The Chanel 2.55 Handbag: History, Facts, Fakes and the find of a century!

This is it! This is the fashion find that nearly stopped my heart and fulfilled a dream. It is not what it might appear however, on first glance. I didn’t just by this from Chanel. I tracked this down half way across the world. It is an original 2.55 handbag from between 1955 and the 1960′s. It was designed by Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel herself.

So if you are not familiar with the history of the 2.55, my find coinsides nicely with a long feature I had been writing on the history and design details of the bag. Together with some hints on buying genuine Chanel, not counterfeits.

The history of the Chanel handbag
In 1910 Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel opened the now famous 31 Rue Cambon boutique, under the name ‘Chanel Modes’. For the next 25 years her business continued to grow and by 1935 she employed 4000 staff! In 1939, however Coco retired during the war years, causing outcry worldwide! Coco it seemed could not be parted from fashion for long, as at the age of 71 she came out of retirement and continued to work until her death in 1971. After her death Alain Wertheimer (the grandson of her financial backer) took control, it was Alain who was responsible for ‘reducing availability’ of the Chanel perfumes, hence creating high demand. He also convinced Karl Largerfeld to leave Chloe and join Chanel in 1983.
Coco’s revolutionary designs are known the world over; she reinvented female attire for comfort and practicality. It was in February 1955 however, that a design for a practical bag was born. This bag named after its birthday was the 2.55. Today this same design still holds no rival, it is the epitome of luxury, but also, and perhaps more importantly, style.

In 1955 the bag didn’t actually look like what most of you will be imagining now. The current popular design was actually an updated version by Karl Largefeld in the 80’s. Coco’s 2.55 is the design which is now termed the ‘reissue’. Both bags have the classic shape but the clasp and straps differ. Coco’s 2.55 and the ‘reissue’ have a full chain strap and a rectangular twist lock. The chain was inspired by her orphanage guard’s similar to one from which their keys would hang. The twist lock simply practical and secure, now often termed the ‘madamoiselle’ lock, after Coco who never married. Karl’s 2.55 introduced the familiar interlocked CC logo of the house of Chanel into the twist lock design, the leather threaded through the chain strap was also a later addition. This design is also referred to as the ‘classic flap’. In 2005, the 50th anniversary of the 2.55, Largerfeld ‘reissued’ Coco’s 2.55, so today both styles can be purchased in various colours and materials.

The very first 2.55’s were made of jersey and leather with the quilting hand stitched! Apparently the back stitching was done in a ‘secret stitch’ to ensure durability. The chain and lock were gold coloured metal and the interior the famous blood red grosgrain. Coco wanted a bag that kept her hands free. The original mademoiselle lock does not have ‘Chanel’ stamped below, this was an introduction on the reissue. The clasp is separated into three segments and sometimes has a smaller central divide, which tends to be equally segmented on the reissue.
The only flaw on my bag is the gold on the chain has rubbed, this can be re-gilded by Chanel, but I kind of like it as it is. Otherwise it is pristine!

The general design of the 2.55 has remained consistent, and there are some features which you will recognise. Starting with the quilted ‘diamond’ design, which was influenced by jockey’s jackets, Coco loved horse racing. First is the front flap which comes over the bag and is slightly rounded at the corners. The chain handle is one continuous loop which threads through two holes in the top of the bag. This allows the chain to be worn at two lengths, depending on whether you pull one side out or both for a double strap. On the back is one half moon shaped pocket, in which Coco stashed her extra money. The bag also has two little dimples on either side just under the strap holes. The front and the back have raised quilting whilst the bottom and sides will be flat.
Inside the bag there is a small zippered pocket on the reverse of the flap, this tiny pocket is where Coco hid her love letters! This whole section should mirror the colour of the bag, as should the zipper pull which should be a basic tab of the same material. Now you see the ‘second’ or ‘double’ flap, a second flap which fastens with a press stud. This will open to reveal the dark red signature inner, the colour of the children’s uniforms at Coco’s orphanage! Here you will find stitched and slightly raised the large double CC logo. The main compartment has a sectioned compartment on the back wall divided into two pockets and a central ‘lipstick’ pouch. There is also a pocket on the front of the bag underneath where the clasp post is.
Here are some photos of my ‘classic flap’ 2.55 so you can see the differences. I was torn at the time between this and a black leather with gold hard wear reissue, so glad I chose this! It is black caviar leather with silver hard wear. I cannot even begin to explain what it felt like to buy this. I worked hard to pay for it. It was more than buying a bag though, as I remember going with my mum to buy her first 2.55 and it was such an achievement to have worked so hard building up a business to finally be in the position to own a brand new 2.55. It is more than a bag, it is almost like a medal.
The 2.55’s come in different sizes, colours and materials so there is a great choice these days, however most colours and special fabrics are seasonal so hard to get hold of. The regular size is generally classed as medium, with small referring to the ones about half this size. The size up from medium is large and then there is jumbo or XL. Then there is the East-West which is the same style but longer than it is deep, more of an elongated shape.

