Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Different Like Coco

Different Like Coco

Elizabeth Matthews
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 6 to 9
Candlewick Press, 2007   ISBN: 978-0763625481

Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel came from a poor family. Her mother was often ill and her father was rarely around and Coco spent many hours playing my herself pretending to be one the rich and beautifully dressed ladies whom she saw in the marketplace. When she was only twelve Coco’s mother died and Coco and her sisters were sent to an orphanage. It was here that Coco learned how to sew and soon she was using her imagination to make beautiful rag dogs. She also used her imagination to fantasize about what she hoped would be her glorious future and to help her make up lies about her present.

At a finishing school Coco learned to copy the well-to-do girls. She developed the poise and arrogance which these girls had, until she seemed to be one of them. When her time at the school was over Coco went to work in a tailoring shop and she made all her own clothes. The clothes she made for herself were quite different from the ones that were in fashion at the time. Coco did not wear a corset and her hemlines were shorter than was usual. She even went so far as to wear “men’s clothes.”

Then when she was twenty-one Coco met a wealthy Englishman called Arthur “Boy” Capel at a polo match and the two fell in love. Coco was not marriage material because of her family’s lower “social standing” but Boy loved her all the same and he bought Coco her own clothing boutique in Paris. This was just the beginning for the woman who would become of the most famous clothing designers of all time. Coco not only made clothes that were comfortable and attractive but she also challenged, and triumphed over, an established social order which made it almost impossible for the different classes to mix.

This is a wonderful book that will delight young readers who have an interest in fashion and who are drawn to stories about strong women who will not take no for an answer. Coco Chanel dared to be “different” and her distinctive style still influences fashion today.