Coco Chanel; The Legend and the Life by Justine Picardie (Book Review)

Coco Chanel The Legend and The Life by Justine Picardie book review pin

Coco Chanel; The Legend and The Life

About the book

In Coco Chanel – The Legend and the Life, Justine Picardie attempts to unravel the true history of one of fashion’s most intriguing icons.

The book chronicles Chanel’s eventful life, beginning with a childhood of poverty and abandonment in rural France.

The tale weaves through Chanel’s various metamorphoses; seamstress, singer, rich man’s plaything, to her burgeoning career making hats, and later clothes, for the darlings of French high society.

As well as documenting the birth and rise of the House of Chanel, Picardie also explores the stories behind the infamous perfume, diamonds, handbags and, of course, trademark jersey suits, with insights into how these designs were born and the influences that lead to Chanel’s inspired vision for women’s clothing.

Beyond the world of haute couture, the book also examines the many facets of Chanel’s life and personality; her friendships and alliances, her business acumen, her politics, her various homes, her passionate love affairs and heartbreaking tragedy.

Throughout the book, Picardie attempts to tease out the facts from the many myths and Chanel’s own embellishments (or, on occasion, absolute lies).

The result is a reverent but realistic portrait, which includes some honest insights into Chanel’s darker side.

The story of Coco ends with her death in Paris aged 87, in the Ritz hotel where she had lived for over thirty years.

Her legend, and her legacy, live on.


Why I loved it

Chanel’s life, loves, work and adventures really come alive in this spellbinding biography.

Justine Picardie has done a thorough and successful job in documenting the life of Coco Chanel – when I finished the book, I really felt as though I knew Mademoiselle Chanel and her glamorous world of Paris and Le Beau Monde.

The pictures in the hardback edition provide an engaging complement, and relevant, too – given the visual nature of a designer and her influences. 

“Legend is the consecration of fame.”

~Coco Chanel 1935

chanel no 5 paris eau de parfum iconic perfume bottle brand
{ The iconic branding and packaging of Coco Chanel’s work
is as legendary as the products themselves. }
The pictures also provide the vicarious thrill of peeking into Chanel’s real life.

I loved seeing where she lived, what she wore, where she went on holiday and the exotic or stately homes belonging to her circle of friends.

The snapshots were also useful for putting faces to the many names that appear throughout the pages.

(Although given Chanel’s celebrity and well-connected friends and lovers, the supporting cast features some of the 20th century’s most recognisable names.)

Many of the early photos are black and white, given the era, but they still give a captivating insight into the life behind the legend.

Although meticulous in its detail, the narrative is totally absorbing.

It took me two days to devour this sumptuous, sweeping chronicle of the life of Coco Chanel.

I couldn’t put it down.

In fact, as I flick back through the pages whilst writing this review, I wish I could hide from the modern world again and curl up with Justine Picardie’s beautifully crafted world of Coco and friends.


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Hi! I'm Danielle.

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You’ll love this book if;

• You’d like to discover the background to Chanel’s life, her childhood and influences, her loves and losses

• You are interested in fashion design and haute couture

• You enjoy the life stories of strong, determined, pioneering women

• You’d like an insight into the social lives of royalty, world leaders and the aristocracy during the last century

• • • 



Continuing my fascination with this era and its players, I have now also read – and lovedThe Secrets of Chanel No 5 and The Hotel on Place Vendome, both by Tilar J Mazzeo.

I highly recommend both, if you enjoy absorbing and beautiful written non-fiction books.

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