The main fabric is leather in soft calfskin or ‘caviar’ which has a textured effect. The calfskin is very delicate, whilst the caviar more hard wearing. The bags have also been produced in suede, fur, exotic skins, vinyl and a selection of fabrics such as satin, jersey and tweed.

The general colours are black and white; however red, purple, brown, beige, navy, blue, and pink occur throughout the season. These do sell out quickly though so if you have your heart set on a colour snap it up quick. The hardware is also available in gold or silver, or with the reissue in a pewter or black. The reissue’s also come in metallic coloured leathers.

Occasionally the bags have accessories added; a personal favourite is the addition of camellia flowers! But brooches and emblems can appear on the front as can charms dangling from the strap. You can also add your own embellishments using bracelets, key chains and brooches. I sometimes pin my camellia brooches onto the chains strap which I think looks so summery!

I am also lucky enough to have this large size classic flap, which again is basically the same design but with the odd difference.
The large doesn’t have the ‘love letter’ pocket, double flap or segments in the main compartment.

“I would shed tears the day no one copied me”
Coco famously declared, however I don’t think she would have the same opinion on counterfeiters! Imitation is a natural progression for all fashions, but there is a huge difference in buying a Topshop chain handle bag or Zara tweed jacket and buying direct counterfeits.
How to Spot Fake Chanel Handbags
Counterfeit bags (and other goods) are those which illegally breach the original trademark owner’s copyright, if a bag bares the Chanel name or CC logo but is not a product of the house of Chanel then it is illegal. There is also the morality issue, you might think a big company like Chanel won’t be affected if you buy a counterfeit bag – it’s not like you would ever buy a real one? Well counterfeiting is just like any other illegal organisation and your purchase can be contributing to child labour, sex trafficking and drug dealing to name a few. It matters of style carrying a fake just looks tacky, trust me you are fooling no one! If you want the Chanel style on a budge go for the high street, where you can find Chanel inspired pieces at a fraction of the cost yet are still going to be good quality. That’s another thing about counterfeits, whether they declare to be AA replicas or ‘mirror’ bags they will never, ever be high quality.

The best way to detect fake bags is to educate yourself on the key features genuine Chanel bags have. There are loads of tips pages on the web but the best and most concise is:

If you are looking to buy a Chanel bag, the lovely ladies on the Purse Forum will gladly help you out. They can take a look at ebay auctions for you and give their opinion on authenticity. I am a member but rarely find time to log on. I don’t have time to offer authentication’s but I am happy to help out followers of this blog with any tips or questions you might have. It breaks my heart to see people bidding hundreds of pounds on fake bags I see on ebay. I have actually wrote to ebay but I really don’t think they were interested, they suggested I contact Chanel about my concerns!
Anyway here are a few things a new bag should come with. All modern bags, and any from the 1980′s on wards will have an authenticity serial number. This is a modern one, it will have Chanel in black (just where my nail is) and have to CC logos in gold. There will be gold glitter embedded in the tag and an 8 digit serial number. There will also be a huge X cut into the tag (sorry it didn’t show up in the photo), this is to ensure the tag is destroyed on removal attempts. In fake bags these stickers just lift right off intact.


