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Evening ensemble

Coco Chanel for Chanel

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Tulle and chiffon, like lace, possess inherent tensile qualities that enabled Chanel to assert the natural curvature of the body. Her chiffon gowns, in particular, drift over the bust, waist, and hips with an erotic suppleness. Similarly, her tulle gowns reveal discrete finishes, such as shirring applied to the derriere, in an attempt to accommodate the body's topography. Several of Chanel's tulle gowns from the 1930s have plunging backs and necklines. Often, however, Chanel would counter this apparent immodesty by creating matching jackets or boleros that gave the dresses a more demure, romantic appearance.

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