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

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3.52  ·  Rating Details ·  2,219 Ratings  ·  232 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 September 1st 2009)
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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
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
Laura C.
Jun 20, 2010 Laura C. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Dec 02, 2011 Saad rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Juliana
Nov 04, 2010 Juliana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Cassie
Oct 16, 2012 Cassie rated it it was ok  ·  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
Jan 12, 2012 Jill rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
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
Oct 02, 2009 Kara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor
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
Hunter Jones
Mar 16, 2013 Hunter Jones rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Linda Robinson
Feb 22, 2010 Linda Robinson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Monika
May 07, 2016 Monika rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Z tytułu sądząc myślałam, że przeczytam o regułach stylu Coco Chanel. Miałam wręcz nadzieję, że dzięki książce poznam pewne zasady, którymi się kierowała, że będzie to książka o modzie. Jest to jednak bardziej książka o życiu Coco Chanel, choć też bez szczegółów. Więc to taka książka dziennikarki, która dostała zlecenie napisania lekkiej książki i ikonie mody, dla czytelniczek kobiecych magazynów.
Sara
Nov 09, 2012 Sara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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).
Jana Kaplan
May 23, 2011 Jana Kaplan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Ella G
Apr 17, 2017 Ella G rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An easy fun read, with light and colorful info on the iconic woman who shaped the fashion industry, who most love and wish to own a piece of her vintage designs. Definitely a read for anyone who is interested in fashion and history of fashion.
Mary
Sep 17, 2015 Mary rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to love this book. It's part biography, part life lessons...seemed like a great concept. But I found that I was forcing myself to just get through it (I would have given up, but I'm not the type to leave a book unfinished).

First, the book is so poorly put together, as though no one bothered to actually organize it. Although Chanel's life story is quite interesting (and the only reason it gets two stars), there is so much jumping around. It makes you dizzy. You're never quite sure when
...more
L.
Oct 28, 2012 L. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
JDAZDesigns
Feb 06, 2012 JDAZDesigns rated it it was amazing
"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
BookMaven
Mar 17, 2014 BookMaven rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
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
Libby
Nov 06, 2012 Libby rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Emily
Mar 24, 2011 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Autumn
May 30, 2011 Autumn rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 09, 2010 Jenn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Tammy
Dec 30, 2012 Tammy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fashion
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
ABC
Nov 23, 2011 ABC rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: teens-and-adults
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
Linnéa
Dec 26, 2012 Linnéa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 15, 2009 Jessebell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“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
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!
Kelsey
Aug 27, 2010 Kelsey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Zala
May 17, 2015 Zala rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fun, easy and relaxing read. I love the writers writing style. What I don't like about the book is that there should be more info of Coco's life because for those who barely know anything about her it's kind of confusing but I really liked the anecdotes. Definitely recommend it but before you read this book read a "real" biography about Chanel, so you'll understand it better.
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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. The Stuff of Life, about the last year she spent with her father before his death, was an NYT Notable Book, a People Magazine ...more
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“A girl should be two things: who and what she wants.” 2962 likes
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