Posted in Couture Sewing, Little Black (French) Jacket

LBJ*: Researching the real deal

*Little Black Jacket sometimes referred to as the LFJ or Little French Jacket

jackets on displaySo my obsession with Chanel and her Little Black (French) Jacket runs deep. If I am going to re-create it, I need to know more about it. So I begin my research by trying to figure out the details of the real deal.

I need to begin my journey with a bit of philosophizing about the importance of this iconic piece of clothing. My research leads me first to blogger Tina Craig’s piece “Secrets of the Chanel Jacket Revealed” where she says quite unequivocally that in her opinion (as the owner of the real deal several times over), “…there is no other piece of clothing that transcends time, style and age as gracefully.”[1] And later, “My CHANEL jackets are my secret weapons, the pull-it-out-and-be-fabulous no matter how much I weigh or feel at the moment kind.” That is precisely the kind of feeling I’m going for. But I need to find out what’s really under the boucle. Next stop, an online retailer specializing in authenticating their luxury resale items.

I stumble upon The RealReal in my search for the facts about an authentic Chanel LBJ. Their video on How to Authenticate Chanel Jackets has proven itself to be particularly useful in helping me to understand what might need to be a part of the inside of the jacket: anyone can reproduce the external look, but it’s the interior hand-finishing and machine quilting that are the key to an authentic Chanel. Just to be clear: I have no intention of trying to pass mine off as the real deal: what I want to do is create one that contains as many of the quality finishes as a Chanel as I can. I want to learn from the artisans who even today work in the Chanel atelier.

 

 

In a very good piece Vintage Chanel Tweed Suit: How to know if it is real or not? the author lists the elements that need to be considered when determining authenticity. Of the elements she includes I believe the following ones are going to be important aspects of my learning process and the eventual outcome of this project:

  • Paneling of the jacket body;
  • Quilting of the interior lining directly to the outside fabric;
  • Silk charmeuse lining; and
  • A chain sewn at the jacket hem.

The label and logo aren’t important to me, although issue of the quality of the buttons might be: I have yet to decide if there will be any button trim on this jacket of mine.

The Vintage Chanel Jacket: What sets it apart on the Vintage Fashion Guide also provides me with further useful information on the elements of the jacket that will be important to me.

  • The pockets (originally four of them) were all real pockets. Mlle. Chanel did not believe in faux pockets it seems.
  • There was almost always contrasting, braided trim of one sort or another.
  • Tweed and boucle are the fabrics of choice. The fabrics are described this way: “…where tweed is an unfinished wool, boucle (which can be wool) is made in such a way that the different strands of yarn are plied at different tensions, creating a textured, sort of nubbly appearance.”[2]

Since I started this journey, I have found out that Chanel originally obtained all of her tweed and boucle from a UK mill called Linton Tweeds. With over 100 years of experience behind them, these fabric experts still produce Chanel-worthy materials. You can visit them at World of Linton Tweeds and even order online. I had a look. Their fabrics are fantastic, but none of the ones available when I looked bowled me over so I’m going to have to find my fabric in the fashion design district of Toronto. I think that will be part of the process – and a lot of fun.

So I now have a better idea about what the real deal is like. My objective is to create a Chanel-type jacket that pays homage to the workmanship and style of the authentic item. Next up: finding my teachers & mentors.

[1] http://www.snobessentials.com/2007/11/secrets_of_the_chanel_jacket_r.html

[2] http://www.vintagefashionguide.com/2014/10/vintage-chanel-jacket-sets-apart/

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Posted in Couture Sewing, Little Black (French) Jacket, Style Influencers

LBJ*: The Project Begins

*Little Black Jacket sometimes referred to as the LFJ or Little French Jacket

cocoherself younger
Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel in her prime.

I’ve been obsessed by Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, her life, her esthetic and her contribution to the cultural evolution of the twentieth century for a very long time. The closest I’ve ever come to owning Chanel is a bottle of Coco Noir perfume and a caviar-leather vintage Chanel handbag which I guard with my life! I have never owned a single piece of Chanel clothing – probably mainly because of the price-tag. But that doesn’t stop me from coveting the esthetic and considering why her world has intersected with mine – at least with my imagination which it fires almost daily.

Sometime over the past winter I began to become obsessed by the Chanel jacket. So, like you do, I decided to re-create it for myself using couture sewing techniques that I would learn as I go. However, my first step in the process was to voraciously research both the genuine item and the recreations that evidently have been spawned by a previously unknown cottage industry: women all over the world are evidently sewing these recreations. Who knew? Well, I didn’t but I soon found out. But the project begins with research, and the research begins with the genuine item.