The serial number on the tag will match the number on a small plastic ‘authenticity card’, Ive obscured the number here as it is my own. Counterfeiters can use this information. The cards in the fake bags are so exact to the originals it is scary. But two main features give it away, the real cards do not come in a plastic cover. The real cards also only have matt gold trim, fakes have a rainbow sheen which luckily usually shows up against a camera flash. You will also get a little envelope (on the right) and sometimes a special fabric care card (left). These are counterfeited very well too I am afraid.

This is a mademoiselle lock from a reissue, just to show how the Chanel lettering can appear below the twist lock on the modern bags. Sometimes on smaller and oversize bags it is not included.
This is an authenticity tag from a vintage 1980-90s bag. Often these have not stood the test of time and you sometimes only have the white ‘horse shoe’ remaining.

If you are still aching for a real Chanel then why not go vintage? Granted an original Pre-Largerfeld isn’t going to come cheap, but an 80’s or 90’s one could be picked up for a reasonable price. The condition and colour will of course weigh into the equation, but that really depends on preference. A well loved but still in good, overall condition navy classic flap could come in at around £300. I think current retail on a new one is £1400, as the price increases each year.

If you would like to see two more fine examples of original 2.55′s check out:
Another thing to note is the way the CC’s interlock. The usual way is for the right hand C to overlap the left at the top. This is often a good way of spotting a bad counterfeit as they mix this up. However on the original bags it is the otherway around on purpose! I do wonder when it was decided to settle on one way or the other – it is frustrating how little official info there is available.
These are the images of the classic and reissue from the Chanel website, they are both classed as ‘classics’ which means they are always produced, unlike seasonal items.
There are two variations from this seasons Cruise collection, in bright blue with charm, and in tweed.
Here you can see the three main sizes, medium, large and jumbo.
And of course Coco herself with her 2.55.
A lady toting her 2.55 in the 1960′s, this kind of image gives me goose bumps as I think, that very bag could actually be my vintage one, who knows!
Victoria Beckham is a huge fan of her vintage jumbo classic.
Jessica Alba favours the classic.
Whilst lucky Lily Allen has a classic and a reissue.
Alexa Chung has this stunning large classic in a milk-shake pink.
This is a Chanel window showing the highly ornate gold reissue from the Paris-Moscow collection.
The famous tweed classic worn in the SATC movie by Jennifer Hudson, appearently she didn’t get to keep it! I would have had it written into my contract!
I love this fluorecent trimmed classic Rachel Bilson has, it also came with a pink trim.
And one of my favourite ever, the super huge reissue from this season – trust me this girl needs a medal for being able to carry that, it was really heavy!(Credit:Jak&Jil).
And finally a super, super sized croc reissue in the Chanel window.
These are my two favourite high street versions top is £28 from Topshop and botton £25 from ASOS.com (sorry the images are so tiny, don’t know why that happened). The Topshop one has the most amazing pearl and gold chain twisted strap, whislt I like how the ASOS one has a twist lock.
So there you have it, I hope this information is useful. I hope to post some more on other parts of the history of Chanel soon, but let me know if theres any thing specific you would like to know about. I am off to see how many outfits I can find to go with my brown bag, and polish it’s hard wear! Do you remeber how exciting Christmas was when you were a kid, you wouldn’t be able to sleep for days in anticipation. That is how I was waiting for this bag, I still get giggly looking at it now. I think ‘sheer joy’ is the best investment you can make.
Have a great week,
Pearl xx
P.S The nail varnish is Chanel Jade Rose
N.B. For those of you wondering where I scored the bag it was actually a private sale with a collector. If you want any help hunting out vintage pieces let me know and I can give you some help. Best thing to do is to leave your interest with collectors, dealers and auction houses so they can give you a heads up if the get something you would be interested in. Also sites like decades vintage get a lot of rare items.

