Paris in Baltimore – and Beyond: A Small Fashion Show

Shortly after I returned home from my Classic French Jacket Class with Susan Khalje, an article entitled “The Comeback of Haute Couture” appeared in The Wall Street Journal.  The reporter, fashion editor Christine Binkley, gives an overview – from the haute couture week in Paris, of course – of the frenzied and renewed interest in “astronomically expensive made-to-measure clothing [ranging] from $10,000 to $150,000 or more.”  Among the fashion houses showing haute couture collections was Chanel.  To quote:  “Chanel . . . looked as though the clothes could be easily worn, even if they were assembled, pleated, and embellished by dozens of ‘petite mains,’ as haute couture seamstresses are called. ‘Of course it’s comfortable.  It’s Chanel,’ said designer Karl Lagerfeld . . .”

“Comfortable” is a description frequently used by those of us making our own Chanel-inspired jackets.  Of course, everyone knows that the inspiration for Coco Chanel’s original cardigan jacket came when she cut her lover’s cardigan sweater down the front, added some ribbon trim and created a classic.  How the construction of the jacket went from sweater to quilted, silk-lined boucle is unknown to me, but one thing is for sure:  these jackets feel as cozy and comfy as any old favorite sweater.  I think this was a revelation and lovely surprise to all of us.  It makes wearing them all the more rewarding.

And – wear them we are starting to do!  Some of my classmates have kindly given me permission to show their finished jackets here on Fifty Dresses.  I am delighted to share these lovely examples made by “petite mains” Joanne, Holly, Myra, and Sherry:

Joanne’s classic black jacket is elegant and so versatile.  Her lovely floral lining fabric does not show, but trust me that is stunning.

A simply lovely jacket!

A simply lovely jacket!

Holly’s jacket has sparkle to it, just like her!

Look at the beautiful lining that Holly chose.

Look at the beautiful lining that Holly chose.

Isn't this color perfect for Holly?

Isn’t this color perfect for Holly?

The buttons which Holly chose are perfect!

The buttons which Holly chose are perfect!

With a few scraps left over from her lining, Holly made a color-blocked shell to wear with her jacket!

With a few scraps left over from her lining, Holly made a color-blocked shell to wear with her jacket.

Myra’s horizontally and unevenly striped boucle caused some minor headaches during the pattern placement, but look how beautifully it turned out.

Looking lovely even in the hot sun!

Looking lovely even in the hot sun!

Myra's jacket - 2

Myra's whimsical lining fabric features images of Audrey Hepburn.  She brought this fabric with her to Baltimore and chose her boucle accordingly.

Myra’s whimsical lining fabric features images of Audrey Hepburn. She brought this fabric with her to Baltimore and chose her boucle accordingly.

Sherry chose a creamy white, loosely woven “windowpane” boucle for her jacket, and the result is pure loveliness.

Isn't this beautiful??

Isn’t this beautiful??

Sherry very cleverly made her pockets on the bias.  The petite buttons are just right for the weave of the fabric.

Sherry very cleverly made her pockets on the bias. The petite buttons are just right for the weave of the fabric.

Look how well Sherry's jacket fits.

Look how well Sherry’s jacket fits. 

One of the many fun aspects of the class was the color variety of jackets being sewn.  While there were other deep shades (raspberry pink, royal blue, true purple) I was the only one making a red jacket.

For starters, here is my jacket hanging.

For starters, here is my jacket hanging.

A few details.

A few details.

A view of the lining.

A view of the lining.

Shown with basic black.

Shown with basic black.

I can't believe it's finished!

I can’t believe it’s finished!

I added a gradual 1/4" to the back length, which gives it a more graceful line, I think.  This was one of Susan's many excellent suggestions.

I added a gradual 1/4″ to the back length, which gives it a more graceful line, I think. This was one of Susan’s many excellent suggestions.

Red Chanel jacket

There is nothing shy about this lining fabric!

There is nothing shy about this lining fabric!

During the lengthy process of making my jacket, I have had lots of time to reflect on some of its charms:

1) Boucle is wonderful for hand-sewing, as one’s stitches simply disappear into the fabric.

2) This is “common sense” sewing: every step (of which there are many) adds in subtle or significant ways to its wear-ability, appearance, or fit.

3) Finishing a project like this is empowering.  I felt like I grew as a “dressmaker” during this process.  And beware . . .

4) Finishing a project like this is addictive.  Yes, I already have a boucle for my next one . .

However, before I start my next one, I have one thing to (start and) finish:   That charmeuse I used for the lining?  I purchased enough to make a sleeveless sheath dress to wear with my jacket.

What was I thinking??

28 Comments

Filed under Chanel-type jackets, Coco Chanel, couture construction, sewing in silk, Uncategorized

28 responses to “Paris in Baltimore – and Beyond: A Small Fashion Show

  1. JoanneH

    Karen,
    It is STUNNING. I am truly in awe. I love your jacket. The color, the fit, the trim and the lining placement is a work of art.
    Addictive is right.
    I am half way through my second jacket………………
    Joanne

    • Thanks, Joanne! Please, please, please send me photos of your “second” jacket – if it is anything like your first one, it will be gorgeous!

