Category Archives: classic French jacket

Classic French Jacket – Number 5

Never did I imagine that when I last wrote about the progress on this jacket, it would be an entire month before I could declare it “finished.”  But such is a fact of life with the construction of one of these jackets.  They always seem to take much longer to complete than ever imagined.  (I should remind myself that during that month, I also made a wool skirt and I was away twice on short trips, but still…)

As this is the fifth one I have made, I can safely say that I have developed my own set of tips for working my way through the lengthy construction process.  Of course, it all has to start with a pattern which is a perfect fit.  Fortunately my muslin pattern is from a Jackets Class I had with Susan Khalje over five years ago. With this pattern, I can go right to my boucle and get started.

While it is often recommended to cut out just the body of the jacket, minus the sleeves (the variegated weave of which is then checked with the constructed jacket body before cutting them out), I have developed enough confidence that I cut out my sleeves along with the body of the jacket.  This allows me to make the sleeves first.  For me there are two advantages to doing this: 1) there is a psychological benefit in knowing that the sleeves are lined, linings are fell-stitched in place, trim is on, and the sleeves are as finished as they can be before setting them into the body of the jacket, and 2) I like to trim the sleeves first, as a way of testing the trim I have chosen.  If I do not like it, I only have trim on one, or two, sleeves which must be removed.  It is also much easier to sew trim on a sleeve which is still separate from the jacket.

Another tip I have learned is to use my walking foot not only for the channel quilting of the lining and fashion fabric (a must), but also for all the seams.  I pin profusely, but the walking foot helps to keep the fabric from slipping, crucial when matching all those lines and plaids prevalent in a typical boucle weave.

I chose this navy and white silk charmeuse from Britex Fabrics for my lining fabric. The boucle is from Mendel Goldberg Fabrics.

I really went round and round with the trim for this jacket.  I knew I wanted to use self-fringe, but I also knew it would need some definition added to it.  After trying several colors of velvet and Petersham ribbon in the trough of the fringe, I realized I would have to go to a bright orange as an underlay for the navy twisted braid I wanted to place on top.

The trim was applied in three steps. Here the fringe is attached as the first step. Not too exciting all by itself.

The next step was to apply this bright orange velvet ribbon, also from Britex. It was really a leap of faith to use this very demonstrative color. It looks fairly garish like this! (I sewed each edge of this ribbon separately, so twice around for this part of the trim.)

But once the navy twisted braid is on, step number three, that bright orange underlay is fine.

One thing I have done with all my jackets – and this is a tip from Susan Khalje – is to add about 1/2 inch in length to the center back of the jacket, curving it up gently to the side seams. I love the effect that this little bit of extra curve gives to the back of the jacket.

I always wax and iron the thread which I use for applying the trim.  It adds strength, but also is easier with which to work.  For this jacket, I also carefully ironed each “level” of trim as I applied it.

A detail of the right pocket. Of course, and this is preaching to the choir, the pockets absolutely cannot be cut out until the body of the jacket is completed. Their placement is a visual determination which really depends upon the fit and appearance of the finished jacket.

I found these vintage buttons in one of my button boxes.  I knew I wanted to use dark blue buttons, and I kind of liked the appearance of these.

The only hesitation I had is that they are plastic!  It seems a bit of a sacrilege to put plastic buttons on one of these jackets, but I actually think they look okay.  If I find other navy blue buttons in my future travels, I might switch them at some point.  But right now, they work.

Because I had only 8 buttons, I was limited to two pockets, and three buttons on each sleeve. I probably would not have put four pockets on this jacket anyway, so that was not really a compromise.

I have enough of the boucle left over to make a simple straight skirt, I think.  However, that will not happen this year!  I am so ready to move on to my next project.  In fact, it may be well over a year before I plunge into another one of these jackets.  I have but one other boucle lurking about in my fabric closet right now, and I am content to let it stay there for a while.

It was much too cold for outdoor pictures, so these will have to do!

I like the jacket worn closed …

… or open.

The curve of the back hem is apparent here.

Now it’s time to tiptoe ever so quietly into the lighter shades and fabrics of early Spring, despite the snow that is currently falling. I am so happy to have this jacket in the “finished” column.

