The Chanel Two-Tone Shoe: From Coco to Karl

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Mademoiselle “Coco” Chanel broke all of the fashion molds; actually, she recast them entirely. Before her reign, jersey had never been used in womenswear, trousers were for the boys only, and elegant jewelry was extremely expensive. You have her to thank for so many elements of the modern wardrobe, which is an astonishing fact considering that she began designing in 1910 – but she was nothing if not ahead of her time. Without her, we wouldn’t have elegant costume jewelry, timeless tweed suits,  Little Black Dresses, or “It” handbags. She pioneered it all. She even made tan skin popular!

In 1957, Chanel introduced a brand new style of shoe called the ‘Two-Tone’ – little did she know this iconic design would survive well into the 21st century (and it shows no signs of declining in popularity). The press called them “the new Cinderella slipper,” while Chanel proudly proclaimed, “They are the height of elegance.” These assessments were incredibly accurate. The ‘Two-Tone’ shoe was designed to elongate the leg, shorten the foot, and was versatile enough to go with anything, which are three qualities deserving of “must-have” status any day. Meanwhile, the slingback style of the shoe and its brief, sturdy heel meant all-day comfort for the wearer. Chanel’s design genius is reflected in the timeless, flattering ‘Two-Tone’ shoe, with its practical style application and chic personality.

When the shoe was released, the biggest celebrities of the day, like Catherine Deneuve, Romy Schneider, Brigitte Bardot, and Jane Fonda, immediately started wearing the shoe. A-list fandom continues to this day (as evidenced by our impressive gallery of celebrities, models, and fashion tastemakers above). When Karl Lagerfeld took over at Chanel, he worked to preserve and improve upon the ‘Two-Tone’ shoe with contemporary versions that were presented in black-and-white for Spring/Summer 1994, transmuted into boots for Fall/Winter 2009 Haute Couture, and recently fashioned into riding boots for the Paris-Salzburg Métiers d’art 2014 collection. Even though Lagerfeld’s inventive formulations have sparked renewed interest in the iconic shoe, there is nothing quite like the original. As Mademoiselle Chanel famously said in 1957 when the shoe was first born, “We leave in the morning with a beige and black, we lunch with beige and black, we go to a cocktail party with the beige and black. We are dressed from morning to night!”

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