The Gospel According to Coco Chanel: Life Lessons from the World's Most Elegant Woman
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The Gospel According to Coco Chanel: Life Lessons from the World's Most Elegant Woman

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3.44 of 5 stars 3.44  ·  rating details  ·  1,445 ratings  ·  182 reviews
Delving into the extraordinary life of renowned French fashion designer Coco Chanel, Karen Karbo has written a new kind of self-help book, exploring Chanel’s philosophy on a range of universal themes—from style to passion, from money and success to femininity and living life on your own terms.
Paperback, 256 pages
Published March 1st 2011 by skirt! (first published June 1976)
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Black Elephants
If biographies were coffee, then Karen Karbo's book would be a mocha cafe latte. It's mostly sweet with froth on top. It does have some of the more dimensional coffee flavors underneath, but all in all, it's a social drink that you probably don't think much about.

Things I liked: Anything biographically related to Coco Chanel's history, story and rise to fame. The book gave me a peek into the fascinating personality of an influential person. I might actually try to read more on the woman. There...more
Laura C.
Since the closest I will ever come to the world of couture is being addicted to Project
Runway, I really enjoyed this peek into the rise of Coco Chanel. Truly a self-made woman, it she we have to thank for freeing women from corsets and upholstery fabric dresses. It is also her fault that fashion now favors the ultra thin and boyish figure, because she looked like that and made clothes for people who looked like her. She was quite a fascinating creature, and I give you a sample of her aphorisms...more
Saad
Why I read it: After reading about Steve Jobs and his obsession with the appearance of Apple’s gadgets, wanted to read about another icon who defined how things should look.

My review: If you can get past the author’s fangirl tone, this is a well researched biography with some interesting insights on the fashion business and living a full life. There were more parallels to Steve Jobs than I anticipated. For example, on using others’ ideas:

She was shameless when it came to taking credit for innova...more
Gilded Locks
This book is three parts biography, one part self-help, along with a few of the author's related personal experiences on her quest to acquire a Chanel jacket. Chanel led an interesting and inspiring life, so I'm not sure it's possible to write a book about her that's not at least somewhat interesting. I particularly enjoyed the various anecdote's about Chanel and her famously sharp wit. However, I was somewhat put off by the sweeping generalizations (often relating to gender) that Karbo makes t...more
Cassie
Oct 23, 2012 Cassie rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: self help gurus, fashionistas
Recommended to Cassie by: Ben Pierce
For the most part, I'm on board with Karbo's spin on Chanel. Part biography, part guide to life and a smidge of self help, I can let myself believe that I'm just chic enough follow Chanel's "rules of engagement" while reading. What threw me was Karbo's section on femininity. Specifically, when she declares that any good relationship needs some irrationality. And not just your run-of-the-mill whacky misunderstandings--but plate-throwing, tear-inducing, dramatics-flying irrationality. Karbo even g...more
Jill
Really a two and a half. Three stars for the biographical info on Chanel, two stars for the writing, evens out to two and a half stars.

I read this at the same time as I was reading The Paris Wife and A Moveable Feast for book club. It was a fun little synergy, as passing references to Hemingway are made in this book and passing references to Chanel were made in both of the Hemingway-related books.

I really liked learning about Chanel and some of the "life lessons" made sense, but too often the au...more
Kara
I never cared much about Coco Chanel before. About a year ago my fiancé and I made an early night of an evening in San Francisco and caught the Lifetime movie Coco Chanel. There were mixed reviews about the movie but I enjoyed learning the life of this creature of fashion. The other day, I stumbled across this book. After reading it I am completely enamored. Her story is compelling, her achievements great and what I like best about her is her persistence. She never once gave up. She took it easy...more
Juliana
The reason why i really like the book it's that the Karen Karbo writes is very different of many biographies. In this book she shows her point of view of this amazing woman who was Chanel, including self experiences. It is amazing how she was able to put the Chanel's rules into the modern society, not only telling the story of Coco, showing as well the story of Maison Chanel, as, for example, the difference between the actual Chanel and the old one. The focus in this book is basically all the th...more
Hunter S. Jones
En g��n��ral, je n'ai pas examiner les livres parce que je ne suis pas une personne critique. Cependant, je dois vous dire, c'est un livre tr��s agr��able. Je l'ai lu en vacances et c'��tait le livre id��al pour voyager. Mademoiselle Chanel ne d����oit jamais. S'il ya un culte de Chanel, je suis un disciple. Mme Karbo ne soit diappoint.