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Filed under Boucle for French style jackets, Buttons - choosing the right ones, Chanel-type jackets, classic French jacket, couture construction, Linings, Uncategorized, vintage buttons

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!

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

Another Rosy Outlook for the New Year

There is a fine art to planning ahead, and nowhere is this more obvious than in planning a new sewing year.  No matter how carefully I think it through, I still end up with some fabrics that never make it out of storage and some newly-purchased fabrics that quickly get moved to the head of the queue.  But no matter!  I still find it useful to make a list of intended projects, while at the same time reminding myself that being flexible and realistic about my intentions is what is really necessary.  (There are, after all, those unexpected special events which can’t be planned for, but which take top priority when the “save the date” card arrives in the mail.)

When I look back at what I accomplished in 2018, I happily find that about half my projects used fabrics which I had purchased at least a few years prior.  Some had actually been in my collection for more than a few years! Last year’s list was replete with rosy hues and rosy prints, and this year is not too different, especially considering three of my most favorite fabrics from last year are being forwarded onto my plans for 2019. Will this be the year that I finally get this vintage piece of Moygashel linen made into a dress?  I’ve only been trying to do this for at least three years now!

A very early 1950s’ linen, petite black flower silhouettes on a pale ecru background.

But for starters, and as with last year, I am first finishing up a project which I began, but did not have time to finish before the holidays took over my sewing room – and my life!

I am bound and determined to finish the Classic French Jacket I started in late 2018. While I am currently working on the body of the jacket, having completed its quilting, I am still undecided about trim.  I am auditioning different options, but have yet to find the perfect one.

However, I am anxious to get on with it, as the rest of my list includes:

1)  a wool coat

2)  3 cotton shirtwaist blouses

3)  1 boat-neck blouse (silk, maybe, or still undecided)

I love this French blouse-weight silk, so it is a heavy favorite for a boat-neck blouse to be made along with fellow dressmakers enrolled in Susan Khalje’s Couture Sewing Club.

4)  1 linen skirt

5)  2 wool skirts

6)  1 wool, two-piece dress

7)  1 cotton dress

I found this amazing cotton at Mulberry Silks in North Carolina when I was looking for fabric for the Christmas dresses for my granddaughters.

8)  1 linen dress – referenced above

9)  1 silk dress

10) birthday dresses for my two little granddaughters

11) play dresses for granddaughters

12) holiday/Christmas sewing for those same two little girls

and finally

13) some necessary home decorator sewing, which is not my favorite thing to do, until I see it finished and can enjoy living with it!

The wool coat will be my first major project in 2019 once the French jacket is finished.  I can’t wait to get started on this vintage Lesur wool from Paris, lined in a pink, gray and white silk purchased from Mendel Goldberg a few years ago.

I will probably make a simple wool skirt before starting the coat, as I know it will be a relatively quick project nestled between the jacket and the coat.  I found this wool when Promenade Fabrics was closing their Etsy shop a few months ago.  How I love a red and navy tartan.  I could not resist it, and I am glad I didn’t.

The hand of this wool is so lovely. I think it will make a beautiful skirt. And I have just the shoes to wear with it!

Life is, of course, filled with all kinds of non-sewing duties, and I have plenty on that list, too.  It will be a tricky balancing act to make significant progress in both realms, but my guess is that sewing wins out over cleaning out the attic.

Welcome, 2019, with all your grand opportunities!

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Filed under classic French jacket, Coats, Linen, Moygashel linen, Uncategorized, Vintage fabric, woolens

A Surfeit of Sewing

Do you ever have so many sewing plans that you don’t know where to begin?  Do you find yourself at a loss of how to prioritize your projects?  Do you look at the calendar and find yourself in disbelief that there are only two months left in the year?  How did that happen?

My answer to those first three questions is Yes, Yes, and Yes.  (My answer to the last question above is “I have no idea,” but that’s my reaction every year when the calendar is about to turn over to November.)

It is very unlike me to have more than one project going at a time.  I like to finish what I start before moving on to something else. However, four different “sewing adventures” are vying for my attention right now, so I think they are going to have to share space and time.

