This Colorized Photo Will Change How You Look At Coco Chanel

Coco Chanel is perhaps the world's most celebrated designer. Even 50 years after her death, owning or wearing her designs is a status symbol that not everyone can easily achieve. Born in France in 1883 as Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, she was orphaned by the age of 12 (via Biography). According to The Guardian, she was sent to an orphanage in a convent where she was taught how to sew by nuns. Ever the rebellious and free spirit, Chanel never married, but she did have several wealthy lovers. Business of Fashion states that these male admirers helped pay her bills and invested in her businesses.

Per The Met, Chanel opened her first shop in Paris in 1913 with the help of one of these lovers to much success. Her designs did away with corsets, shortened the length of skirts, and provided an androgynous shape (via The Independent). In other words, they were simple and practical — the complete opposite of what the world had seen up until that point. In the 1920s, she introduced the little black dress, which cemented her status as a fashion icon. Despite this, Chanel was forced to close shop in 1939 due to World War II. This, however, was not the end for the legendary designer.

Coco in color

It wasn't just Coco Chanel's designs that inspired the fashion world — it was also her lifestyle and fierce independence (via The Met). In the above colorized 1920 photo of Chanel, one gets the sense that she was unconventional for her time, and perhaps even for today. Her elegant frock and costume jewelry present the effortless style she made famous, and her boyish looks and slim figure are now highly sought out in the models that advertise her designs.

Chanel's tanned skin alludes that she prefers to be out and active, unlike other women who were expected to stay home. Her eyes, though captivating, are melancholy. Despite the glamorous life she is known for, Chanel was a woman who had to grapple for everything she wanted. She was loved by the world, but it's unknown if Chanel herself was ever in love, as she only unapologetically used men for their influence and for what they could give her.

According to Forbes, Chanel had an affair with a Nazi officer and was most likely a spy for German intelligence during the war. When it ended, she fled France and headed to Switzerland to avoid being punished for collaborating with the enemy (via Business of Fashion). In 1954, she made her triumphant return to fashion at the age of 71. According to The Guardian, Chanel presented a new successful collection and faced no repercussions for betraying her country. She later died in 1971 when she was 87.