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The Real Coco Chanel (Hardback)

Hobbies & Lifestyle > Biography P&S History > Clothing & Fashion P&S History > Social History Women of History

By Rose Sgueglia
Imprint: White Owl
Series: The Real...
Pages: 184
Illustrations: 16 pages, black and white plates
ISBN: 9781526761019
Published: 25th June 2020



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Coco Chanel lived her own life as a romantic heroine.

Fuelled by 19th century literature, she built a life which was partly myth and, partly, factual.

She was the fashion designer everyone admired. The business woman whose fortune was impossible to track. She was also a performer, lover of many high profile intellectuals and, as believed by many, a nazi spy.

Her life was, extraordinarily, affected by history (the nazi movement and World War II), symbolism and literature.

This biography explores her life from her troubled and poor past to the opening of her first hat shop, passions and secrets; the biography also draws parallelisms between myths and facts and how, and if ever, they match at all.

The biography also features chapters on the Chanel Maison and the creation of her iconic trademark as well as her ‘little black dress’ and ‘Chanel No 5’.

Finally, the biography ends with a reflection on how the myth of Coco Chanel is represented today in pop culture.

What a fascinating read with an insightful look at the life of an icon.
I would highly recommend this book.

NetGalley, Tracey Hewitt

Article: From Rags to Runway

Saga Magazine

Interesting, Compelling…
Engaging biography of Coco Chanel which brings more facts into the often glamorised picture as it explores a life from an early start onwards to the creation of her iconic trademark and to the perception of modern day. Interesting, compelling and clearly well researched.

NetGalley, Ruth Giles

Video review featured on Lil's Vintage World

Lil's Vintage World

This super informative read gives some great insight into the woman herself and how she became an icon who dressed icons.
A feminist who believed in dressing for the real woman; she faced years of scrutiny and had to battle competitions from male designers who were dictating what women should wear.
But underneath it all she was a helpless romantic who just wanted to be known to the world and loved.

Read the full review via Instagram

Instagram, @on_nims_bookshelf

This book was an absolute joy to read and I have to say thank you to Pen and Sword and White Owl for giving me the opportunity to discover such unbelievable facts about the icon and legend that Coco Chanel was.

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Instagram, @book_nerd_cafe

All in all, this was a wonderful read. The way the individual chapters are divided show you different sides of this very talented and unique woman. I haven't read many biographies but I think this one was done extremely well.

Coco Chanel lived life on her own terms and made it what she wanted it to be, instead of just being content with what she was handed. A remarkable book about a remarkable woman.

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Instagram, @rubyredshelves

Coco Chanel had a really interesting life and rose from being an 'orphan' into owning one of the biggest fashion houses in the world. She seemed to have an attitude and the way she spoke of her upbringing and family didn't endear me to her, but her impact on the fashion world is undeniable and the author has done a brilliant job of bringing her to life.

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Instagram, @perhapsiwillread

This book takes us back to when Coco was just a child and explains how her life developed from there. I won't give away too much of her story because I'd hate to ruin the book. But we see her relationships, her career and her tenacity in making it in a world that at the time was not always open to women.
From being abandoned by her father to building her empire, and then an apparent nazi spy, this woman was many layered.
I would definitely recommend you pick this one up.

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Instagram, @booked_out

This book gives a fascinating insight into Coco Chanel from her early years before she was ‘Coco’ to the opening of her first hat shop. Coco was an extraordinary business woman, as well as a performer and allegedly a nazi spy. I don’t want to spoil the book by saying too much but I found this such an interesting read, I didn’t know much about Coco before I read this so I loved reading about her journey and what she had been through in her life.

I loved the photos in the middle of the book, and I thought the book flowed well and was really well written.

This is a must read for fashion and history lovers and it felt like I learnt so much, I also think the cover is absolutely beautiful.

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Instagram, @serialreadersarah

The cover is simply stunning and draws you into opening the pages and this book would definitely look great on any coffee table to peruse at your leisure. I loved the addition of the photos too. It's one I'm going to treasure and pick up time after time.