UPDATE 09/12/10:
For those other Chanel lovers out there I am sure you have see Le Chanelphile blog, if not it is one of my favourite blogs. If you are lucky enough to have been in San Francisco the Chanel boutique there had an exhibition Secrets of The Chanel Handbag. The following was given out at the event with some great insight into the making of the bag. Thanks to Le Chanelphile for sharing this with us.

UPDATE 27/04/11

You can now download my FREE eBook ‘A Guide to Spotting Counterfeits: including Chanel 2.55, Louis Vuitton scarves and Vivienne Westwood Pirate & clothes’ HERE

Update: 16/6/2012: The cost of a standard Chanel 2.55 has now risen to £2,600 so vintage prices will increase to reflect this.

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63 Responses to The Chanel 2.55 Handbag: History, Facts, Fakes and the find of a century!

  • Happy sweet sunday, Pearl!
    Thanks for leaving your lovely comment. It took me directly to your blog.
    Woooow… what a detailed post about Chanel bags!!! Ever so classy and modern! So difficult to name a fav color… maybe I would vote for the oversized or superlarge bag in the ads! So many Dreamtickets!!!

    Enjoy your sunday!

  • Oh I love Chanel bags so much. :) And you've done such a fascinating history of them.
    That is the most fabulous find ever! The fabric is perfect. :)

    Florrie x

  • Wow! Great a great history lesson! Like I've said, a true fashion investment. I adore the pink one which is weird since I'm not too much of a pink person.

  • Hey, not sure how i stumbled across your blog but i loved this post. I actually read nearly all of it, which is unusual for me and long posts.

    Great detail & i genuinly learnt a lot about Chanel that i didn't previously know.

    So where did you find the vintage 2.55?!

    http://www.bonadragboys.blogspot.com

  • Hi everyone, thanks so much for your comments, so glad you enjoyed the post. For those of you wondering where I scored the bag it was actually a private sale with a collector. If you want any help hunting out vintage pieces let me know and I can give you some help. Best thing to do is to leave your interest with collectors, dealers and auction houses so they can give you a heads up if the get something you would be interested in. Also sites like decades vintage get a lot of rare items. xx

  • Stunning post, darling! I've never seen so many gorgeous Chanel bags all in one place before! And your history lesson and attention to detail in this post are exquisite!

    xoxox,
    CC

  • That bag is truly an amazing find! It is beautiful. Chanel is love! Thanks for the history and facts. It was a pleasure reading it! “I would shed tears the day no one copied me” This has to be the quote I am going to live by now. Have a wonderful day!

    Best Wishes,
    Lena from Ivory Glam

    http://www.ivoryglam.com

  • Hi Pearl! It's my first time commenting on your blog. I must say you did a very good post about Chanel and the 2.55 reissue.

    I'm just so amazed that you found the original 2.55!!! It's a great find indeed! If ever I can find the original 2.55 in leather, I will be so in cloud9! :D

    And your caviar large flap is a great investment too! A really classic piece which can last a life-time.

    Haha….with so many Chanel bags in my collection, I don't even own a black classic flap myself. :P For me, I like to collect seasonal colors of the classic and 2.55 bags because they are limited. I must admit I'm a "sucker" for anything limited edition. :P But one day, I must own a classic black flap. :D

    Can't wait to see how you pair your Chanel bags with your outfits.

    Have a great week!

    Cheers,
    Mia

    http://miacillan.blogspot.com/
    Mia après Chanel

  • This blog is quite an interesting blog for me because I have been searching a nice bag for my girl friend and when i stop by to this blog I thought of giving her a chanel bag as it is beautiful. I would like to give the blue one as she is much of a blue person. Thanks have a nice day.

  • Fantastic post and what a great find! Congrats on your new Chanel addition! I'm still not sure if I will ever get one… I love the bags, but not sure it suits my style. I do know the feeling of purchasing the first bag you've been saving up for though… and the TPF girls are definitely very helpful. There are actually a few vintage stores in Paris that specialize in Chanel and Hermes merchandise (and nothing else) – I'd definitely go there if I ever considered buying a Chanel purse…

  • omg!!!!
    pearl, i die to death of your 2.55 chanel!!
    thanks so much for sharing to us the history of chanel.
    maybe, it's only in my dream having a 2.55 chanel or
    any chanel bags.

    huh! i remember when i was a child when i have new toys/clothes, i kept them underneath my bed or
    i cuddled them with me so that my older sister can't
    use them.lol!

