Getting closer to Chanel

Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel is one of my style icons. She always knew how to dress, but never more so than in the period before the Second World War.

If you copy an outfit she put together or designed in this period you can’t really get it wrong. Any of the above looks would be fine today – or anyday. This is one reason why I sought to copy a 1937 Chanel jacket. And I have worn this item almost daily since I finished it!

The jacket got complements. On Instagram it got 288 “likes”! I wore it for a recent interview with Inside Housing. One stylish lady at a conference said: “I love your jacket”. “Thank you!” I replied. “It’s a copy of a 1930s Chanel, and I made it”. She said “You made it – well you would never know!” I guess that is a complement, but it felt odd. A bit like Marijana’s friend’s being told that her homemade butter cookies were “as good as Marks and Spencer!”

Inspired by Chanel I used very plain matt black buttons although I had sought out dark brown or navy. I used fairly big buttons on the cuffs and I have worn them undone and folded back. In all respects this jacket is “me”. At the moment I am loving it with navy and a cheeky little deep pink silk handkerchief. It works really well for me. It is soft and curvy and easy to throw on. It looks nice buttoned too although I prefer an informal look. My main negative feeling arises because it is too pink. It is a nice colour. It suits me. It is lively and perfectly acceptable for work. But people mention the colour.


But when I initially saw the Chanel photograph – posed in her Paris apartment – and planned to copy it, I decided to depart from her design a little, to get it closer to my personal style. My main worry – stylewise – was the collar and rever. So i decided to use a ‘good-enough’ Ungaro pattern (Vogue 1977) I already had, rather than starting from scratch. Comparing the two now, I am a little dissatisfied with its discreet collar; the one Ungaro designed. For me to change it would be quite a lot of work. This isn’t the easiest part of a jacket to draft (it’s probably the hardest, actually) and there was something a bit extreme about the collar that I didn’t, initially, warm to.

Now, when I look at it on the dress-stand the collar and lapel looks a bit mean. The other features where I think Chanel does it better than me (quelle surprise!) are a bit more roominess over the bust and a more impressive cuff. And I am still ambiguous about the pink. So shall I have a second go?

Colour and Fabric

While I was still thinking about lighter pink I took some advice from Instagram and tried my hand at natural dying using beetroot. I won’t elaborate save to say – very messy, not fast. Even with the suggested salt and vinegar additions beetroot makes a lovely colour but it doesn’t last one wash. For now I have given up on very pale pink. I went out and bought some nice beige linen at Simply Fabrics. It’s that kind of indefinable beige that looks good on many people – neither warm nor cool – it tones with my hair. While I did consider a white jacket, these cool beiges will “read” as white against a strong colour and will blend nicely with lighter ones.

I fear that the fabric may still be a little stiffer than Chanel’s jacket. The original seems to have more drape and maybe a lighter weight, washed linen, lined or underlined with something a bit more substantial. It is hard to know.

So I am going to have a second go at this jacket, but this time trying to make it much closer to the original, which will mean moving the darts. I think one under bust dart will look like Coco’s. The two darts together take up 3.5cms, so rather than making one larger dart I think I will move some of the fullness (about 1cm) to the side seam and just ease it in.

I am also planning on doing a larger, floppier collar and rever, and maybe bringing it up a little bit towards the neckline.

I have had a little go with some not very nice navy patterned fabric. It will be almost impossible for you to see what I have done here, but it looks promising to me. I need to reduce the collar and take it back a little bit more but I feel I am in the right ball park.

Nick and I are doing a course for the next six weekends, so apart from finishing the pattern I don’t think I will be doing much on this second jacket.

In the meantime Mary suggested I might like to join Portia’s Suit refashion. I would have liked to, and I even went to have a look at the Clitheroe charity shops, but the deadline of the end of October is too tight for me. I shall be watching with great interest and I will join in next year.

23 Responses

  1. Sue Newth

    It looks fabulous Kate Well done. I am not surprised you get comments, positive ones.! I admire your perseverance in getting just what you want from the photos of this jacket. I look forward to seeing the next one. Kind regards Sue N

  2. felicia

    I must have missed the finished jacket on IG, but I can see it here and I like it a lot. I think you’re getting comments on the colour because it makes the jacket stand out. Personally I don’t think pink paired with navy or even black reads as “feminine”. I think it reads as “bold”.

  3. Nicola

    Your jacket looks fab. For the next one, have you looked at Brussels Washer linen? It’s draper than 100% linen because of the rayon content and there is a good range of colours.

  4. Esme

    I love the more elaborate collar and am surprised you didn’t go for it first time round – I would say your style is very distinctive and this will definitely suit you. The navy mock-up looks perfect, love it and I think you need a reasonably soft linen, look at the way Coco’s falls right back at the shoulder. And p.s. I never managed to remove the stain on my skirt from your beetroot soup once, perhaps cooking and whizzing it with plenty of salt first will do the trick!

  5. Maggie

    I’ve been following this series with huge interest. I adore Chanel, and think you are doing a fabulous job of steering your wardrobe contents towards a “look”. Please do keep us up to date with all this.

