Fitting for the weather today. Nothing beats a good summer thunderstorm:
Doing a double-take.
1926 & 2016
I don’t often directly address fashion on SCOPES, so this will be a rare moment.
Let me take you back to 1926. The year Vogue first published Chanel’s little black dress. Or, to properly quote the publication, “Chanel’s Ford.” Although Chanel did not invent the dress, she fought for it. She took an unworthy fabric—jersey—and a frowned upon color—black—and made history. While the little black dress has been reinvented thousands of times over, it has remained a staple in women’s closets for decades since.
Fast forward to 2008. Eighty-two years after the image of the little black dress landed in the pages of Vogue. I’m standing at my Grandma’s wake, wearing my first, delivering her eulogy.
My Grandma passed away unexpectedly on July 30th, 2008. I was nineteen and enjoying a selfish summer after my freshman year at Boston College. Death wasn’t on my radar. Especially her death. At seventy-seven, my Grandma was not to die for another fifteen years. At least. (After all, we did have a centurion in the family!) There were rounds of golf to laugh about. There were summer evenings to walk in. There was my wedding to dance at.
Nope. Those days would never come.
So there we sat at her kitchen table planning her funeral. My anger was beginning to subside into a numbness. Out of no where I asked what my role would be in all of this. When given the options, I decided to say a few words. I would deliver my Grandma’s eulogy.
I knew what I wanted to say, and the story flowed onto the page.
Before walking out the door for her wake, something didn’t feel right. I changed my mind. I decided to wear the little black dress meant for the funeral. MOTS questioned the decision, but I felt a certain confidence in that garment. I wanted it for the wake. Unknowingly, I needed it to deliver those words steeped in love.
That evening I walked to the podium. I delivered her eulogy. There were no tears. There were no falters. There was confidence. A focused intensity to preserve a few lasting memories of my partner-in-crime.
There are no still words to capture the way my Grandma’s death ripped through me. Just a color and a dress. A simple black sleeveless sheath with a bow over the left shoulder.
In 1926, Gabriel Chanel received praise from Vogue with her little black dress. “A uniform for women of all taste.” Coco revolutionized the color black from mourning to strength, elegance, and sophistication.
In 2008, I received my first compliment as a writer wearing my little black dress. “You have a gift,” they said after the wake. I shrank back like a wallflower. They persisted, “No, really. You do.”
In 2014, I coined the phrase “living Coco.” The phrase isn’t about owning the Chanel 2.55 handbag, beige ballet flat, or tweed jacket. It’s about channeling her fiery passion. It’s about refusing to hear the word “no.” It’s about defying the odds and skirting the rules. Living Coco is about being irreplaceable.
My Grandma was irreplaceable. Her penchant for lipstick, habit for pouring a glass of scotch and water at 5, and spontaneous tap dance moves live on. I knew they would as I wrote for the wake. I didn’t set out to write the first eulogy or the last. I simply wrote hers.
And it’s a daunting task to sit down and know everything you’re about to say, has already been said. But as Chanel’s quote states, what makes something irreplaceable is how you do it. I constantly strive to channel her boldness and audacity to do things a little different.
I don’t need July 30th, to remember my Grandma. She’s here with me every minute of everyday. But I did need this weekend for reflection. Through it I faced my greatest fear in writing: that everything I write will be written again. And again.
My Grandma’s eulogy did more than celebrate her life. This year, it reminded me voice and perspective are Coco’s fabric and color. While mine aren’t praised in Vogue (yet…#goals), they do make my writing irreplaceable.
*I wouldn’t be here today without that compliment. I desperately wish I could remember who said those words, but the day was a blur. Please know you are a part of SCOPES each and every time I write. Thank you.
A modern take on "Chanel's Pearls," my favorite candid of my Grandparents, and the infamous Little Black Dress.