When you mention the term “Chanel jacket” there is a very specific esthetic that is conjured: the short, semi-fitted, princess-seamed, boucle tweed cardigan jacket lined with silk charmeuse. And so it is that iconic.

It was 1954 (a terrific year in my world!) and women had been confined in those wasp-waisted dresses that gave the extreme hour-glass at the expense of comfort. Could women be elegant, alluring and comfortable al at the same time? Chanel thought so.

Her creation was a piece of clothing that should be in the closet of every woman of a certain age to wear with everything from jeans to a ball gown and all those pieces in between. I think that it was this sense of minimalism and the straight cut of the jacket in its supremely comfortable boucle tweed are the elements that attracted me.

This video created by the Telegraph online is the best introduction to the LBJ that I have seen (note that that LBJ is often not B!). You can find it here.

My research has led to the creation of an idea board that is providing me with both information and inspiration. This is where my own LBJ journey begins.

pinterest board

Posted in Fashion, Style, Style Influencers

Edith Head:Style lessons from a costume designer

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[Above, the extraordinary Grace Kelly in an Edith Head gown.]

It’s really an understatement to call the legendary Edith Head simply a ‘costume designer.’ She certainly was that, and a whole lot more. Even as a junior-high-school nerd, I knew who she was. To me her name conjured up stylish women in sophisticated suits, coats, gowns and even hats (although to tell you the truth I’ve never really been a hat woman myself – look terrible in them!). And did you know that she has won more Oscars than any other woman? Not an actress, but a designer!

This week I stumbled on a piece about her and it made me think about how her movie costumes might have influenced the way I see fashion for those of us of a certain age – and all other women who care about themselves.

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Her day dress for Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun (1951)

Edith Head designed costumes for so many movies that not only captured a film era, but also a style era. When I look back on many of the pieces she created I see timeless classics that work for young women and for women of a certain age. When you’re in your 50’s and beyond you can carry off a whole lot of sophistication and elegance that in today’s fabrics would also offer comfort. I mean, who really wouldn’t like to have a great suit like Audrey is wearing in Funny Face? (in spite of the fact that my suit wearing days are thankfully behind me as I navigate a whole new life after work!)

Funny Hepburn
7th July 1956: Belgian-born actress Audrey Hepburn (1929-1993) films a scene for the Paramount musical ‘Funny Face’. Costumes by Givenchy. Original Publication: Picture Post – 8540 – Audrey Dances With Astaire – pub. 1957 (Photo by Bert Hardy/Picture Post/Getty Images)

Five lessons I have learned from Edith Head about style at a certain age:

  • Sexy doesn’t equal skin exposure. It was true in her time, and it is true now.
  • Alluring is better than sexy anyway – at any age.
  • Fit is everything. If a piece fits to perfection it doesn’t matter if it’s from TJ Maxx or Chanel.
  • Most of the time, less really is more. A great piece of clothing doesn’t need huge jewelry despite what the fashion magazines might say. Big accessories are trying to distract you from something nasty usually!
  • Quality beats quantity every time. Wonderful fabrics make everything better – for me it’s better to have one fantastic, well-crafted sweater that I love to wear than three that are just meh.

Edith Head is one of my fashion influencers. But there are others! Til next time!

Posted in Couture Sewing, Fashion, Fashion Blogs, Fashion Journalism, Style, Stylish Books, Stylish Travel

Just another fashion blog for women of a ‘certain’ age

I don’t suppose the world needs another blog about anything. To tell you the truth, I couldn’t care less! This one’s for me, but I’m willing to share it with you, too, if you’re a bit like me:

  • A woman of a ‘certain’ age (it can be whatever you want it to be);
  • You have an interest in fashion but mostly in style;
  • You are interested in other things other than fashion & style – things like travel, wine & reading;
  • You’re past caring what everyone else thinks.

If this is you, then join me from time to time. I’m planning to write about fashion journalism, what I’m learning about style throughout my life, fashion and style-related books I love, my pet peeves about fashion, how travel is a style statement and whatever else I think is relevant to a fabulous life at this stage. I’m also obsessed by Gabrielle Chanel, her life, her work and mostly her LBJ (little black jacket) so my research and project on recreating her LBJ will be the focus of the Coco files.

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