Le seul point n��gatif que j'ai, c'est que le livre a une erreur puntuation. Sinon, je recommande ce livre comme un amusement, lumi��re, lecture int��ressante.
Sara
I can't say much for the writing, but the story was interesting. I enjoyed reading about who Chanel was more than about the fashion though because one thing that would have really helped this book would be actual pictures of the clothes that were discussed! Fun read you can put down and pick back up again weeks later (like I did).
L.
Although I think the fashion world is more ridiculous than most soap operas, I nonetheless do view certain designers as true artists. Coco Chanel may not have been Galliano-tastic or have the quirkiness of Gaultier, but she created a baseline of elegance that few designers have reached. The book is less about fashion, I feel, and more about creating the self. Chanel, like most designers, was her own biggest fan. She would have to be in the cut-throat arena of fashion. Her iconoclastic and legend...more
Emily
I almost didn't pick this book up because the title was a little cliche and gave me the impression that this would be some sort of religious book. It's not. I think that if I were going to re-title it, I would go with something like Life Lessons from the World's Most Elegant Woman: Coco Chanel (though more catchy). I really felt like the subtitle did for me what the title did not. Lucky after reading the first few pages in the bookstore I felt like it would be a good book despite it's title. And...more
Libby
I bought this for a fashionista friend's birthday, and thanks to Amazon's timely delivery, had time to read it before I wrapped it up in some pretty paper and handed it over. Shameless of me, yes I know. I have to say I did not expect this to be something I would find even remotely interesting, but it turned out to be a fun and quick study. It is not the best biography, but as the title suggests it is not aiming to be such anyway, which makes its foibles easy to forgive. I found its charming lit...more
JDAZDesigns
"Cut to the chase, don't waste time doing stuff that seems to be essential to your life and business, just because other people do it."


I read this book when it was first published. It's a quick read. But believe me, it's packed with goodness. This time through, I actually started to take notes. [Which, by the way, made me enjoy it less. I guess for some reason I thought I was going to write some compelling, witty, professorial review of it. Until it hit me: I read for enjoyment. Perhaps other pe...more
Autumn
It feels reasonable to presume that a work called "The Gospel According to Coco Chanel: Life Lessons from the World's Most Elegant Woman" might be clearly organized into life lessons -- such as with a list -- or, at the very least, have a straightforward assessment of how Chanel became a style icon. This book is repetitive, poorly copy-edited and weakly written. Yes, author Karen Karbo did talk about how Chanel's style differed from that of her contemporaries and the fabrics she favored. But she...more
Paulette
Gabrielle Chanel, born poor, invented herself and left some of her history a mystery, as the author explains how Chanel often fabricated (ha) stories about herself. For that reason it was hard for me to take this book too seriously. The topical chapters, each devoted to a life lesson and some developed from Chanel’s own quotes, seem admirable yet lack a spiritual depth and accountability that left me empty. I defined Chanel a creative, shrewd, motivated yet calculating, mean woman who didn’t liv...more
Jenn
Mademoiselle Chanel is a very strong, opinionated woman. I would have loved to read more details of her fashion collections or see pictures, but that is not what this book is about. It shows the story of Chanel’s life & the choices she made. It was a very good read. The thing I didn't understand is how Chanel could disregard her past so easily (in the beginning being awful, losing her parents and growing up in a orphanage then wonderful and creating beautiful works of high fashion art). The...more
Kirei
This is a biography of Coco Chanel. It seems that there was not a lot of factual information available, so there is speculation on the part of the writer. It ends up being charming, though. Ms. Karbo mixes old-fashioned elegance with modern wit. And of course there is her search for the perfect Chanel jacket. Read the book to find out if the author obtains one!

This book gave me a hankering for Chanel No. 19, but I am pretty sure they don't sell that at T.J. Maxx so I probably won't be buying any...more
Tammy
A good overall view of Chanel's life with "life lessons" (some tongue in cheek, some not) thrown in throughout. This book would have been stronger if either the story of Chanel or the lessons took center stage, but instead it wandered back and forth between the two, never making the focus of the book clear. With that said, Karen Karbo has a sometimes-irreverent tone that keeps the book a fun read. I'm taking her list of books in the "Acknowledgements" section and adding most of them to my "to re...more
Linnéa
I've always been a huge fan of Chanel- her house, her entrepreneurial spirit.. herself. Therefore I'm so happy that I was given this book as a Christmas present (which I gobbled up right away) because I now have the privilege of knowing what kind of person the world's most elegant woman really was. Frankly, she was a bitch. And to be honest, I'm kind of okay with that. Karen Karbo is definitely going onto my imaginary list of authors I love and appreciate, and this book is definitely recommended...more
Jessebell
“A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.”Coco Chanel
Have to say that I was a little exceptical at first, because I've read Ms. Karbo's previous book about Katharine Hepburn and wasn't too crazy about it, but since a friend gave it to me as a present why not give it a chance? I was pleasently surprise. Ms. Karbo did such a good job introducing Coco Chanel to us, her sense of humor, personality and believes.
This book should be reminder to women to live life the way we choose, no matter w...more
BookMaven
A Fun Take on Chanel

