Coco Chanel, By Linda Simon

Too many love stories, not enough fashion shows
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The Independent Culture

Born into poverty in 1883, Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel became a cultural icon with her invention of the little black dress.

But she was, as Linda Simon argues in this brisk biography, often unhappy. In her relationships, she insisted on wearing the (immaculately tailored) trousers, and this put paid to a number of affairs, including an ill-advised dalliance with a Nazi officer during the German occupation.

Too much of this book is devoted to Chanel's love life, and not enough attention is given to her astonishing talent, although Simon's assessment of the designer's legacy – her fashion helped redefine "femininity as a sort of adolescent insouciance" – is nicely put.