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Chanel’s Classic Quilted Bag

A lambskin bag with matted metal straps by Chanel.

Photo: John Lawton

It is 1955. James Dean is burning up the screen in Rebel Without a Cause, and a certain quilted handbag sees the light of day. The 2.55, named for its date of birth and destined to become an international classic, is, like so many of Coco Chanel’s innovations, at once subtly glamorous and superbly practical. Insisting that “it has to have body” and explaining that she was simply “tired of carrying my bag in my hand and losing it,” Chanel created this Modernist masterpiece with a now ubiquitous leather-and-chain strap. Could she have known, even then, that endless variations of her glorious lambskin envelope, transitioning as seamlessly between decades as it does from day to night, would someday swing elegantly on shoulders from Paris to Peoria and beyond?

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