Original Chanel jacket from 1954 Haute Couture collection. Every meticulous stitch is still as it was the day Coco Chanel herself put the finishing touches on it.
Regardless of how one prefers to wear their CHANEL jacket, we all agree that there is no other piece of clothing that transcends time, style and age as gracefully. I wear mine with jeans for lunch and shopping dates, wide legged trousers for cocktails and a full length multi tiered silk chiffon Chanel skirt for black tie. My CHANEL jackets are my secret weapon, the pull it out and be fabulous no matter how much I weigh or feel at the moment kind. Nothing in my closet is as glamorous or versatile, I own dozens of CHANEL jackets and do not plan to part with any of them! Some I have had for 13 years, since I first started collecting in my 20's, and some are new additions from this season. I keep each and every single one in a cedar lined closet in its original Chanel garment bag with a photo on the outside for ease of dressing. Call me obsessive but those of you who own these amazing creations know what I am talking about, the ones who don't, you need to go and try one on. Just for the experience. And you'll most likely leave with one.
I promised you a first hand peek at the very exclusive exhibit of CHANEL jackets from the Paris archives and you will not be disappointed. The exhibit was an amazing collection of the iconic CHANEL jacket, ranging from a suit reproduced from the first collection in 1916 to an original from 1954. There were also pieces from recent collections, one of which I have in my closet! So why the CHANEL jacket? Coco Chanel also created the first designer perfume, first shoulder bag (so her hands can be free) and was the first to design the LBD (little black dress, because she hated the confining clothes of the early 1900's)
But it is the CHANEL jacket that is the most iconic and identifiable with the House of CHANEL for almost 100 years (some may argue it is the quilted bag but that did not come until 1955). Gabrielle Chanel used to say that elegance meant being equally beautiful on the inside and the outside. The same could be said of clothing. Some items possess sufficient magic to pass through time, while retaining an aura of desire, femininity, youthfulness and timelessness. Like the little black dress and the 2.55 quilted bag, the CHANEL jacket occupies a special position, that of an iconic luxury item - as beautiful on the inside as the outside.
Left: 1964 Haute Couture collection Right: 2006 Pret a porter
The first Chanel suit- 1916
The first CHANEL jackets were made in 1916, when Gabrielle Chanel made use of fluid, malleable wool jersey (which was only used as men's underwear at the time and thus she caused a scandal when she made the first Chanel suit with it!) due to limited materials from the war, it was really all that was available. In an age when style often meant confinement in stiff materials and corsets, the CHANEL jacket left its mark by reflecting the needs of a society in which women were soon to play an active and major role.
In 1954 Mademoiselle Chanel returned to her truly unusual fashion policy and rendered the jacket in her favorite fabric- tweed. She returned to fashion after closing her atelier during WWII because she hated what she saw happening in the fashion industry after the war. Once again, women were tightened into tiny corsets and fitted dresses with poufy skirts, such was the style popularized by Dior but was a very uncomfortable not to mention unnatural look. The average woman did not have an 18 inch waist with 40 inch bust and hips! She wanted to give women clothes that fit with their active lifestyle; comfort and style were key and she made sure every detail in CHANEL jackets fit the demands of the modern women. Sleeve lengths and pockets had to meet specific construction requirements and panels were created so the jacket could be fitted to each woman's specific shape, she also preferred 3/4 length sleeves so she could show off her favorite bangles! One of the many secrets of the CHANEL jacket is in its silk lining; it conceals a fine chain that gives the jacket its impeccable silhouette. As Mme. Chanel once said, "a woman loves nothing more than to be wrapped in chains". Who knew she was the precursor to Madonna?!?! Seriously though, the weighted chain allows the jacket to hang properly against a woman's figure and not lose shape. CHANEL is the only couture house to 'weight' its jackets in this way.
Another important secret of the CHANEL jacket is in the paneling, there are multiple panels in each jacket created to fit a woman's body perfectly not only to keep its shape but it allows for sizing up or down 2-3 sizes! I had to make use of this when I was pregnant, the lovely Alessandra at Chanel was able to size up my jackets during my pregnancy and size them back to my true size when I lost the baby weight. What other piece of clothing can allow you the same flexibility?
Mme Chanel loved ribbons, pearls and embroidery and trimmed them not only on her jackets but her jewels, bags and belts. As seen on this amazing white lambskin trimmed with black silk ribbons from the 1991 Ready to wear collection. Mme Chanel loved ribbons almost as much as she loved chains. It is one more element of femininity that she embraced and that Karl Lagerfeld continues today.
Every season since 1983 Karl Lagerfeld has reinvented and reinterpreted the cut of the CHANEL jacket- short or stretched, close-fitting or loose. He has turned the CHANEL jacket into a chameleon that always remains desirable, timeless and unique. He had been able to transcend the CHANEL heritage, enriching the jacket's basic qualities while retaining its intrinsic features. He often quotes Goethe, who spoke of building a better future by expanding elements of the past.
It is an incredible design saga that explains how the CHANEL jacket has been able to stand up to the passage of time, defying changes in fashion and continuing to attract all the women who have succumbed to its inimitable sophistication and look. From Kate Moss to Vanessa Paradis, no one is able to resist the allure of the CHANEL jacket. Call Alexis to schedule a fitting of the latest from Fall and Resort Ready to Wear. 214-520-1055
CHANEL Jacket hand embroidered at the House of Lesage, France's oldest embroiderer. This took 60 hours of handwork and only 10 were made.
Photos: Courtesy of CHANEL