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The History of the Chanel 2.55 bag

By Kal Di Paola on Apr 07 2013

The Chanel 2.55 is undoubtedly one of the most famous bags of all times, sharing its status with the Hermes Kelly/Birkin. It’s easy to see why this bag remains in such high regard and why it continuously makes it onto the wish list of style conscious women worldwide.

The history of the Chanel 2.55 tells the story of Coco Chanel herself. Coco Chanel born Aug 19th 1883 as Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel. Her peddler father put her in an orphanage after her mother died and she was raised by nuns who taught her how to sew. She was nicknamed Coco during a short career as a singer, (apparently short for cocotte meaning “kept women”). She opened her first shop in 1910 originally a hat shop and clothing followed later. Her signature perfume Chanel No. 5 was first launched in the 1920’s and The Chanel Suit and the LBD revolutionized how the modern woman would dress. Coco Chanel was committed to glamour, perfection and craftsmanship but believed “luxury must be comfortable otherwise it is not luxury” Her pursuit for excellence and intuition for what women really desired saw the growth of her fashion empire. By 1935 she employed 4000 staff!

Coco Chanel History

Unfortunately due to the 1930’s economic downturn and the outbreak of WWII she was forced to shut down her shops. During the war she met a German military officer and was later arrested for having collaborated with the Nazis. She was not officially charged but public opinion turned on her as some viewed her relationship with a Nazi officer as betrayal of her country. She took exile in Switzerland but returned to Paris in 1954 to make a successful comeback to the fashion industry. The first version of the 2.55 had actually been introduced in 1929 as a bag that could be carried on the shoulder leaving the hands free. The 2.55 was updated in Feb 1955 and was named after it’s birth date.

Chanel Reissue 2.55

The bag takes inspiration from Coco’s life. The chains were inspired by the key chains carried by caretakers at the convent, the lining by the colour of the uniforms worn by the wealthiest of the convent girls, an inner pocket was designed to hold love letters and the quilted leather was inspired by coats worn by the jockeys at her boyfriends stables.

Coco Chanel died in 1971. A decade later Karl Lagerfield took over as chief designer and released an exact copy of the original 2.55 in February 2005 in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the creation of the original. The original “Reissue 2.55” had the original mademoiselle lock and the all chain handle.

Over the years it has been updated with many variations to the original 2.55 design.

It now comes in different fabrics, with one or two flaps, with interwoven leather as well as the original chain strap and with an interlocking double c clasp instead of the mademoiselle lock. The name for the modern version with interlocking C’s and leather interwoven chain is the Classic Flap and comes in 3 different sizes. Small (9″ x 5.5″ x 2″) Medium (10″ x 6″ x 2.5″) and Jumbo (12″ x 8″ x 3″).

Shop a specially sourced selection of Vintage Chanel at BuyMyWardrobe.