Thursday, 25 April 2013

What is the real secret of Chanel jackets?

On the first evening after the classic French jacket class, I did a little research on the use and mis-use of the term "Chanel jacket". The first thing I came across was this document. It turns out that Chanel runs ads in Women's Wear Daily to protect its trademark.

"Although our style is justly famous, a jacket is not ‘a Chanel jacket’ unless it is ours, and somebody else’s cardigans are not ‘Chanel for now.’ And even if we are flattered by such tributes to our fame as ‘Chanel-issime, Chaneled, Chanels, and Chanel-ized,’ PLEASE DON’T. "; the advertisement states.

Fair enough, they want to prevent their brand name from becoming a generic term. But perhaps they are also trying to maintain a certain veil of exclusivity around their brand, and especially their famous jackets. If you want to know the full story about how Coco made her jacket legendary, go browse on the Internet and you'll find multiple resources. I'll only summarize it.

She was the first one who popularized a piece of clothing suitable for an active lifestyle and yet also glamorous and fashionable. Thus the distinguishing features of the jacket are:
  • a bodice with multiple panels (back and front princess seams) to nicely hug the silhouette; 
  • three-piece sleeves to fit comfortably and reveal the vent and buttons; 
  • 3/4-length sleeves to expose jewellery and shirt cuffs;
  • a chain to counterbalance the heavy buttons at the front and avoid puckering at the back;
  • a vibrant silk lining; originally, the jackets were often sold with a matching shirt;
  • fancy trims and buttons to embellish simple fabric (in the past, the patterns of tweed used to make jackets were more limited than nowadays).
Well, Coco was a smart woman and she combined many practical elements of sewing and embellishments to create something comfortable and elegant.

There is no great secret to the construction, but you can find some interesting articles on it nonetheless. If you read Claire Shaeffer's book, she has almost four pages dedicated to "Chanelism" and the various couture techniques which can be used to produce such a jacket. There are also a couple of wonderful pieces in the Threads Magazine online, available for paying subscribers, where you can dig out lots of interesting info. 

As I have described before, I found the sewing process relatively easy. The jacket does not have an underlining. The silk lining is quilted directly to the fashion fabric before the seams are sewn together. Quilting helps the jacket keep its shape better, and at the same time prevents the fabric from becoming loose or distorted. Since the thread has to match the fabric, I wound green thread on my bobbin and used yellow for the top. And voilà!

When the quilting is over, all you need to do is to pull the thread between the layers and knot it. Again, no big secrets here, since quilting existed many many years before Chanel.

So what is the real secret, if any, to the Chanel jacket? Why are Chanel so strongly defending the use of the term? Is it the unique fabric woven exclusively for the shows and private clients? The handmade trims and embroidery? Or the special designs by Karl? What do you think?

Some of the secrets of the Little Black Jacket are revealed in this little video. By the way, have you noticed they use Chakoner chalk (0:57min)? I've just stocked my Etsy shop with it!


  1. I had to learn about Chanel's construction techniques when I made a matching tweed top and short last summer. So much work is put into this construction but it's worth it. I consider it a piece of artwork.

    What a neat behind-the-scenes video too! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks for sharing all this. I love the video and watched it over and over. I was also fascinated that they sewed over the pins. I always thought that was a no - no! I wonder is there such a course to do in Australia? Oh and I'm heading over to your etsy store tout de suite!

  3. Wow- that quilting looks fantastic and makes a lot of sense when it comes to jacket construction.
    And thank you for the video- it's super interesting!

  4. When you watch this video jacket-making seems so easy! Done in 3 minutes!

  5. From reading about sewing on industrial machines (which is going to be my next buy), I understand that sewing over the pins is allowed. Many professionals also try to avoid pins, interesting articles here and here.
    And thenks for visiting my Etsy boutique :)

  6. Amazing video, I'm surprised by how much machine work is used and to have those drafting skills, wow! Would you agree that they feel like the most luxe cardigan you have ever worn? there is just something something so empowering even when worn with jeans...they look beautiful and the silk lining with the weight of the chain just takes it to a special place...

  7. Your tweed ensemble is a real subject of seamstress' envy! I totally agree that the amount of work and time invested into high quality garments pays off!

  8. Спасибо!:) Получается, что из-за структуры ткани эти швы просто не видны, стежку имею ввиду. Надо срочно найти шанелевский жакет и поразглядывать поближе:))))

  9. Да, ты права: не видно швов. Так что можно их хоть вдоль, хоть впоперек, хоть в квадратик или в цветочек строчить. Думаю, что в "vintage stores" должны продаваться!

  10. Yep, know and love that video! They don't quilt the lining though in this one, or do they just skip that part (sneaky bastards..) ? p.s. love the blog:) Milena from the Home Blues

  11. I think they skip the quilting part on the video since quilting is essential to a tweed jacket ;)

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