The History of the Chanel 2.55 Bag

Lagerfeld Launched the 2.55 Reissue in 1985
Carried on arms of the rich and famous the world over, the Chanel 2.55 chain bag represents the epitome of style and the ultimate status symbol. The bag takes its name from the year of its birth, 1955 and is made from silk, lambskin, calfskin or fur, in a combination of colors. Whilst today, it has been updated in various guises (including the fastenings) the iconic Chanel 2.55 is still instantly recognizable, and remains one of the world’s most sought after bags. According to Bagsnob.com, the Chanel 2.55 is one of the two designer bags stylish women of the world should know about; the other is the Hermès Birkin.

The History of the Chanel 2.55 Bag

The Chanel 2.55 bag has inspired many imitations. However, Coco Chanel, herself had a very refreshing attitude to copies of her famous designs: “I would shed tears the day no one copied me.”

During the 1980s, a Chanel bag was the most coveted status symbol, according to Anna Johnson in her book Handbags, the Power of the Purse. With its famous quilting, the 2.55 is based on the quilted coats worn by boys at the race track, as Coco Chanel’s designs were influenced by her love of horse racing. Chanel used a running stitch, quilting the bag in a diamond or herringbone pattern, according to Stephanie Pendersen, in Handbags, What Every Woman Should Know, and introduced pockets into the bag, another passion of Mademoiselle Chanel's. The 2.55 contains a secret pocket inside the front flap, where is it claimed that in her original, Coco Chanel hid love letters received from a beau.

The Introduction of the Chain Strap

The Chanel 2.55 bag was one of the most revolutionary of its time due to the introduction of a chain strap, enabling women to carry their purse on their arm instead of in their hand. At this time, when socialites were busy holding their glasses of champagne, eating canapés, and reading their theatre programmes, Chanel recognized a need for women to have their hands free.

After becoming tired of holding her own bags in her hands, and losing them, Chanel added thin chain straps “I know women — give them chains, women adore chains,” she said, in deciding the nature of the strap. Interestingly, the double chain is said to be based on her experiences as a child, in an orphanage, where the caretakers would dangle keys from their waist.

Karl Lagerfeld's Reissue Chanel 2.55 Bag

Today the Chanel 2.55 purse is just as much an It bag as it always was. In 2005 , in celebration of the bag's 50th anniversary, Karl Lagerfeld (who took over creative leadership of the Chanel fashion house in 1983) revived the design exactly as Mademoiselle Chanel had made it, and the reissue proved even more popular than its original, according to Caz Moss, in her Female First article "Chanel 2.55 Handbag."

The most significant difference between what is known as the Reissue, compared to other recent versions of the 2.55, is that the true Reissue (made in 2005 to commemorate the anniversary) has the original Mademoiselle lock (and an all chain handle) rather than the interlocking two C’s of Chanel, which were introduced in the ‘80s. However, according to Purseblog.com, the term Reissue is now conveniently applied to other versions, since 2005, and refers to all later types of Chanel 2.55, with original Mademoiselle fastenings. Bags with an interlocking CC fastening are labelled Classic Flaps.

Prices to Buy or Rent

Prices for this iconic bag vary depending on size and fabric, and in which country you buy it. Expect to pay upwards of $2500. If you hanker after an original 2.55 and your budget does not allow it, then for a very special occasion, try the new craze in designer bags for hire. Bagborroworsteal offers a large number of Chanel 2.55s for rent including a vintage Chanel 2.55 at £163 (approximately US $320) per week for members, or £480 (around US $960) per month.

Chanel 2.55 Art in Central Park

New York's Central Park is hosting a Chanel Mobile Art exhibition between October 12 and November 9, 2008. Twenty international artists pay homage to Chanel and Karl Lagrefeld by showcase their work, inspired by the iconic Chanel 2.55 bag. The Chanel Mobile Art exhitibition is part a worldwide tour taking in a number of countries across Europe and Asia.

Iconic Designer Bags

The Chanel 2.55 bag is one of a long line of classic handbags which join the ranks of iconic purses such as the Fendi Baguette, Hermès Birkin and Kelly, and the new-kid-on-the block, the Gucci Indy bag.

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