebellious designer had reworked.
By wearing men and their clothing, Chanel reworked feminism. The gold-fingered status quo hating designer was unapologetic about being kept by wealthy men.
Here's how originality and sugar daddies caused her rise and fall.
Coco, the gigolo
A father figure's absence seems Chanel's source of reworked feminism.
Chanel's feminism was "reworked" because, through her masculinized clothes, Coco emulated the attitude of a man. She, certainly, had sex like one.
This is when Chanel earned the label of "maneater."
She didn't want to prove a man's presence in a woman's life unnecessary. Quite the contrary. She wanted men in her life. As romantic entertainment only. If marriage ensued, fine. If not, a sea of boy-toys awaited.
Then, Coco got trapped by her stereotypical grasp of men's nature.
While a player puts away his player ways and settles down for a family, Chanel went all the way in her gigolo imitation, seeking noncommittal admiration.
It's no surprise she married no man. And she had had the opportunity.
Chanel and sugar daddies
Chanel's dating resume is full of sugar and daddies.
While a purist feminist refuses to be kept by a man, Chanel's rise to prominence was, partly, thanks to financial contributions courtesy of her wealthy lovers.
First, there was Etienne Balsan. Textile heir whose live-in mistress she'd become. Balsan showed Chanel the bourgeois lifestyle. Once his lack of commitment exasperated her. She left him and took over his Paris apartment.
Then, came Balsan's friend, Arthur Edward 'Boy' Capel.
Capel was a British businessman with no parents. Like Chanel, he climbed up the social ladder to erase all trace of his past, so shameful by that time's norms.
No wonder she referred to him as "my father, my brother, my family."
Unlike Balsan, Capel encouraged Chanel's artistic ambition. So much so, he volunteered to finance her now-renowned maison de couture, 31 rue Cambon.
But he had to marry a British heiress to ensure his social ascension.
Coco was no heiress but became Capel's mistress for the nine ensuing years, until he died in a car accident — The first of many Chanel's lovers to die so.
I have reason to believe the second C in Chanel's interlaced C's logo had, ever since, stood for Capel — He was her one and only true love, after all.
Generous maneater or greedy homewrecker?
In 1920, at the apogee of her glory, she helped fallen Russian composer, Igor Stravinsky, his sick wife and children, by welcoming them into her house.
A torrid affair followed.
Astonishingly, despite maneating, Chanel was never a homewrecker.
It was as if she was trying to teach her lovers' wives how to keep their husbands. By showing them what these men liked in her: her elegant rebellion.
Her rebellion may be why she had an affair with a Nazi-German officer, thanks to whom she could make the Ritz Hotel her lieu de residence for 30 years.
The Duke of Westminster vowed to leave his wife if Coco gave him an heir.
Chanel declined, famously saying:
"There have been many Duchesses of Westminster. There's only one Chanel."
Treat 'em mean, keep 'em keen. Eh, Coco?
Infertility or figure preservation?
Chanel can easily be thought to have desired having children.
Interviews hint that she was either barren or her body wasn't for bearing kids.
For one, she was obsessed with lion statues, a French folklore fecundity symbol. Second, Chanel despised ugly thighs in mini skirts, explaining:
If [women] had an idea of the academy of the body, they'd know that when we have ugly knees, we also have ugly hips ... we're too large [at the hips] ... we're built to bear children.
So infertility or superficiality?
Whether she truly was a maneater, a homewrecker, or an orphan girl with blind ambition, Chanel remains a funny character. In her independence. In her defiance of social norms. In her rebellious spirit. In her candor and sensitivity.
No wonder she still fascinates to this day.
Let's sing along to "GLAM" and wish granny Coco a Happy Birthday!