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Instagram, @shh_reads_

The cover is really eye grabbing, if I saw this on a shelf, I would be immediately drawn to it.

This book combines two of my loves, fashion and history... I mean who doesn’t love having a bit of Chanel in their lives?

I was really surprised to read that there was so much more to Gabrielle, and she wasn’t just the ‘fashion designer’ as I thought.

I was really drawn into the book, picturing the setting of her life, the photos within the book really helped you to be drawn into her world.

I feel that this book would be enjoyed by any fan of fashion or history, I also feel this will become a ‘coffee table’ book in many a home, including mine.

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Instagram, @mrsbookburney

There are so many excerpt from the book I would love to include in my review but it would spoil it and I would never stop writing, Coco had a hard life she was shy but she knew what she wanted from an early age which made her a shrewd business woman.

There are facts in the book which are fascinating, how Channel No 5 was named, how the famous Channel Handbags were first designed and so much more . The pink suit Jackie Kennedy was wearing when the President was shot they say was made by Coco, the pictures showing the history of the great designer are an added plus in this book.

The author Rose Sgueglia has put together a truly fascinating book, full of history and insight in the late 1800's and early 1900's, the research alone must have taken an age but was well worth it for a truly inspiring read.

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Instagram, @mandy_ilb

I knew a little about Coco Chanel, or at least I thought I did until I picked up this book!

The book was well laid out and I was really intrigued by her childhood and upbringing and I was fascinated by the stories she told and how she changed her past as and when it suited her – particularly with her “aunts” who actually started everything off for her when they taught her how to sew.

Most people know what she was famous for, simplicity, the little black dress and Chanel No. 5 but there was a lot more to her as the author shows.

The book is well written and I liked the memories that were imparted from the people who knew and loved her and they have shown a lot about her character and what she was really like below the surface. She was a determined lady with strong beliefs and a fabulous artistic ability, I loved that as well as changing the fashion world as it was known at the time, she was also sponsoring artists to help them bloom and develop.

She was a fascinating character and one I have really enjoyed reading about. It is 4 stars from me for this one – a great biography looking at a fashion icon – highly recommended!

NetGalley, Donna Maguire

The author’s genuine passion and knowledge for her subject also comes across, and her detailed research helps to remind us of what a formidable and creative businesswoman Chanel was, even if her fortune was impossible to track... if you are interested in trying to demystify the woman behind the myth, this is a wonderful place to start.

Read the full review here


This was a very enjoyable read. Everybody loved Coco Chanel and this book gives us even more insight into her extraordinary life. She was born into a poor family and was abandoned into an orphanage y her father when her mother dies. She was taught to sew while there, the skill which enabled her trade which allowed her succeed in becoming the icon we know and love today. From clothing, to hats to perfume, she did it all and did so incredibly successfully. He climb to the top was fraught with challenges however. Her world was dominated by men and she faced resistance around very turn. She was determined to succeed however and succeed she did. She mixed with the upper circles of society and so many of those she encountered were mentioned in this book, references I found fascinating. Between her career, her encounters and her love life I really was engrossed in this book. I enjoyed it immensely. I give it 4.5 stars.

NetGalley, Clara Carter

The book is such a fascinating read and very inspirational and I absolutely adore the accompanying images. Despite the adversity she faced during her early years, her ambition shone through to make her name one of the most recognised in the fashion industry and the world.

Read the full review here

Sim's Life

Fascinating and interesting read about Coco Chanel, giving an insight about how she lived and her relationships.

NetGalley, Susie Ford

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Coco Chanel lived the life as a romantic heroine. Fueled in part by the romantic literature of the nineteenth century, a life that was partly fiction and partly fact.

Coco Chanel did not only help redefine fashion, but also changed the views of what it meant to be a woman.

It was Coco Chanel who turned the little black dress into a fashion statement at a time when black was meant for mourning. She was also one of the first women to wear pants.

Coco Chanel was the fashion designer that was admired by everyone. A business woman whose fortune was impossible to track. Coco Chanel was also a performer, she was the lover of many high profile intellectuals, and she was believed to be a Nazi Spy by some.

