Coco Chanel, By Justine Picardie

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The Independent Culture

As her styles have endured, so the career of Coco Chanel has become a catwalk where writers and film-makers galore can strut their stuff.

Given the extent of the myths (some spawned by the imperious dressmaker), it takes a sharp eye and clear head to tell her tall, true story straight.

Picardie not only recounts the life with firmness and finesse – from forsaken childhood through the liaison with playboy "Boy" Capel through the world-conquering frocks and scents, and fierce controversies over wartime collaboration.

Her book is designed and illustrated with the sort of pleasing yet unobtrusive excellence that would have delighted its subject. For any fashionista bookshelf, this counts as the must-have equivalent of the Little Black Dress.