As you may remember I am making a linen jacket, based on this wonderful 1937 Chanel jacket, modeled here by Coco herself. I am using a 1990s Vogue pattern by Ungaro – Vogue 1977 – which is not a perfect match (the collar and darting in particular), but it works well enough.
Chanel was a woman who knew how to accessorise.
In the marvellous photos below, taken in her Paris apartment, Coco Chanel wears an interesting hair band. Her widow’s peak is emphasised as her hair is pulled back and decorated with a bowed, black satin ribbon. Her earrings are round and bold, floral, with a large pearl lighting up the middle. She wears more than one necklace – one that includes pearls, or maybe poppers; another is basically a chain with various attachments. The jacket is embellished with two brooch clips that look like little hands. On her wrists she wears bulky plastic (or maybe ivory) bangles, with a chain bracelet, and cigarette. But the nicest accessory of the lot is unobtrusive and really perfect. Have you spotted it?
It is the handkerchief she has popped into her top right hand jacket pocket. This detail is borrowed from menswear, but in this case is utterly feminine and beguiling. And it draws the eye to the tremendous pockets, which is what this jacket is all about. Despite their origins in work or military wear, on this jacket the four pockets are essentially decorative. The upper pair are slightly slanted upwards giving a sassy look.
I have been staring at these images for a few days now. Just like the Napoleon Six challenge I have been trying to interpret a look from a few photographs. Oh for a technical drawing, even if I can’t have the pattern!
I enjoy interpreting vintage or modern designer photographs, working out how the garment was made. While I have got a basic jacket constructed, the key element of this Coco jacket is the pockets – four patch pockets artfully placed and beautifully attached. They have an unusual, stand out quality to them and I assure you they are not easy to interpret.
The lower pockets are short and rather wide, wrapping around the side body, but standing proud and slightly open at the top. The effect is to create a little width at the hips, making the waist appear smaller. The upper pockets are widely spaced too, almost covering the breast and creeping under the arm. These pockets are soft, not interfaced, probably applied by hand. Pattern cutter Jay helpfully wrote:
I’m seeing the Chanel jacket as fairly unstructured. There’s shaping, but it doesn’t read as having the typical array of inner canvas pieces. My favourite features in it are the pockets (quite soft, bluffed on), the high buttoning with rounded revers and collar, and waist shaping…Bluffed on is just the way of stitching patch pockets from inside the pocket, but now I think about it Chanel probably hand sewed them on – either way without top stitching. Isn’t the top pocket interesting, both for position and shape?
I wish Jay was here to help me with this task, both the pattern cutting and the bluffing (lovely word). And thank you to Annie, and Elle and others who have given me pocket advice. I love the tip from Make it Anywhere – to make sure your pockets match stitch them both together with a basting stitch, turn and press. The pressing marks ensure that you have identical pockets!
Having got the jacket made to the extent of setting the sleeves in (but as yet unhemmed), no shoulder pads, unlined and unbuttoned, I auditioned several pockets.
Firstly I used pattern paper, running back and forth to consult the photos. I tried various sizes, depths, widths and angles. I pinned them on and gazed at my efforts. Eventually I made up pocket toiles in white cotton and pinned these in place. I then, second picture, tried on the jacket with the pinned pocket shapes (and my son’s swimming shorts…). At this stage I was feeling a bit exasperated, mainly because my jacket has a narrower front than the original. As you know my husband is a bit of an expert is wardrobe design! So I got him to consider the proportions and give me a second opinion. The original pockets were discussed at length. Nick even screen shot and magnified the photos and peered at them intently. At this point we admitted my jacket is rather different to Chanel’s – my buttoning is less high and I have two prominent darts in the front which I owe to Ungaro. So, inevitably, (like the colour) it is a compromise.
I have decided to have the lower pocket standing away from the jacket, lining it up with the grain of the jacket. Looking at my photograph above I think the pocket may need to be shallower. You can see the sleeves are rather long – deliberately so – I am hoping to unbutton them and fold them back to create the cuff similar to the one you see in the Chanel picture.
