In the 1920s, Coco Chanel became tired of having to carry her handbags in her arms and decided to design a handbag that freed up her hands. Inspired by the straps found on soldiers’ bags she added thin straps and introduced the resulting design to the market in 1929.
After her successful comeback to the fashion industry in 1954, Chanel decided to update her handbag, for the modern woman. The resulting design was called 2.55 after the date of creation, February 1955.
The bag has a number of features:
- The lining’s burgundy colour represents the colour of the uniforms at the convent where she grew up.
- There is a zippered compartment at the inside of the front flap. That is where Chanel is rumoured to have stored her love letters in her original bag.
- The backside has a back outside flap for storage of money.
- Chanel, recognising that modern women needed to have their hands free while attending social functions, designed a double-chain shoulder strap, something common in downmarket products, but rare in luxury circles at the time. The chains were attached by leather-threaded chain inserted though eyelets. The caretakers of the convent where she grew up held the keys at their waist dangling from the same type of chains as the 2.55 shoulder strap chains.
- The bag originally came with a front lock called “the Mademoiselle Lock” (in reference to Coco Chanel never marrying). Since the 1980s, versions can also be supplied with a lock in the shape of a double CC logo. These called “Classic Flaps”.
- The bag has a quilted diamond or herringbone pattern on the exterior. Using a running stitch, this gives the bag shape and volume. The pattern is believed to have been inspired by several sources: by jockeys’ riding coats, by the stained-glass windows of the abbey at Aubazine, as well as by the cushions in Chanel’s Paris apartment.
Since its introduction, there have been several variations of the original design including different colour leather/fabric combinations, metal and interwoven leather straps and the lock, mademoiselle vs. interlocking CC.
Chanel released an exact copy of the original 2.55 in February 2005 in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the creation of the original. Though the name “Reissue 2.55” should apply only to those commemorative handbags it is now commonly used now as a name for all the handbags resembling the original 2.55.
- Pederson. Page 68.
- Wallach. Page 158.
- Fashion Office.org
- Kpriss. "Short History of The Famous Chanel 2.55 Bag", Style Fizz. Accessed October 17, 2008.
- Pedersen, Stephanie (2006). Handbags: What Every Woman Should Know. Cincinnati: David & Charles. pp. 128 pages. ISBN 0-7153-2495-0.
- Wallach, Janet (1999). Chanel: Her Style and Her Life. London: Mitchell Beazley. pp. 180 pages. ISBN 1-84000-202-6.