The first item is the one about which I am least concerned.  That is the skirt I am making as a member of the newly minted Susan Khalje Sewing Club (SKC Sewing Club).   Inaugurated in September, this online couture sewing club is by subscription only, but open to all who may already employ couture techniques in their fashion sewing or those who want to learn more about this remarkable method of creating beautiful apparel.  As a way of creating dialogue and offering fitting advice, Susan sent all members a copy of her “skirts” pattern.

This pattern is available in Susan’s online store (see link above.) It is a beautifully drafted pattern, and very versatile. I will be using it often!

Those who choose to follow along (Susan posts video lessons online) are working through the process with their own choice of fabric.  I have chosen to use this lightweight wool herringbone tweed for my skirt:

With my skirt fitted, basted and underlined in silk organza, with darts and seams sewn, I am currently on hold, awaiting our next step.  Bit by bit, this skirt will be finished forthwith, of that I am confident.

An item I had every intention of getting to this Fall is another Classic French Jacket.  I am currently in the process of laying out the pattern on my boucle.

Here is a small swatch of the boucle I am using for the jacket, purchased from Mendel Goldberg Fabrics.

I have revised my expectations now to have, at the very least, the jacket cut out, the outline basting complete, and the lining pieces quilted onto the jacket pieces.  Actually finishing this jacket will no doubt happen in 2019.

For some reason, I have it in my mind to make a white cotton blouse.  Where that came from, I don’t know, but that’s what I want to do. I found this woven-in-stripe Swiss cotton at Britex Fabrics several years ago, and it keeps surfacing in my fabric closet.  I think it is time to make this blouse!

And then there are Christmas dresses for my two granddaughters, to be ready in time for December’s many pre-Christmas activities.  There is no negotiating on these.  They must be finished on time.  I have ordered fabric (kindly through Mulberry Silks and Fine Fabrics, which I had the pleasure to visit on a very recent trip to North Carolina.) Oh, the many (still secret) plans I have for these!

The last two months of 2018 are going to be . . . well . . . very busy indeed.

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Filed under Blouses, classic French jacket, couture construction, woolens

The Never-Ending Winter

One advantage to this never-ending Winter we are having in the Northeastern part of the United States is the focus – and extra time – it has given me in finishing my Winter projects. After completing my recent Classic French Jacket, I did some “birthday dress” sewing for my granddaughters (still to be shared) and made two baby gifts, and only then did I come back to making a matching sheath dress for that jacket.

I had thought long about how this dress should be constructed, and not having the advantage of taking a class in such a project, I knew I would have to figure it out on my own. I decided I would combine classic couture construction with the techniques used for making a classic French jacket.

First, I underlined the three pieces of the dress (front and two back panels) with black silk organza, and I anchored all the darts with a catch-stitch. (I always go back to that sound advice from Susan Khalje – couture is about control – and I know how this extra step helps to keep everything in its rightful place.)

Then I machine quilted the two back panels and the dress front just as I would quilt the separate pieces of a French jacket. I ended the quilting about two inches from the tops and bottoms of the pieces and tied off each line of quilting inside between the two layers. I figured the quilting did not need to be as closely placed as it is with a French jacket, so my quilting lines are about 2 inches apart. This following photo shows the quilted channels on the inside (they are virtually invisible on the fashion fabric):

The three pieces were sewn together as a Jacket would be sewn with the edges of the lining loose and then finished by hand with a fell stitch. At this point I felt fairly confident that the dress was going together as I had hoped. And yes, there is a lot of handwork involved! Next I inserted the long back zipper by hand and then finished the neckline and lining with a fell stitch.

Because I wanted to apply a length of trim above the bust – to match the trim placement on my jacket – I did the armholes last, as the trim needed to be attached before they were finished.

 

Finally, the hem. The length had to be precise, as there will be no lengthening nor shortening of this baby! The final step was to sew the hemline trim on by hand. I delineated the back vent with the trim to give it some extra interest. Also, although it is not visible here, I angled the edges of the vent slightly to the inside so that when the dress is on, the vent will not gape, but rather hang straight. This is another one of those lovely couture tricks I learned from Susan Khalje!

