Little French Jacket Update

I know that some readers were interested in hearing how the progress of my latest sewing project is going.  I’ve finally stopped reading and looking at videos and photos, and I’ve begun the actual work.

To be honest, the hardest part has been deciding on the features I want the jacket to have.  Above you can see the classic jacket as drafted by Claire Shaeffer.  It has all the bells and whistles and immediately calls to mind the work of Coco Chanel.  I’ve realized that if I’m going to put this much work into a sewing project, the end result is going to have to really suit my needs and style.

The classic and basic jacket is just too “dressy” for the life I lead.  I know that a 20-something model type could throw on that jacket over jeans and look perfect.  But I’m older, and I want something fun and playful, not something I’d only wear on dressy occasions.

So I’ve spent a lot of time looking at the past collections at Chanel, looking for inspiration.  One of my all time favorites is the fall 2004 collection, and I especially loved this one:

I’ve actually been saving photos of jackets I love, just waiting for the time I could buy one.  But my gosh, the price goes up every year, and the $3000 suit that seemed to be such an extravagance in the 1980s today looks like a bargain compared to $6000 for a ready-to-wear jacket alone.   My only option was to make my own.  Luckily I had all those photos going back  fifteen years to show what really attracted me.

My jacket will be quite similar to the one above.  To the original pattern I’ll be adding a collar and removing the button closing.  I’m planning on just two pockets and self-fringe trim.  I’m still using Claire’s pattern but with the modifications.

As for now, I’ve finished the toile and the fitting.  The only major alteration was in the shoulders, as mine are very narrow.  I’ve begun work on the pieces, using Claire’s book and video as a guide to marking and thread tracing the fabric. I just about have the front finished.

So far, the process has been quite easy, but all the hand work takes a lot of time.  I actually enjoy hand stitching, so it is not a chore.  But it does require lots of patience.  I’ve always been a slow sewer, and so that helps.

I cannot stress how helpful Claire Shaeffer’s book, and especially the accompanying dvd, have been.  If you are considering making your own jacket using couture techniques and cannot take a class, I highly recommend the book and dvd.  Even though I’ve been sewing for 40 years, t is just amazing how much I’m learning about construction.

Unfortunately, I have problems with inflammation in my hands, so I’m limited to only a couple of hours a day of  hand work.  So don’t expect to see the finished product for a while yet.

I’ll not be posting any more updates here, but I am trying to post a daily photo of my progress on Instagram.  You can see the photos without having an account.



Filed under Sewing

17 responses to “Little French Jacket Update

  1. It’s exciting to read about your progress. It sounds like you have done quite a lot of work already with the toile and fittings. For interest sake, which book of Claire’s are you referring to? I relate to you on enjoying the hand work……….and slow sewing.


  2. Your inspiration jacket is so beautiful–much more to my taste than the straight-up Chanel standard. I detest hand sewing, so I don’t ever see myself making one of these jackets, no matter how luxurious they may be to wear. I used to have a lot of problems with inflammation in my hands and wrists and I found that eliminating things from my diet made it basically disappear. The only hitch is…I had to eliminate a whole lot of things. Gluten, eggs, soy, nightshades, grains other than rice, dairy. But it’s nice to not be achy and migraine-y and eczema-y!


  3. Susan G.

    A lot depends on why your hands are painful, but when I have had occasional jobs that required a lot of hand stitching, I found that wearing a wrist brace just while I was sleeping — the kind with a metal insert that fits into your palm and keeps your wrist from flexing — helped a great deal. I was able to buy one at a drugstore, after a friend’s doctor had her sleeping with one on each wrist at night. Between hand tailoring and constantly pulling pins as I sewed, my right wrist and hand got a lot of repetitive motion when I was sewing as a full time job. A few nights with the inexpensive brace stopped the ache.
    Your jacket will be lovely and practical! Cheers!


    • My problem is trigger finger, which is an inflammation of the tendons that connect to the fingers. I’ve had bouts of it since 2004, and had to have surgery on one finger. When it flares up I can usually get rid of it by wearing finger braces and taking an anti-inflammatory, but this time it has been very stubborn. I’ve had to pretty much curtail any on-line activity, which is why I’m so slow to answer emails and to respond on this and other blogs.


  4. I love the 2004 jacket you are using as inspiration for yours. It looks so perfect and I’m looking forward to seeing your finished one.


  5. Good luck with your jacket!


  6. I absolutely love your inspiration jacket! I think that is the first “Chanel-style” jacket I’ve seen that makes me want one! The standard style has never been very “me”.

    I’ve been enjoying your update photos on IG. Hope your hands don’t give you too much trouble so you can enjoy the sewing! =)


    • Brooke, your use of ‘Chanel-style’ here is correct in my opinion when describing this style of jacket. In fact, fashion and textile textbooks from the 50s though recent publications have used this term to define that silhouette. Sadly (or maddeningly, depending on your POV) the Chanel legal cops are all over this term online and it seems that we can no longer label this jacket as such (hence Claire’s rather cryptic book title). In my opinion, Chanel needs to back off, as this term has been in use waaaaay too long to try to police it now.


      • It really is a shame that they take such a hard line. I can remember even in the early days of ebay that vintage sellers who used any version of the word “Chanel” to describe a suit that was obviously inspired by the work of Coco Chanel would have their listing suddenly vanish. I assume it is still happening. And a while back Chanel took out a full page ad in WWD to warn people not to use “Chanel” as an adjective. Legally, they are in the right, and I can see wanting to protect what is probably their most valuable asset, the Chanel name. Still, it is hard to image that the company had anything to fear from home sewers and vintage sellers!


  7. Lots of fun to follow your progress! Making one of these jackets is quite an experience…


  8. I’ve decided to make the jacket again using regular sewing techniques to see if I like the fit. It won’t be as elegant, but it won’t take months. I’ll let you know.


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