Thursday, January 10, 2008

On This Day in History

On this day in 1971: Fashion icon Coco Chanel died.

Fashion designer Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, one of the most influential designers of the 20th century, died today at the age of 87.

"She rescued women from the corsets and long-skirted frills of the Edwardian and World War I eras and in 1916 introduced inexpensive jersey cloth to high fashion. Tweed suits with jersey blouses, bell-bottomed trousers, trenchcoats and pea jackets, turtleneck sweaters and the collared and cuffed little black dress were Coco innovations," reported The News on January 11, 1971. "She introduced the sailor hat, and when she impulsively bobbed her hair one night another fashion sensation was born."

Chanel, who was raised in Auvergne, in south-central France, moved to Paris in her twenties to open a millinery shop. "Although her money was borrowed, her ideas were her own, and she opened up a tiny shop in an obscure section of Paris, where she made a few hats and demanded a price for them that was four times as high as any Parisienne had ever thought of paying before," explained The Edwardsville Intelligencer on November 20, 1931. Chanel's hard work, strong will and innovation quickly made her an icon in the fashion industry. NOTE: Her most popular perfume, Chanel No. 5, was launched in 1922 and is still well-known throughout the world.

Ah, Coco!

One of the best research tools a writer can have is a subscription to a newspaper archiving service. A good trick is to look up dates a few days BEFORE a historical event took place. It helps to read accounts of the preparation for any events that turned out unexpectedly to be historical. For example, by researching local Texas newspapers for the three days prior to Kennedy's death, I got background material for a piece I was writing about a child's reaction to the assassination.

Reading about how Dallas locals prepared for the Kennedy's visit was very helpful in gleaning some speculative info expressed by the locals. There was much talk about the First Lady's wardrobe and her penchant for Coco Chanel suits including much buzz by the "ladies at lunch" crowd about who was wearing what to the many events that were scheduled for the 22nd. of November, 1963. Details such as this can be very helpful in creating a realistic fictional account.

Recommended subscription services? If you're a student, you probably have access to Lexis-Nexus via your college or university. However, a good online service available to the general public for around $90 a year is Newspaper Archives dot com.

Jacqueline Kennedy in Chanel

P.S. Completely off topic...but a Swedish friend made this soup for me the other night. I don't usually eat eggs, but I recommend this recipe highly!

Roasted Garlic Soup with Poached Eggs and Croutons

¼ cup olive oil
10 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon smoked Spanish paprika
4 slices of a baguette, cut on the bias
4 cups vegetable stock
4 eggs
Fresh grated Parmesan cheese

Heat olive oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add whole garlic. Cook until lightly browned and very fragrant. Remove garlic from oil and add baguette slices and toast, over medium or medium-low heat, until browned on both sides. Add smoked paprika to pan and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Then add stock and cooked garlic to pan. Cook over medium to medium-low heat for about 10 minutes.

In the meantime, crack the 4 eggs into separate ramekins. Bring soup up to a low boil. Carefully drop each egg into the soup stock. Cover and remove from heat. Allow to sit 10 minutes.

Scoop each egg out into 1 of 4 bowls. Ladle soup on top. Top of each and grated cheese, salt and pepper, if desired. Serve with a toasted baguette slice.

Stacy Alexander