This book is a humorous reminder of Chanel's life story and how this one woman single-handedly created the modern woman through her example as a woman who did it her way, as well as through her designs. Chanel dressed the contemporary woman as Chanel, herself, wanted to be dressed. For the first time in eons, women's comfort was taken into consideration, allowing the active, responsible, busy woman a wardrobe that reflected 20th century sensibilities, while still infusing lux...more
Irina Preda
I was so excited when I started reading this book. My excitement eventually faded and I struggled to go through the end. I expected more information about Coco's life. I thought I would learn so much more about her philosophy and style but I was very disappointed. I haven't learned anything that I haven't seen in the movies about her or read about her on line and the author's style was at times pretentious and it seemed unnatural. Not sure I would read any other book by her!
Linda Robinson
I liked this book a lot. I started smiling on page 50 and am still smiling. Karbo combines self-aware criticism with fashion history, weaving her search for genuine Chanel (original) with Coco's own inventive quest for fashion premierdom. Not sure about the life lessons stuff, but if you were raised in an orphanage, change your story with each telling, and proclaim yourself queen loudly and often, than Chanel has something to teach you.
Kelsey
I have been so interested in the history of Coco Channel ever since I saw the movie "Avant Channel." This book is so great because it combines history of Coco Channel with her ideas and successes. It compares her opinions of fashion to her rivals of the time, also to Karl Lagerfeld designs, who has been chief designer of Chanel's fashion house since 1983. The book is fascinating because Coco lived a radical, scandalous, but beautiful life.
Jana Kaplan
I loved this book! It was witty, and I learned much about Coco Chanel which I did not know about before. It made me love her (and her classic clothing collection) more! I don't appreciate what has been done to her design house since her death, but this book does give some perspective of how designers must keep to the times to remain relevant.
Victoria H.
Maybe I'm on the fence and could very well be a "dog person" in a "cat person's" clothes. A simile the author actually uses.
Summer
This book is not what I expected, but I really enjoyed Karen Karbo's writing style and sharp wit. It had me laughing at several parts of the book.

Everyone knows when you hear the word Chanel, you think elegance and style. She gave us the LBD {little black dress}, jersey knit, button-up cardigans, No.5, etc., all good news. However, this book goes into far more than the House of Chanel and into the personal life and times of Coco.

Bad news- when actually learning about her life and some of her a...more
Harsha Priolkar
A fun, breezy read that defies genre. This is no in-depth biography and if that's what you're looking for, this is not the book for you. This is Karbo's take on Chanel, in which she attempts to understand the famous or should I say infamous (especially after reading this book!) mystique and far-reaching influence of this style icon and demystify her persona and translating it to our modern day sensibilities. She writes with humour and a refreshing candour that makes Chanel's already fascinating...more
Annmarie
This book isn't for everyone. It really deserves a 2 1/2 stars - but for Coco - I made it 3. It was fun to hear an old college friend, Rob's, voice in my head as I read this - he loves Coco and used to make comments about her - especially about costume jewerly! I always thought of her only designing those Jackie O. square jackets - but I didn't realize the time she really lived in (born 1883) and how ahead of fashion she was. It is impressive how she was a determined worker, had vision, and was...more
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Goodreads Librari...: NEED Librarian for Separation of (my) Author Titles 6 24 May 31, 2013 02:36PM  
Would this book be appropriete for a high schooler? 5 10 May 18, 2013 10:51AM  
WASP 3 10 Oct 27, 2008 03:54AM  
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  • The Little Dictionary of Fashion: A Guide to Dress Sense for Every Woman
  • The Bombshell Manual of Style
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  • The Lucky Guide to Mastering Any Style: How to Wear Iconic Looks and Make Them Your Own
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  • Chanel: Collections and Creations
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  • City Chic: An Urban Girl's Guide to Livin' Large on Less
  • Coco Chanel: An Intimate Life
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  • The Lucky Shopping Manual
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  • Style Statement: Live By Your Own Design
  • Entre Nous: A Woman's Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl
  • The Fashion Book - Mini Edition
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Karen Karbo's first novel, Trespassers Welcome Here, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and a Village Voice Top Ten Book of the Year. Her other two adult novels, The Diamond Lane and Motherhood Made a Man Out of Me, were also named New York Times Notable Books.

Karbo's 2004 memoir, The Stuff of Life, about the last year she spent with her father before his death, was an NYT Notable Book...more
More about Karen Karbo...
How Georgia Became O'Keeffe: Lessons on the Art of Living How to Hepburn: Lessons on Living from Kate the Great Minerva Clark Gets a Clue (Minerva Clark, #1) Minerva Clark Goes to the Dogs (Minerva Clark, #2) Julia Child Rules: Lessons on Savoring Life

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