Review: Rhonda Garelick’s ‘Mademoiselle’

January 3, 2015 11:48 PM

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Review: Rhonda Garelick’s ‘Mademoiselle’

Countless books and films have told all or some fraction of how Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel came to dominate and transform the fashion industry. Followers of fashion have been regaled with tales of her love affairs and how pillow talk helped to finance her design empire. Fans of bootstrap success stories have heard admiring snippets of how an orphaned young girl managed to combine her modest sewing skills with an eye for style to rise from peasant to cultural royalty. And over the years, there has been well-publicized gossip about her anti-Semitic beliefs and her intimacy with the Nazi Party during World War II.

In short, most people — even those with a cursory interest in fashion — probably believe that they know a thing or two about Chanel. But all the assessments of her life so far have been either close examinations of particular accomplishments or excessively admiring broad strokes. In Mademoiselle, ho...

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