Nikki Patel takes you through the history of the iconic Chanel 2.55 handbag. Imagined first by Coco Chanel in Paris, this piece is one of the most timeless, infamous and versatile accessories a girl could own.
Back in the 1920s Paris, before becoming a sartorial stalwart or young and old alike, Chanel dreamed up the 2.55 in its simplest form, a handbag with a strap. Despite its simplicity, this innovative sense of chic practicality, reflected the ever increasing status of females in society, and their translation from limited domestic lives to positions of power. After all, having your hands free is essential when you’re busy trying to revolutionise the face of female fashion.
Inspired by soldier’s packs, the 2.55 was actually launched in February 1955 and for what its name lacked in originality, it more than made up for in terms of style. Quilted and adorned with a strap of gilt chain, most people are not aware that the significance of its design runs a lot deeper than the aesthetic. For instance, the iconic quilted design of the 2.55’s lambskin gives it just the perfect amount of body, whilst the chain is said to be based on the key chains of the caretakers at her convent orphanage in Aubazine. Most strikingly, the ‘secret’ pocket, hidden within its flap closures is said to have been designed to hold Coco Chanel’s love letters, adding an endearing sense of romanticism to the iconic piece.
As with everything, the 2.55 has of course evolved over the years. Lagerfeld famously added the intertwined ‘C’ logo in the 1980s and it has since been reimagined to reflect the dynamic and changing trends of the 21st century. However, the evergreen it-bag doesn’t seem to have betrayed its creative roots, managing to maintain that same paradox between humility and sophistication dreamt up by Chanel in the 20s. Whether worn with jeans and a jersey t-shirt or an LBD and pearls, it is the ideal accessory and a sure-fire investment both financially and in terms of timeless style.
In fact, the 2.55 handbag seems to have become ingrained in our cultural consciousness, hence its status as an unforgettable icon. Having been slipped over Princess Diana’s shoulders on official visits, featured in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and worn by celebrities such as Alexa Chung, Jerry Hall and Catherine Zeta Jones, it is clearly a go-to for those seeking sophistication, style and practicality in its simplest form. Long live the 2.55.