Who Knew? Coco Chanel Started French Chic Love of Suntanning

Images | Freja Beha Erichsen | Alasdair McLellan | Vogue Nippon July 2011 | ‘Sun Proof Summer’

Coco Chanel’s Beauty Trend Accident

In a reversal of cultural history sun tans evolved from a symbol of manual labor and lower class pedigree before the Insutrial Revolution to a symbol of wealth, prestige and leisure in the 20st century.

As the working classes left the fields for factories, their skin became lighter. In an effort to always distinguish their own status, the rich embraced tanning and life outdoors.

By the early 1920’s heliotherapy, as it was called, became the rage. Coco Chanel influenced the tanning trend in France more than any other person. Accidentally sunburned on a vacation, trendsetter Coco Chanel returned tanned from the Mediterranean and a new look was born.

Josephine Baker Skin Status

Josephine Baker, the ‘caramel-skinned’ American singer who moved to Paris also influenced a love of tanning. In the 1940s, advertisements began appearing in women’s magazines promoting tanning. Sun worshippers got a big boost with the trend towards bikinis and even monokinis.

Since the 1970s, when France refused to ban ‘le topless’ on beaches, bare breasts have been a symbol of summer in France. The more intellectual and free-thinking French prided themselves in exhibiting behavior considered scandalous by more conservative Americans.

From Body Liberation to Sexualization

In recent years, sunbathing nude or topless has fallen out of favor with younger women who are more focused on other aspects of women’s liberation.

Christophe Granger’s book Corps d’été argues:

‘Historical feminist writing details how the row over toplessness was  a struggle for women to do what they liked with their bodies. What has been projected on to it today are different values, identified, not with equality but desire, sexualisation of the body, voluptuousness and the body perfect.’

We will pick up contemporary thinking about nudity and topless sunbathing in another summer suntan beauty editorial.



via fgr