Her life was extraordinarily affected by history (World War 2, the Nazi Movement). And it was affected by symbolism and literature.

This biography tells of how Coco Chanel overcame a troubled and poor past, to become one of the most recognized names in Fashion.

I give The Real Coco Chanel five out of five stars.

Happy Reading!

NetGalley, Michelle Kidwell

Terrific read shows us who the real Coco Chanel. Her close friends her affairs the private life she lead. Absolutely wonderful intimate look at the real woman.

NetGalley, Abby Siverman

Once I started the book I just had to keep reading as I am sure you will too.

Read the full review here

Missing Sleep

This is a comprehensive book about the amazing Coco Chanel which covers not only her fashion career, but her affairs, her friends, her actions during the war and her legacy. It also contains interviews with curators of museums and people who knew Chanel herself. The writing was a delight to read.

NetGalley, Lisa Sanderson

The name Chanel reminds us of the brand. It reminds us of Coco Chanel. But do we know Gabriel Chansel? This book provides insights into Coco Chanel's life. It was an interesting read.

NetGalley, Tasnim Parvez

I really enjoyed this book, before I picked this up I didn't know much about the life of Coco Chanel but feel Rose gave us a thorough account of her life without being too overwhelming.

NetGalley, Melanie Hind

This book was fascinating. A really insightful look in to the world of one of fashions most famous names.

NetGalley, Kelly Furniss

I was so enlightened by this book!

>From little black dresses to the world’s first abstract fragrance, Chanel No. 5, there are these known iconic ventures that Coco Chanel was known for. This book provided a great background of her life, which covered her fashion firsts, fashion influences, her childhood, her lovers.

It was unique in how it took a deeper dive into controversies and successes of her career and personal life, including those surrounding her signature fragrance, whether or not she was a spy, her social connections, and it provided an insightful synopsis of societal viewpoints and the context of the time.

I liked the way it was organized, an easy to navigate blend of topical and chronological... It connected a lot of dots for me, historically, from war events to socialites to fashion moguls, industry, and design, business undertakings, and how it all unfolded into her own personhood and characteristic style for simplicity, self-assurance, practicality, her hope, her persistence, her dreams.

I’d highly recommend this to anyone looking for an interesting overview of her life and for gaining deeper insight into dispelling the rumors and confirming the knowns and unknowns out there.

NetGalley, Erica Robbin

This is a delightful little read. The author's enthusiasm for her subject is apparent and I truly enjoyed her writing. The way she presented Coco Chanel's rise to fame and fortune against all odds is an interesting spin, and one I thoroughly enjoyed. I also like that Mademoiselle's fascination with mysticism is discussed. Well done.

NetGalley, Deb Hunter

The name Chanel carries with a certain pizzazz. Frissons of excitement go through a person when they are face to face with an item that carries this name that speaks of exclusivity, style and money. Chanel is a luxury company that focuses on high fashion and ready-made clothes, luxury products, and accessories and the person behind the company, Coco Chanel really is a mystery and a wonder wrapped in a petite frame of a woman with a spirit of steel.

Many books, movies and even musicals have been written about the woman Coco Chanel, all claiming to have a greater insight into what made this creative masterpiece of a woman work. This biography does give understanding into several aspects of Chanel’s life as her life as a romantic hero, the orphan, the woman, the designer, the spy and the icon. This is not a biography starting from her birth and following her life in an orderly manner. Rather it explores her life around topics, slowly revealing more of the woman as the piece develops.

Sgueglia has written a short biography that is accessible to even novices on the genre and gives an interesting overview of the woman that is now looked upon as the embodiment of fashion and style. There are small surprises for the reader to discover such as Chanel being a drug addict, injecting morphine throughout her life and her love of and huge collection of books hidden within the pages of this work. But the very real humanness of Chanel, the woman wanting to fit into a society that she was excluded from simply because of her circumstances of birth, the desire to create a better history, the ruthlessness of cutting out existing members of her family because they didn’t fit her narrative are all written about and considered. Given the magic that is the name of Chanel, this book is sure to find a large market of devotees who will clamour to read more about this woman and it does the story very well.