  2. Such pretty jackets – all of them! But I have to say yours is my favorite because I love bright colors! (The surprise linings of all of the jackets is the best part!) You did a wonderful and impressive job and it is the perfect fit!

    The lining fabric will be great as a sheath dress – I’m glad you are going to use it for the outside of a garment. So pretty!

    Congratulations on doing such a time-consuming project and having such beautiful results! Yes, the art of it all can be rather addictive. =)

    • Thank you, Brooke! I am so glad your vote of confidence on a sheath dress in those emblazoned cherries! I am actually kind of excited about it!
      I agree about the linings – they are just so much fun.

  3. Oh my! What an incredible journey. All of the jackets are just beautiful. And yours is a true work of art! The fit is perfect, as is the trim, and I adore the lining. And you are so right — that little added length in the back adds so much. Thanks for sharing — it reminds me of wonderful times spent making these jackets with Susan and great friends!

    • Thank you, Cissie. I remember you saying the second one goes faster! It’s great to get encouragement from one who has been there/done that!

  4. Karen,
    Your jacket is pure elegance – congratulations on this accomplishment! I think a sheath will be lovely. I’ve just signed up for a class with SK. Thanks for being an inspiration 🙂

    • Thank you, Sarah! I am so glad you will be in one of Susan’s classes – I know you will love your time with her and all your talented classmates.

  5. Karen, first of all, your jacket came out absolutely fabulous! The time you must have spent matching up the lining! It’s gorgeous. I literally squealed when I saw my jacket on your blog! Thank you for the lovely comments. 🙂 I’m so proud of all of us! Also, I’m totally paralyzed and star struck that goodbyvalentino commented on a blog post with a picture of something I made in it. (Should I admit that?) Happy sewing!

    • You have me laughing and smiling!! Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful photos with me – it was so much fun to show your jacket! Sarah (of Goodbye Valentino) will surely get a laugh when she reads your comment!

  6. Susanna

    I love this post, Mom! It’s so great to see the beautiful creations of your classmates and your finished product. I’m so impressed with the risk you took in the fabric choices – I know you were a little worried it would be too bright, but I think the combination is just perfect and totally you. For someone who thinks of herself as a bit on the shy side, this certainly isn’t shy and I love that! On a side note, I was bragging to someone today about how proud I am of you for truly investing yourself in something you love. It takes courage to do that. Can I be like you when I grow up? Love you.

    • Susanna, you are so, so dear. I’m not so sure how brave I am, just getting smarter as I grow older – and I have the advantage of having the time and the freedom to put a lot of energy into something that gives me great pleasure. So – isn’t it funny that I often tell my friends that I wish I were more like you??

  7. These are all fabulous. Yours especially so!

  8. Myra

    Karen, seeing your blogpost waiting to be read in my daily feed just about made me jump with joy, sort of like opening that coveted present at Christmas time. Your jacket is absolutely stunning! Well done!! Your post has given me a renewed motivation to finish up my raspberry pink jacket. I like the gradual ¼” taper in the back idea. It is truly amazing the little things one learns in the entire process that culminates into a haute couture garment. Thanks for making us semi-celebrities by the way :)))

    • In my book, you are all major celebrities!! Yes, I agree, it is the little nuances that Susan taught and shared with us that make all the difference. Thanks so much for sharing the photos of your finished jacket with me – and I want to see your raspberry jacket when it’s done!!

  9. I am just overwhelmed by the results of your class! All the jackets are stunners, and the fit is just perfect.

    Your lining is the best thing I’ve seen inside a garment in a very long time!

    And the comments between you and your daughter absolutely made me smile.

  10. Zoe

    The windowpane boucle is amazing! I love everyone’s lining choices too 🙂

  11. What a stunning garment! It fits you beautifully and the fabric choices are fantastic! I love the bright red and the whimsical lining. This truly is a work of art. I look forward to seeing the matching dress and your next classic French jacket!

    • Thank you so much, Kacie! I hope to start the dress this weekend – and I’m looking forward to the challenge of working with that charmeuse again!

  12. Sherry Pulaski

    What a beautiful jacket and phenomenal result matching the lining pattern! It looks wonderful on you. You asked how many jackets can one make, hmm, maybe SK should share with us how many she has made. I could see 3-4 in my future with one of those for my daughter.

  13. Wow I love your jacket and those of your petite mains collegues. Lovely pattern placement for the lining and the red boucle, trim et al is gorgeous. What a colour for you too. All over wow.

    And a matching sheath to wear with it will be perfect.

  14. Amazing! A real work of love and skill.

  15. Absolutly stunning! Great jackets! I know what you mean by addiction – I am in the process of making my first jacket – but I have already 4 fabrics waiting to be transformed to other jackjets. Plus one jacket for my other and another for my niece 😉

  16. mel

    just lovely! I’m hoping to create something myself soon, thanks for the inspiration and detailed images.especially the chanel pics

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