  6. jay

    Your first jacket is definitely a success, not a straight copy of the Chanel though. The lapel toile is looking good, as you say the collar part needs reducing a smidge and the angle between the collar edge and the lapel adjusting. From the way the jacket sits on Mme Chanel, I think the lapel and front line may not be drafted in the standard way, where you can do up the buttons all the way if you like. It looks more as though the top of the two fastened buttons could be the break point, the lapel is added further up. In the small photo it looks more standard. The fabric is definitely soft. I have a jacket I made ages ago in a wild silk (the natural silk with a matt surface and lots of slubs in). It’s lined with habotai. This falls in a similarly unstructured way.

  7. ceci

    I’m wondering if your navy mock up collar sits a bit farther forward than the original? IE the seam between the front lapel and the back collar is farther to the front? I do love your pink, it is so vibrant. Sometimes people comment clumsily because they aren’t able to clearly express admiration, that’s how I would interpret the “you’d never know it”……I personally love the pink jacket and would know instantly that you made it because it is so pretty.

    In my experience beet stain is completely permanent where it is not wanted; I have a white silk blouse with a pink blotch to prove it. For a while I considered only eating beets while naked.


  8. Mary Funt

    This version looks wonderful and very wearable. Chanel’s lapel design seems to be larger than your first model but maybe a bit smaller than the blue test one. I’m interested to see what you do for the next one.

  9. Makeitanywear

    I love the pink jacket. No surprise I’m team pink. I think you should give it a try over a white or light grey top with a dark (yes I like navy) bottom. I think I’d prefer less contrast with what is worn under it though it wouldn’t replicate the Coco outfit as much.

  10. Lynn Mally

    What is distinctive about Chanel’s collar, I think, is that the break (is that the right word?) between the back collar and the front lapels is actually quite far back. It is almost at her shoulder. I don’t think it is just the way she’s standing or the angle of the photo. Your mock up is lovely, but not quite right. I love the pink on you, and the navy accents. Your skills amaze me. And what is that six week class you are taking? Shoe making? Airplane design?

  11. erin alter

    hmm. i am no expert on this. but i wonder if part of what works about Chanel’s jacket is the proportions and specifically, where it hits her body. that then makes me wonder if you could use those points as clues to adapt this to your own jacket. for example, where the lapel seam joins at the collar examining where that hits on her neck, it looks to be more on the front side, just over the scalene muscles. where are those on your neck? it also looks as though the angle of the lapel where it separates out from the collar, that sits right over her collar bone at that point.

    could that give you direction on where to place those points on your own collar and lapel?

  12. Liana

    Love the jacket! Well done. In regards to pale pink I had some success dying muslin with avocado skins. It was a very delicate pink slightly toward beige but that could be because I used unbleached muslin… thanks for sharing your sewing adventures!

  13. Linda Galante

    I love your pink version of Chanel’s jacket, but can’t wait to see your next go on copying those lapels. They’re so perfect on her, and would be quite lovely on you too, a bit larger than yours but with the same curve, maybe? Love what you’re doing here!

  14. Karen of Fifty Dresses

    Pink is a wonderfully flattering color, Kate, and on no one more so than you. If I were you, I would embrace it! I often find myself tweaking patterns on their second go-round, so I understand what you are doing. Isn’t it nice that as dressmakers, we have this option? Anyway, your pink jacket is just lovely!

  15. Aida

    This jacket is gorgeous and part of it’s beauty to me is the colour, I really like pink and it looks great on you, I think there is some prejudice about this clolour but in the right tone it is very flattering. looking forward for your next make as well as the result of the class you’re attending!

  16. Elle

    Well, this is very exciting! The pink jacket is wonderful, and doubly so because you’re finding that it feels so right for you. And no apologies for the color; worn with panache as you do, it is striking but not unsuitable. Why is it a problem that people mention it? The second iteration with the changes you and others are suggesting, and a softer fabric, will be even better. Did I mention exciting?

  17. Dagmar

    The first iteration is lovely. The colour and style are unique and very flattering to you. I feel that the first version is more ideal worn open while Chanel’s unique and larger collar really suits a blouse style blazer meant to be worn closed. Personally, I love wearing unexpected colours although I am careful to balance them with pieces that prevent the colour from taking me over. Nonetheless, I can see why you are still hankering after more of a neutral pink or other tone for this style. The style is already so feminine that the colour does not need to be the main story.

  18. Sarah

    Oh I noticed this on IG! Yes it’s a really canny copy, I love the fitted style and for what it’s worth I think the colour is fabulous. I’ve just got a book about Chanel from the library this week and am looking forward to dipping in this weekend. Your jacket is real inspiration, well done.

  19. Vancouver Barbara

    Love your jacket. Love the pink. Love the pink on you. Yes, definitely go for a second and a third… The proportions are lovely on you.
    Love the kid’s sweater on you. Looks very stylish. Not like you’re wearing a kids sweater.
    What’s your IG address. Can’t find you.

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