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.