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Update #5

How This Historic Fashion Designer Inspired Orange Gelée

By Marie Lodi | Dec 5, 2023

The storied past of Orange Gelée is quite an interesting one. For instance, did you know that it’s almost 100 years old? And that a certain French fashion designer influenced its very existence?

Ahead, we’re delving into the origin of tanning and the creation of our dear Orange Gelée. So, grab a refreshing Pina Colada and jump into my DeLorean as we do a little time-traveling.

The History Of Tanning

To learn the true history of this divine formula, we must travel back exactly a century to 1923, when Coco Chanel spent too much time relaxing on her friend’s yacht in the French Riviera. The fashion designer’s newly bronzed skin, papped by photographers and published by the press, allegedly served as the catalyst for changing society’s mindset towards tanning. However, as much of a trendsetter Ms. Coco was, no legitimate proof that she was behind tanning’s glow-up, so to speak, seems to exist. As the author and cultural historian Kerry Segrave pointed out in 2005’s Suntanning in 20th Century America, the myth most likely originated from a byline-less May 1971 article in Mademoiselle magazine. “Coco Chanel had nothing to do with it,” wrote Segrave.

In reality, golden complexions had already become more acceptable as the wealthy began to participate more in activities that naturally required time spent in the sun, such as summer vacations and outdoor sports. Before that, pale skin was more in line with Western society’s classist ideals. (Those with a ghostly pallor were believed to be wealthy and privileged enough to stay inside, away from having to do any work outside in the sun.) Pair the leisurely activities with other factors, such as the Industrial Revolution resulting in more indoor jobs, like factories and mining, as well as the medical industry touting the health benefits of sunlight, and tans were no longer declassé. Perhaps, if anything, Coco did what any great influencer does with an already-existing beauty trend: She gave it really good PR.

Orange Gelée Is Born

However, Coco Chanel’s accidental tanning session did have a significant impact on the very subject of our project: Orange Gelée. In 1925, the first-ever celebrity hairdresser who invented the bob haircut, Monsieur Antoine of Paris, developed the eponymous inaugural version, "Antoine de Paris." According to archival texts, the “silky, sensuous” tanning gel’s inspiration came from none other than his client, Coco Chanel. During this time, tanning was increasingly becoming a sign of health and luxury, and the beauty and fashion industries were following suit. A June 1929 Harper's Bazaar article stated, “There is no doubt about it. If you haven't a tanned look about you, you aren't part of the rage of the moment.”

In the 1940s, Lanvin brought the gel to the United States, changing the name to Antoine's Bain de Soleil, aka “Antoine's Bath of the Sun.” It became famous for its color, texture, and appealing scent. As the years passed, hemlines got shorter, and clothing became more revealing. Skin was in, as was the popularity of beach movies that encouraged young people to spend even more time on the sand. Eventually, the product became known as Orange Gelée, and SPF was added. This little tube was taking the country by storm.

How This Historic Fashion Designer Inspired Orange Gelée

The Orange Gelèe Revival Project is a joint initiative between Vacation® and Orange Gelee fans to bring back the beloved product by Summer 2024.

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The Orange Gelée Revival Project is now complete.

Shop The Completed Orange Gelée


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