It’s a silhouette that most women have dreamed of owning at some point in their life- the supple, elegantly quilted leather, the iconic chain strap, the perfectly interlocked C’s of a logo that exude the utmost airs of luxury: the timeless handbag we’ve come to know as the Chanel 2.55 Flap.
Sure, it all seems perfectly prescribed- after all, these elements make up one of the most coveted accessories to ever set foot in the fashion world. However, it is the stories behind each of these elements that make this classic bag just that much more interesting.
The bag was the brainchild of Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel and dates back to the 1920s when Coco had a bit of an epiphany and realized that handbags needed not only to be pleasing to the eye, but functional as well. Inspired by the packs carried by soldiers during the first world war, she decided to add a strap into her everyday handbag, making it hands free and much more convenient for her everyday life. For Coco, her genius lay in the idea of versatility. She wanted to create a bag that would not only compliment an evening gown or an everyday outfit, but also could be worn in a variety of ways on the body.
It wasn’t until February of 1955, nearly three decades after her first stroke of handbag genius, that the Chanel 2.55 Flap we’ve grown to know and love today was introduced to the public In fact, the numbers 255 symbolize the month and the year that the Chanel 2.55 bag was launched. Chanel’s original design was inspired very much by her early life which she spent in an orphanage at Aubazine abbey in France.
The metal chain handle is reminiscent of the chains that dangled from the waists of the caretakers at the orphanage, while the garnet color of the interior lining of the bag is based on the color of the uniform she and the other children were meant to wear. Even the iconic interlocking C logo that has become universally recognizable has a special meaning- it was derived from a stained glass window inside of the abbey.
In addition to using her childhood to fuel her design, Chanel also used experiences from her later life as well. She made certain that each pocket had a special purpose- interior welt pockets for a woman’s daily necessities, such as lipstick; a small hidden zipped compartment for love letters, as Coco was having an affair at the time; and a flat pocket on the back of the bag to store extra cash. Moreover, the rectangular turn-lock closure was given the name ‘Mademoiselle’ lock as Chanel never married, and thus never became a Madame.
Over the years, the basic style and silhouette of the bag has not changed since the original introduction in 1955. However, in the early 1980s when Karl Lagerfeld took over for the French fashion house, a few select elements of the bag were changed in an effort to update the classic bag with such a rich history. Lagerfeld adapted the original Mademoiselle lock to incorporate the classic Chanel interlocking C logo. He also updated the strap- the signature chain link strap interlaced with leather was the work of Mr. Lagerfeld as well. This new, modernized version has been coined Classic Flap by fashionistas everywhere, whereas the original bag designed by Coco herself is most often referred to as the 2.55.
The Chanel 2.55 50th anniversary
Not long after the Classic flap made its appearance, production ending on Coco’s original. It wasn’t until 2005 on the 50th anniversary of the bag that the Chanel 2.55 was reborn to commemorate the original design. Rightfully named, the ‘Reissue’ was introduced as an exact replica of the Chanel 2.55 flap created so many decades before. Since then, bags any bag bearing the Mademoiselle lock have been referred to as a ‘reissue.’ However, if we are speaking on technical terms, only bags produced in the year 2005 should be labeled as a ‘reissue.’ Nevertheless, the term ‘Reissue’ has become a popular way to differentiate between a bag with a Mademoiselle lock, and the newer classic flap with the interlocking C turn-lock. No matter the lock type, Chanel flap bags and their history have continued to steal the hearts (and wallets!) of women all across the globe.