  • omg!!!!
    pearl, i die to death of your 2.55 chanel!!
    thanks so much for sharing to us the history of chanel.
    maybe, it's only in my dream having a 2.55 chanel or
    any chanel bags.

    huh! i remember when i was a child when i have new toys/clothes, i kept them underneath my bed or
    i cuddled them with me so that my older sister can't
    use them.lol!

  • hi pearl.
    huh, i just wrote a long comment but i guess,
    it didn't post. too bad.

    anyway, woah i die to death of your 2.55 chanel bag.
    thanks for sharing to us this interesting story on
    history of 2.55 chanel.
    hayy, when will i be able to own any of this chanel?
    maybe, it's only in my dream.

    i remember when i was a child when i had new toys/clothes, i kept them underneath my bed/i cuddled them with me so that my sister could never use them.lol!

  • hi pearl.
    huh, i just wrote a long comment but i guess,
    it didn't post. too bad.

    anyway, woah i die to death of your 2.55 chanel bag.
    thanks for sharing to us this interesting story on
    history of 2.55 chanel.
    hayy, when will i be able to own any of this chanel?
    maybe, it's only in my dream.

    i remember when i was a child when i had new toys/clothes, i kept them underneath my bed/i cuddled them with me so that my sister could never use them.lol!

  • Whhat a fascinating post to read- and a very good guide to anyone who's wanting to tell the difference between a fake and a genuine!
    I have to admit, I'm pretty jealous at you amazing purchase. A chanel item of any kind (espcially vintage!) is completely out of my league, money wise. But its obvious that you've done all your research here and spent some time finding it- and how beautiful it is!
    I'd definitely be interested in hearing some more about the history of Chanel. Out of interest, where have you found and researched all this information? (like specific websites etc.. I'm always interested in looking at the history of fashion.)
    Liking the photos you've chosen to show the bag in its very many different incarnations!

    http://clothescamerasandcoffee.blogspot.com/

  • All thumbs up for your interesting post. If I'm ever in the position to buy a 2.55 I'll come back to this post and read it again. Like so many of the other commentators I'm really impressed by your knowledge and your great find. Will definitely come back again. Sabine x

  • Great post Pearl. Lots of superb outfits that go with the simply stunning chanel. Loving Lily Allen right now too.

  • What a stunning find!!!Chanel bag is just absolutely classic. I love them always…Thank you, sweetie! I learn something about Chanel's history.
    xoxo

  • Oh my God, I die… thank you so much for taking the time to write this post, I loved reading it! Still salivating over the tweed bag from SATC.. I would have stolen it if I was Jennifer! :D

  • first, a huge thank you for taking the time to put together this very informative post!
    i've often considered getting a 2.55 bag (probably the small version) but hadn't considered vintage, til now.

    counterfeiting makes me sick. there are just soooo many things wrong w/ that practice. i would never, ever buy counterfeit, or anything i wasn't 100% was the real deal.

    i know you will enjoy your new bag. As a huge chanel fan myself, i can tell how much you love the label (chanel is my favorite designer of all time).

    and a big thanks for visiting Style Odyssey and leaving such a nice comment!
    xoxo

  • vintage chanel aahhahahaa I ma be just about to faint!

    I found this post fascinating, I think your knowledge of the 2.55 bag is almost ecyclopieadic!

    I know that my knowledge of fashion only spans as far as the many ridiculously quirky brands I have managed to store up in my crazy little head and does not stretch as far as history of fashion!

    I am very jelous of you, your 2.55 and your knowledge of vintage chanel!

    Thank you for the blog comment! I agree, we should bring armour back into fashion! Maybe you and I could start the trend!