NetGalley, Courtney Stuart

I enjoyed this book and the insight it gave to the person who created some of the nicest perfumes and how she got there. An interesting read.

NetGalley, Susan Anne Burton

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I want to start off my saying that Biographies and non fiction books are never normally my thing. I tend to find them either too vague or weighed down with facts after facts. However Rose Sgueglia has changed my view on this, at least on her own work that is!

Coco Chanel is a name and iconic brand that everyone knows about however apart from her name, suits and perfume I knew very little about the woman and her life behind the name. I was extremely surprised by her life and I loved the depiction that Rose gave of this incredible if not somewhat scary woman who powered through a time where women were not equal and had to fight doubly hard to their male counterparts for recognition.

I loved the flow of this book sticking to an easy timeline but going back into depths for certain areas. All of the main points were covered with impeccable information and written in a way that I could not put this book down. It was said that Chanel was a romantic heroine and I must admit that this book felt like she was one even with all of the ups and downs of her life.

I would recommend this for anyone who knows nothing about Chanel like me as it gives a goo insight to her as a whole, but also for Chanel lovers, it is a light and easy ready that will whisk you away to a Parisian dream in no time.

NetGalley, Ashleigh Davies

What a woman for one woman totally fascinating story from beginning to end she had such charm and charisma I really enjoyed this book and can highly recommend.

NetGalley, Jeanie Mckinlay

I have a passing knowledge of Coco Chanel but this book really helped me learn a lot more about her. I thought it was very interesting and really enjoyed it.

NetGalley, Brooke Olson

I am always a huge fan of these gorgeous, historical female icons. When I saw this title on NetGalley, I jumped and was lucky enough to have my wish granted. *THANK YOU!*
Coco Chanel is a household name, regardless if you know what she’s known for. I learned SO MUCH from this novel, and I had to keep reminding myself that this was all true! We get to see and celebrate many of Coco’s achievements and the feminist river that flows through all of them. The style of writing included here is phenomenal and reminded me of fiction, not a biography. If you love fashion or anything Chanel, grab this! It was AMAZING!

NetGalley, Justine Fye

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is a fascinating and unvarnished look at Coco Chanel (including before she was "Coco") and I learned so many things I did not know. I had no idea that she was raised in an orphanage, for example. I love the fact that this book celebrates Coco's many achievements and the feminist nature of so many of them -- for example, how scandalous it was back then for women to wear suits -- but also takes an unbiased look at her flaws. This book is written as well and as thrillingly as any number of fiction novels I have read lately, but it's all true. I highly recommend this book to any fan of fashion and especially to any fan of Chanel.

NetGalley, Christina Lauren

I've never read about Coco Chanel before nor do I own any Chanel products but I'm always interested in the stories of successful people.

She was definitely one fascinating person, my favourite part was her early years, the downhills experienced, how society created an image of what she should be, along with judging her as one would do with a back story like herself.

This book has inspired me to watch film adaption.

I do not want to give everything away.
I would recommend this book to anyone interested in non fiction books.

NetGalley, Shriya Khambhaita

About Rose Sgueglia

Rose Sgueglia is a writer, journalist and marketing consultant based in Cardiff. She is the founder of Miss Squiggles, a digital magazine and content agency. Her work has been published in different publications including GQ, La Repubblica, Yahoo and WI Life (a magazine for members of The Women’s Institute). She holds a BA in Journalism, Film and Media and a Post Graduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism from Cardiff University. She is currently working on her PhD in Media Studies with a research project on the impact material culture and audio-visual material has had on Chanel.

Born on this day - Coco Chanel

19th August 1883

Born into poverty as Gabrielle Bonheur, Coco Chanel became one of France's leading courtiers and helped change the way women dressed.

Chanel No. 5 released

5th May 1921

Perfume Chanel No. 5 released by fashion designer Coco Chanel

View all events View all anniversaries

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