One of the chapters in Claire Shaeffer’s new book, The Couture Cardigan Jacket, shows how to distinguish between an authentic vintage Chanel jacket and an authorized copy. In the past, American ready-to-wear makers, and even department stores that had their own sewing workshops, could buy the rights to make and sell couture copies. One of the best known makers of Chanel copies was Davidow.
Today we hear the word “copy” and we think of an illegal activity. But this practice was perfectly legal. In the photo below which was taken from the October 15, 1960 issue of Vogue, squint and you can read, “Suit copy by Davidow at Bonwit Teller. Chanel copies all five pages. ”
Photo copyright Conde Nast Publications, 1960
Davidow made both Chanel-inspired suits and as seen above, faithful Chanel copies, right down to the same fabric and Chanel buttons. They were not couture, but they were luxury ready-to-wear and as such were quite expensive.
My suit is of the Chanel-inspired variety. Still, it is a very nice suit with all sorts of lovely details.
Here is the Davidow label. But what if my label were missing? How could I tell that this is not a couture suit?
The first hint is the lining fabric. While the fashion fabric – the outside fabric that everyone sees – is a very nice tweedy silk, the lining is an average quality acetate. In a couture suit the lining would be silk.
As you would find in a couture suit, the sleeve is nicely shaped to fit the bend of the elbow. However, this sleeve is constructed from two pattern pieces. Chanel couture sleeves have three pieces.
My suit has a vent at the sleeve cuff, but the button is sewn to secure the vent. In a couture suit there would be a functioning buttonhole through which the button would fasten.
My suit has topstitching around the collar and the front edges. The topstitching was sewn after the jacket was constructed. In a Chanel couture jacket, the topstitching will be only on the outside layer and is stitched before the pieces are constructed.
The buttonholes on my suit are bound. On a Chanel couture jacket the buttonholes are handworked, with a faux bound hole on the lining.
On copies, the flaps often do not have a real pocket beneath. However, my suit has two actual pockets and two faux pockets. You might think that all Chanel couture suits would have pockets beneath all flaps, but Shaeffer’s research has shown this to not be true. Chanel often used faux flaps as well.
My jacket is also not quilted and there is no chain along the edge of the hem. But it does have a nice Lord and Taylor label.
To see some great ads from the early 1960s which show Davidow suits, visit Jen’s blog, Pintucks.