Coco and the Little Black Dress
Although this slim and petite volume is supposedly aimed at the juvenile crowd, it must be said that the book possesses a great deal of charm and charisma for those of us of more advanced age. Yes, the book would make a great bedtime story for kids, but the author also offers a crash course in the earlier years of Mademoiselle Chanel, which would surely serve as a primer to adults who are not “fashionably” inclined.
Upon reading the book, what came to mind were three books that are similar in characterizations and realization but were not quite as young in appeal or spirit. Christian Lacroix and the Tale of Sleeping Beauty by Camilla Morton and Christian Lacroix, Manolo Blahnik: The Tale of the Elves and the Shoemaker by Camilla Morton, and Girl in Dior by Annie Goetzinger; these were equally enchanting as fairy tales but aimed at a more adult audience.
Surely a child cannot fully grasp the who and what of Coco and the Little Black Dress as much as was intended, but he or she can surely be amused and engaged with the quirky illustrations and the not so childlike text. The assumption is that a child of four or five may not understand words such as embroidery, barren, boaters (not of the sea ilk), jodhpurs, and dignified, but then again, maybe we are talking about a precocious child.
The point is simply this, Coco and the Little Black Dress is equally appealing to an adult with a wonderful sense of whimsy and especially to those who may not be conversant in the history of Coco Chanel. The only issue for an adult reader might be that they wish that Van Haeringen would have written and illustrated much more than this abbreviated version.
Without question, the book is a delight to read and probably will become a keepsake for those who will have this read to them as a bedtime tale. Van Haeringen might even be starting a new generation of fashionphiles with her telling of Chanel’s younger years and her start in the business of fashion.