    Tomorrow x
    http://www.inthebedroommirror.blogspot.com

  • LOVE your post! Your vintage bag is amazing!! I've got a Jumbo that I love, but yours just is unbelievable!! Congrats on such a find! Such a great post with a thorough history of the greatest handbag ever!

  • Thanks for such lovely comments, so glad the psot will be helpfull xx
    @ Kelvin – A Chanel bag would be the PERFECT gift!
    @Haute-shopper – thanks for the tip, I will defiantely check out those shops next time I'm in Paris.
    @Roz – most of the post I just wrote off the top of my head, there are no sites I could find that go into any detail, just the odd bit about dates etc. I learn most things purely by experience. The book Chanel: collections and creations is due to be reprinted in the next few weeks so that would be a great place to start, its £18, will let you know when my copy turns up. For general history of fashion Fashion Brands by Mark Tungate is fasinating.

  • WHOA! Very informative. I hope you dont mind, I took one of your pictures and put it in my blog. I am also going to put your blog in my blog list. Very informative indeed!

  • I love my Chanel pieces but not Coco; she was a manipulative opportunist who set up "home" with a Nazi in The Ritz , but that won't stop my from swinging my 5 Chanel bags around town!

    Love your blog!

  • I got my classic 2.55 last year! I'd been wanting one for years and finally my husband got me one as an anniversary present. It's black leather (shinier than yours, hence caviar, right?) and the inside flap is burgundy – I didn't know it came in different colours, actually. I LOVE it! I love anything Chanel.

  • Last year I think they wer around £1,500 but I am not sure what they are now with VAT rises etc, just ring your local boutique and ask x

    • Thanks Georgina the serial number info is indeed interesting, it is something I didn’t discuss as I think people reply on it rather than on how the bag looks itself and the counterfeiters know this info too well these days. The post also doesn’t consider vintage bags which often do not have their serial number sticker – although they do tend to have the sticky mark left behind as the adhesive is quite strong. But yes that you for sharing the link all the info we can gather is going to be helpful.

  • Hi!

    Do you know what is the color called of the bag in the first few photos?

    I’m sooooooo in love with it and would like to get my hands on one just like you have!

    Amazing post btw! :D

    • Hi Maria, the bag is vintage from when they first made the 2.55 so they didnt have specific colour names. You would find it hard to get my exact bag, but you could try searching vintage dealers for original 2.55 from the 1950-60′s. If you want to go for a modern one they do make the style now called the ’2.55 reissue’ which comes in a variety of colours and fabrics each season, I guess you could just ask after brown jersey bags. Hope that helps.

  • I found a CC bag in a local thriftshop for 2 dollars, the lining is suede, stitching is there, black leather, but has no ID number, not then a real CC…

    • Sometimes the serial stick can have been removed from older bags, often it will leave a sticky mark behind. So I wouldn’t totally rule it out but I can’t say for sure not having see it myself.

  • Hi.

    Could anyone advise where I can find and buy a book on History of Chanel bags?
    It’s a gift for my daughter.
    Many thanks.
    James.

    • Hi James, there isn’t anything solely dedicated to the Chanel bag as far as I know however ‘Chanel: Collections and Creations -Danièle Bott’ is a wonderful book with lots of images and details about the creation of the collections including the perfume, Camellia and jacket. Then there is a section on Chanel bags as well as a vast array of other designers in ‘Bag -Sue Huey’. If it is more of a book for reading than images ‘Chanel by Justine Picardie’ is a wonderful in depth book about the life of the designer and does mention the creation of the bag and it’s design influences. I have all these and they would make beautiful gifts, Pearl x

  • Hi Pearl, I just obtained a vintage chanel jersey wool classic bag (1980s – early 1990s) from a reputable seller and it seems fine and feels right. However, there are no screws on the back of the turnknob closure, whereas most websites assume there are. Have you come across anything on this in your research or is this a major red flag? Appreciate any advice you may have, thanks!

    • Hi Lori, I’m not currently buying myself however I would recommend you take it to a vintage dealer if you wanted to sell or try ebay for a quick sale x

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