Different Like Coco
By Elizabeth Matthews
The eyes of the world have been focused on Paris for very tragic reasons in recent weeks. And it may seem frivolous to mention in light of those past events, but this time the eyes of the fashion world will again be focused there as I recently read that Paris Fashion Week is just around the corner. Silly? Haute couture? Meaningless? For some that may be true, but somewhere in the world is a child dreaming of being another Coco Chanel or Hubert Givenchy. They may be saying to themselves, “What will people say?” “What will mom and dad say, if I tell them I am interested in being a DESIGNER?”
Perhaps here’s a picture book to put into the dreaming, designing hands of a young reader, either girl OR boy!
Coco Chanel was an original, holding her own against the wealthier well-bred young girls of the Paris of her time. She thought being different was an advantage in itself.
In a world where being true to who you are can come with a very high price tag, I think it is important to show it can be done without sacrificing your integrity or belief in yourself. That’s a very important message for young women or men to hear when so much of how they define themselves today can come from externals such as clothes, body image, popularity and the number of “Likes” on their Facebook page.
Coco Chanel was an innovator who brought her own brand of style based on an ease, simplicity and practicality. These were things that suited her own sense of style, yet caught the imagination of a generation in what they represented for everyday working woman. And Elizabeth Matthews’ picture book is a tribute to that journey from a rather deprived childhood to the heights of the world of fashion.
And who else but the inimitable Katherine Hepburn could play Coco on Broadway when her life became a musical. Talk about independent women playing independent women!
The inside front and end covers of the picture book are filled with Chanel quotes, such as “The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”, “In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.”, and my favorite is “How many cares one loses when one decides not to be something, but to be someone.” They add a keen insight into the thinking of this fashionable icon.
When I read this book, I kept remembering a quote I heard that goes something like, “ What would I attempt in life, if I knew I could not fail?” There are no guarantees such as that in real life.
It’s a wonderful thing to put a book in a young child’s hands that shows them that there are people who DO just that, they believe unerringly in themselves, and feel it is worth following the road less traveled.
Have your young reader follow the fashionable dreams of Coco and her Paris fashion life, and let them dream of what is possible.
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