While many high fashion designers seek form over function when designing a woman’s bag, Coco Chanel was a realist. Even the name of the bag is practical; the 2.55 debuted in February of 1955 — the second month of ’55. The iconic features of the bag — the quilted wool fabric, chainlink strap, and burgundy interior — all serve practical functions as well as aesthetic ones. Join us as we stroll down fashion history lane and remember some of the most enduring handbags from the house of Chanel. Here is a brief history of the iconic Chanel flap bag.
The First High Fashion Shoulder Bag
In the decades leading up to the Fifties, “respectable” women were expected to use only clutches or handbags when they left the house. Coco Chanel was fond of breaking fashion and societal rules, and quickly changed this expectation. Her designs were truly revolutionary, both for fashion and for women to express their independence. Chanel’s 2.55 finally allowed women of all social statures to wear their bags comfortably over their shoulders.
The Iconic Mademoiselle Lock
While the Chanel Classic Flap bag is distinguished by its interlocking CC lock, that bag design came much later. The 2.55 bag featured a sturdy rectangular turn-key lock, ensuring that a woman’s private purse contents stayed private.
The Chain Link Strap
The no-nonsense chain strap of the 2.55 took its inspiration from Coco’s impoverished youth. Coco Chanel was raised in a French convent orphanage. The caretakers of the orphanage would dangle their keys from the same type of chains used as the 2.55’s shoulder straps. The same practical chains that safely held those convent keys kept Coco Chanel’s original bags safe as well.
The Burgundy Interior
Legend also has it that the particular shade of burgundy leather that has long been used to line the 2.55 was chosen to match the uniforms worn by Coco at the convent orphanage where she was raised. Whether or not that legend is indeed true, the red leather allows women to find contents in their bags much more easily. The Coco Chanel original bag often features the now iconic burgundy interior.
The Double Flap Design
While the iconic Chanel Flap bag has changed design over the years, the 2.55 has always had a double flap design. Under the top flap, Chanel bags have small zippered compartments that are unique to their structure. Some say that Coco designed the compartment as a clandestine spot to hide the love letters from her numerous affairs. While original 2.55 bags are notoriously hard to find, in 2005 Karl Lagerfeld reissued the 2.55 design exactly as it debuted 50 years prior. The materials and dimensions of the bag are all the same, just as Coco designed them. One thing has changed, however. In 1955, the 2.55 sold for just $220. Today a new 2.55 can cost as much as $6000.
The iconic Chanel flap bag is a wonderful addition to any fashion wardrobe. See more of our favorite Chanel treasures in our article about the pieces we are coveting from the new Chanel collection.