Jay and Annie both suggested bluffing my pockets on. This involves machine sewing them on from the inside – it is not a technique I had even heard of before. And while Annie suggests it is easier than it looks and sounds, I went with the hand stitched option. Although the stitches are obvious I like the effect. Now all I have to do is line the jacket and do the buttons/holes. I am thinking dark brown rather than black, and maybe getting some 1937 (or thereabouts) buttons.
I hope to be wearing this very soon!
I see now that my previous comments about Coco’s jacket were flippant, there are subtle details that work together and they make a strong visual impresssion. The style is perfect for her (and you), I bet she had her accessories in mind when she designed it. You’ve interpreted it well, it’s going to look even better when you put the finishing touches to it.
love the shaping, brilliant jacket and great analysis of the coco jacket (never noticed the pocket square myself!)
Oh, this is coming together beautifully! The pocket placement makes it an obvious nod to the original, but Ungaro’s darts add a wonderful dose of drama.
This is incredible work! I want one too! Thanks for sharing!
Lovely! A homage rather than a copy. Now that I’ve thought through the identical pockets basting approach it makes so much sense…..must try it!
Nice pockets! I think you’ve got the spirit of the original, whilst keeping the fit details of your pattern. I’m rather glad I’m not there to demonstrate bluffing on – it’s something I used to be able to do back in the day when I studied manufacturing methods. I can’t remember having done any recently, and am not sure that the eyesight is up to it. Basically, your garment had a couple of marks for placement, and your pocket matching ones, and starting at the top of one side you stitched round, kind of easing the pocket on the curves where the outer cut edge was longer than the stitching line. Couture houses hand stitched their pockets, so much less nerve wracking.
Your jacket looks lovely! I love how the Ungaro darts provide a softly structured and fluid area for the bust. I no longer remember how many buttons or how high you were thinking of placing them, but looking at the pocket placement, I am struck by how the waist area appears to be lengthened due to their wide apart spacing. For what it is worth, to my eye, I feel this area would benefit from several, more closely spaced than usual for a blazer, buttons. Something along the lines of the inspiration jacket by Chanel. To me the jacket really looks like what you were originally describing which was one that you could wear closed without a blouse or sweater and therefore more buttons would not only be more secure but also look appropriate.
Thanks so much for your lovely insightful remarks Dagmar. I really like the slightly blousey feel – the bust darts, pockets and highish break and more than two or three buttons. I am planning four buttons like Coco, rather than three with the Ungaro.
I had heard of bluffed pockets because Anne from @new_vintage_sewing posted about them recently on IG and I watched a YouTube video to see how they were done! I think the hand sewing option must be the way to go because I’m really not sure I could wrestle the whole thing under the machine! The jacket is looking good and I do love those pockets!
I learned that technique for putting on patch pockets in a sewing class. It takes quite a lot of practice to get right–and I never did. Anyway, it is best to try before the front is attached to anything else, which wouldn’t have worked for you anyway.
Much easier to do bluffed pockets on just one section I would say. Anyway this jacket is dedicated to you Lynn!
Karen of Fifty Dresses
I agree that four buttons will be better than 3, and do try to find some vintage ones if you can. They would be the icing on the cake of this lovely jacket! (Along with a vintage handkerchief…) Such a lovely pink – you look great in it!
Great outcome and knowing it is so custom will make you feel so special when wearing it along with a nice slick lining! My warped mind would like to see a jacket made with those darts on the outside and reduced to just 1/4 inch wide for drama. Love the collar and color and looking forward to the final reveal, Kate!
The jacket is looking amazing. It’s been lovely to follow your design process, and I think you’ve captured the essence beautifully.
That is very generous Nina. I am really pleased with the jacket, but I am also hankering to get closer to the original so I may do a second jacket.