1. "I wasn't prepared to enter a world that operated on a hierarchy as rigid as the Catholic Church. If Mademoiselle was the pope, the vendeuses were the cardinals; the premières
, the bishops; the mains
, the priests; the arpètes
, the acolytes" (page 27). Discuss the importance of hierarchy, both to the House of Chanel and to the plot of the novel.
2. Do you think Isabelle belonged in the world of haute couture or do you think she was too provincial for such a cutthroat industry? What similarities did her life have to that of Chanel?
3. "What had started out as a symbol of grief was evolving into the postwar standard of elegance" (page 38). What else does black symbolize in The Collection
? Where are there great splashes of color in this novel?
4. Why do you think "seamstresses are obsessed with marriage" (page 68)? How did Isabelle reflect or reject this stereotype? Did the characters of Jacques and Daniel help to influence or limit Isabelle's independence?
5. What single item of her mother's did Isabelle possess? How was it significant to Isabelle's craft and success?
6. "Often, when I sewed, I would slip into a meditative state, almost as if I'd become one with the fabric and thread. At these times, I felt a kind of release that was almost like happiness" (page 131). Is sewing an escape for Isabelle? Or is it a trap that keeps her within a certain class level?
7. "You c