I must say this dress is a dream to wear, with that quilted silk interior.

And – I am quite happy with how it looks with my jacket.

Br-r-r-r-r!

As warm as this dress and jacket are, I was freezing when these photos were taken!

I have faith that Old Man Winter – who is truly ancient by now – will soon leave us, but not without a fond farewell from Fifty Dresses who appreciated his extra encouragement on seasonal sewing!

 

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Filed under Boucle for French style jackets, classic French jacket, couture construction, Linings, Sheath dresses, Suit dresses, Uncategorized

Classic French Jacket – Number Four

Many of you, no doubt, are familiar with the “10,000 hour” theory. In a nutshell, it purports that to master something, artistically or technically, you must devote at least 10,000 hours to that endeavor (assuming you have a proclivity for it in the first place.) Well, cognitively I know I have a long way to go towards having 10,000 hours devoted to these Classic French Jackets, but it sure seems like I just devoted at least half of those hours to my current, just-finished jacket!

That said, I was aware of an interesting phenomenon as I plugged away on this project. I felt more confident in the process on this one – and more confident in my ability to execute it well. I noticed this especially when I got to the point of inserting the sleeves. The sleeves are, as many of you know, inserted entirely by hand. In previous jackets this has always been my least favorite part. For one thing, you are working within the confined area of the armhole, with lots of very wide seam allowances and “flapping” fabric. It is messy, but precision is necessary to get a beautiful shoulder line and a sleeve that fits well and feels comfortable.   This time it did not feel like an imperfect process; I actually felt like I knew what I was doing!

Getting ready to insert one sleeve.

Voila! It’s in.

Perhaps another of the clues to my feeling more confident in the process of this jacket is the fact that I felt I could take it in a little bit of a new direction. The most obvious departure from the norm is the fact that it has no buttons. Having seen some of the real Chanel jackets in my Pinterest feed that are embellished with bows instead of buttons, gave me the idea to change up this jacket. I really like bows, and I thought using bows would be the perfect foil to this rather regular, non-whimsical hounds-tooth boucle.

I also decided I would eliminate the sleeve extensions and go for curved hems, set off by the trim alone – no bows even for this professed lover of them, as I thought that would be just too much.

Before the trim is applied.

Here is what it looks like on the inside.

Another guiding principle I used for the embellishment of this jacket is the fact that I am planning a matching sheath dress for it. Obviously I want the two pieces to complement each other beyond the shared fabric, so the dress will be trimmed in a manner coordinating with the jacket. (These details will be shared in a future post when I have the dress underway. Eternally optimistic here!) Anyway, envisioning the jacket and dress worn together led me to add both the waistline trim and the trim above the bust (which is across the front only.)

First some details on the waistline trim: I set the pockets to follow this line; the trim is continuous across the top of the pockets (which pick up the curved hems of the sleeves.) I gradually dipped the back edge of the jacket by ½ inch in the center back (a couture technique I picked up from Susan Khalje) and had the waistline trim follow that contour, which I think adds a very graceful look.

I sewed the pocket linings by machine, as that gave the curved dip a better turn. I sewed first along the stitching lines and then cut the curve.

The slightly curved back of the jacket.

Second, I decided I needed the trim across the upper bust as an anchor for the bow I had planned. Obviously I had to set this trim in place before I inserted the sleeves.

The left sleeve pinned in place, the trim already applied.

It was a difficult decision for me to forego a printed lining for this jacket, but I am so glad I did. The black charmeuse has been tiring to work on for my blurry eyes, but it just seems right in this application. And just think – now I have an entire dress to concoct using more black lining!

The boucle is from Mendel Goldberg Fabrics; the trim is from Britex Fabrics, and the black silk charmeuse lining is from Emma One Sock Fabrics.

Until the matching dress is finished, a black sweater and black skirt will have to do.

A red handbag is just what this rather dark and dreary day needs.

I will definitely be ready for some bright Spring colors when this entire ensemble is finished.

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Filed under Boucle for French style jackets, Bows as design feature, Chanel-type jackets, classic French jacket, couture construction, Linings