Something Old is New Again – and Again – and Again . . .

Coco Chanel said it herself, “I am against fashion that doesn’t last.”  Could she possibly have known her Classic French Jacket would become such a lasting icon in the annals of fashion and style?  Would she be amazed at how often her jacket has been imitated and copied – for decades now?  And could she possibly have ever guessed the allure this style has for those of us who sew fashions for ourselves?

I really do not know the answers to these questions.  From what I do know of this enigmatic woman, I can only guess that privately she may have suspected her creation had staying power far beyond most fashions. And certainly, as I have said before, “only Chanel is Chanel,” but what a blueprint she gave to those of us, either as individuals or as fashion companies, to copy and to change and to make her classic jacket into our very own.

I have been thinking about Coco Chanel quite a bit these days as I work on my fifth Classic French Jacket.    Last Fall,  about the time when I was getting ready to cut out my #5, The Wall Street Journal had this feature article on “Chanel-ish” jackets.

This article appeared in the Weekend Section of The Wall Street Journal, October 27 – 28, 2018. The center caption states: “8 Chanel-ish jackets that aren’t by Chanel, demonstrating the pervasiveness of Mademoiselle Coco’s enduring – and constantly reimagined – tweed jacket design.”

The featured  jackets range in price from a “zara” version at $129 all the way up to a Gucci one at $13,500.  I suspect few, if any, of these jackets are channel quilted as a real Chanel would be, but they all have that familiar, yet varying look that is so recognizable – the tweed or boucle fabric; the embellishment in the form of fringe, trim, and buttons; the boxy or minimally shaped profile; the symmetrical, balanced demeanor; and the ability to be worn casually or dressily.

Just about any women’s fashion catalog you open has examples which relate to Coco Chanel’s jacket. For example, in the span of just three pages of a recent Gorsuch catalog, four jackets have that classic Coco look.

A longer version of the classic jacket, its roots are immediately recognizable.

Another longer jacket which would look equally at home with a lace dress or, as shown, with denims.

And a traditional shorter jacket, shown in two colors. All these examples are in the Gorsuch GETAWAY catalog, Winter of 2019, pages 30-32.

Those of us who make our own Classic French Jackets are privy to the reality of hours of hand-sewing and unusual construction techniques inherent in one of these jackets.   These are not fast projects.  However, the pleasure of taking this classic design and having the stylistic freedom to choose and decide on all the components, while adhering to the “rules” of the basic style, make all those hours worthwhile.

Or so I tell myself! Here is where I am with my #5: quilting completed, lining fell-stitched in place as much as possible, sleeves assembled and ready to sew onto the body of the jacket.

Here the right sleeve is just pinned at the shoulder.

It is always a relief when I am sure the sleeves are going to match the plaid of the body of the jacket.

There is something about the shaping of these three piece sleeves, with vent, that is just so lovely.

I am still deciding on trim for this jacket, although I believe there is going to be fringe on this one.  Perhaps a two-sided fringe with a pop of coordinating color between the edges.  It would be fascinating to know what would Coco suggest.  But then, it is such personal decisions which give these jackets their individuality.

I will be deciding on either Petersham ribbon or velvet ribbon as the underlay in the center trough of the fringe. It has been quite a search for the best color to use.

Coco Chanel was also known to have said, ”One cannot be forever innovating.  I want to create classics.”  Well, that she did with her classic jacket.  And we are all the beneficiaries of her genius.  Her idea, hatched in the 1920s, then defined to its current look in 1954, is an old idea which is continually reimagined and reformulated by those of us fortunate enough to sew.  Merci, Mademoiselle Chanel!


Filed under Chanel-type jackets, classic French jacket, Coco Chanel, Fashion commentary, Uncategorized

23 responses to “Something Old is New Again – and Again – and Again . . .

  1. One of my tests for any “history of 20th century fashion” is the presence (or often, the absence) of a classic Chanel suit/ jacket. If the author has omitted it — or its influence — then the book is not a reliable source of information about the clothes that women really wore. It was a marker of middle and upper-middle class status that was pervasive in Western culture for the last half-century. I never wore one — I don’t look good in boxy jackets, and I’m not truly middle class — but as a costume designer, I know which characters ought to wear one!

  2. It’s coming along beautifully!

  3. Mery

    Merci, Mademoiselle, for sharing this bounty of inspiration. Mademoiselle Witness2Fashion probably has one of those nipped in waists that rectangles like me envy in a fitted look, but my boxy shape looks best in a barely shaped Chanel style. So I’d gladly wear yours, and that one, and that other one, oh, all of them. Yes, it’s worth your time. That elegant, lush, couture look already shines thru my screen and It’ll look even better in real life and on you. Ooh, thanks for showing.

    • Thanks, Mery – you are a real morale booster! I am practically stitching in my sleep at this point, but still have a long way to go. The cold weather we are having makes it easy to stay indoors with my needle and thread…

  4. Heather Myers

    Another lovely jacket in process!
    Can I ask your dress form details and it you like it? I need a way to do at least initial fitting, and am wondering if yours helps with that? Thanks, Heather

    • Hi Heather, yes, I purchased my dress form on Amazon. It is a Roxy Display brand, I think. It has collapsible shoulders, and I have padded out some of it (mine is a size 6). I really need to do more fine-tuning, but I absolutely love it. I don’t know how I ever sewed without it! It is well made, and I think it is reasonably priced. Hope this helps!

  5. Ah, lovely! There must be chanel-esque jackets in the air as I am currently hunting for lining so I can start my next one also! I’m determined to have a printed lining this time around, having always worked with solids. I love the orange fringe in the trim – lovely to see the bright colour offset. Goodness, finding a co-ordinating trim is easily the hardest part. I’m keen to try braiding my own – and have been scouring the linton website for matching fibres!

    • I agree – finding the right trim is often the hardest part. I think I know what I am going to do, but I am still looking at it a lot with a skeptical eye, so we will see. And – I love having a printed lining!

  6. Peggy Warren

    Another wonderful jacket. I can’t wait to see the finished project.

  7. Oh my goodness! A friend sent this to me today. Great minds think alike! I have been working on a Chanel-style jacket with the very same fabric! Yours looks just beautiful!

  8. OHhhMY

    All music to my hears and inspiration for my eyes. As you know, any information on making the Chanel jacket is so welcomed as I come up on my June date to begin my first jacket with Susan K. Wonderful blog!

  9. Lisa Fredericksen

    I’m getting ready to start my first Chanel knock-off. Tips on laying out the sleeve do that the fabric does match the body?

    • One trick is to wait on laying out the sleeves until you have the body of the jacket put together. Personally I just make sure I have certain points on both the sleeves and the armscye lined up. I check myself about 5 times before I cut! I sometimes lay it out and wait to cut until the next day, just to make sure I have fresh eyes.

  10. Elizabeth

    Thank you for another inspiring post . I always love reading them and appreciate not only your wonderful sewing skills but also the time and effort you must put into writing your blog .
    Thanks to your earlier post I am now writing a list of sewing projects , I admit to being an compulsive list writer but I am still wondering why I have never , until now , done so for sewing .

    • I find it really helpful to make a sewing list for the year ahead. It provides a framework for me to follow – and to stray from! Thank you for your thoughtful comment on my blog!

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