Friday, February 7, 2014

Jacket a la Chanel

It's been a long time since I posted a finished project, because this was a long one. I enjoy the well done pieces, and this is the quintessential slow sewing project.
Many years ago, back in the 80s when I was very young I sew a "Chanel style" suit, green with black trims. It was very successful, but I would like to have a closer look now to see how I've learnt since then, and be proud at myself.
So, a Chanel jacket... or a couture jacket, as C. Shaeffer likes to call it. I bought this book from The Book Depository (great place!)
The Couture Cardigan Jacket: Sewing Secrets from a Chanel Collector Although it is a beautiful book and a learnt a lot with it, it has some omissions, like for instance, collars, facings, and trimmings applied in between, to name some examples.

I followed most the techniques suggested in the book, although I omitted or changes some.
For example, I used my own pattern. I drew it from the tailored jacket with a two-pieces sleeve. The fit was very good, but I had to modify some important parts (and I was disappointed at that). For example, it has too much ease all around, the sleeves were too full in their heads, and the shoulders were too big. I needed somebody to help me fitting the toile (thanks my auntie Marité, an expert seamstress). I definitely need a mannequin if I want some autonomy, specially with sleeves. I now see my clothes form years past and I cannot believe I was able to accept such horrible sleeve fitting.
I've made some pictures of the process, wanna have a look?
Basting the jacket pieces together, after having quilted the lining to every piece. This proves a gruesome task, ironing the pieces together having the lining there in the middle, but the result is worth it, The quilted lining gives structure and support to the soft wool fabric.

Although it was not mentioned in Shaeffer's book, I decided to sew some cotton strips into the shoulder seam to prevent it from sagging. Seen now, maybe it is not necessary, since the jacket is held in place but the quilted lining. Notice the fusible interfacing in the front panel. This is a more practical choice, and the results are excellent, I love fusible interfacing. I applied it to the sleeves and jacket hems as well, as suggested in the book.

Sewing the lining together by hand, avoiding to sew it into the fabric. Of the two techniques suggested in the boo, the "kissing" is easier to do, the lapped more beautiful, in my opinion.

The sleeve is basted and rebasted after a couple of fittings, and finally sewn by hand with backstitches. I loved this! It is easier to control the ease and to shape it.

 Previously, we must give shape to the sleeve head with the iron, also a wonderful technique with excellent results. I marvel at this technique of easing with steam.

Here I am sewing the lining at the sleeve. At this point I felt so happy, seeing the end was near.

 After much testing I decided to make my own double fringe and then apply a navy trim in the middle sewn it by hand, as Shaeffer suggested. But then my auntie told me it would have been better with the machine to keep it from unraveling (too late). Well...

Preparing the lining edges with pins...

...and sewing the lining very close to the edge with fell stitches (my favourite hand stitch)

I decided to use zippers in the front closing and in the sleeves, I see it more modern and less formal (and avoid the hand sewn buttonholes, jeje...)

Finally I made two small pockets without trim. For their practicality.

Coco Chanel liked to make coordinated blouses and since she is my inspiration I made this top to go with the jacket, in a lovely indigo jersey. It is my eternal universal T-shirt pattern, always perfect.
After finishing this project, having studied some of Chanel's jacket designs, I can only state my admiration. I know she had more than 300 employees, a couture jacket or suit cost thousands, she owned millinery and notions factories and had access to the best fabrics, but still, she started out of nowhere, and she was brave enough to change fashion for women in a radical sense. Her imagination in embellishment, the extense use of different techniques, the originalitly of her designs... are amazing.


  1. It looks fantastic! You take so much time and care, I don't think I would have the patience!

  2. Thank you. I used to be Speedy Gonzalez in terms of sewing, but trust me, it is completely worth it. But you are a perfectionist as well, so...


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