Thursday, June 22, 2017

Celeste est fini...The Secret is in the Chain

The Chanel jacket is a commonplace garment worn by the well-heeled and best dressed, but only dreamt about by the likes of middle-America people like me. If we are blessed with a gift for dressmaking, then we can copy the styling of this iconic jacket with the help of pattern makers. My goal was to make a "Little French Jacket" using the couture techniques that make the big fashion houses famous, before I turned 70.

I started my jacket in March of last year and named her Celeste. Though I didn't spend a year actually working on it, it was a time consuming and challenging project. I can normally make a complex garment like jeans or a lace dress in roughly four to six hours, but couture sewing techniques take time and patience, and lots of hand sewing. I tracked my time, documenting the various stages just to see how close I would come to the 100+ hours it takes the designers to whip one up.

Start to finish, Celeste took roughly 70 hours. I think part of the reason my time is shorter is that I didn't count in any customer fittings and I did use my machine in some parts of the construction.  And, as much as I tried to make hand sewn buttonholes, they looked like crap, so I opted to make machine bound buttonholes instead.  That would have probably added another 10+ hours to the total, plus the cost of a bottle of bourbon.

I have already documented some of the couture stages of the jacket construction in previous posts, but I wanted to give you a picture of some of the many aspects of the making of Celeste...and her final debut. It's funny that I finished her in a record setting heat wave in California, so I'll not be wearing her any time soon. She will just have to hang on Colette in my new sewing studio.

I won't even make you wade though the construction details to wait for a picture - here she is, up front and center...
Celeste est fini...

And here below, for all the sewing junkies, are some of the construction details...I made plenty of mistakes during the process and "would do it differently next time", if I were ever going to make another jacket.  I will admit as much as I loved the hand sewing, I'll not be making another. Celeste is a one of a kind, once in a lifetime adventure, thank you.

Recall that the couture method starts with rectangles big enough to fit each pattern piece, the outlines of which are thread traced onto the rectangle.  You don't actually cut the seams until after you match up the thread tracings and sew the seams...very opposite to standard garment construction.

The silk lining pieces are basted to the woolen fabric along the "quilting lines"
The bound buttonholes which I chose to add were made with grey organza and reinforced. Wished I had used a darker organza,

Passable, but not Chanelish.
 The center front edges were also stabilized with organza "tape".

After the quilting on each piece was completed, the princess and side seams were sewn together, matching the thread tracings.  The lining was then hand sewn at all the seams

The hem was also stabilized with some special bias tape that JoAnn's doesn't carry,  and not wishing to drive to Stonemoutain  or Britex, I ordered it off the Internet. Pick stitches hold it in place.

All the trim is sewn on by hand

The three piece sleeves are sewn together using the conventional method.  (I must have laid awake for three nights trying to figure out how they would be constructed...until I went back to the book and saw that they are just a normal sleeve construction.  I cut a narrow strip of that fancy tape to stabilize the sleeves, then hand sewed the hemline and sleeve vent.  I did cheat on the vent - no buttonholes...another Chanel faux pas.

Adding the trims...

The lining is basted in and the quilting lines are added by machine.

I love the doing the "fell" stitch...all the lining pieces are sewn together and hemmed using this stitch. The trick is to keep them tiny.

Sleeve innards...

Finished sleeve...

I have put in so many set in sleeves in my life, they are not a problem for me.  And any time you are sewing with a rich woolen fabric they are that much easier, as the fabric has a lot of give. (Be sure to always use a basting line to ease the sleeve into the armhole.  I just pinned the sleeves in my normal fashion and sewed them with my machine.

The hardest part of this method is that the sleeve lining is all over the place and basically in your way. Once the sleeve is sewn in, the sleeve lining is then pinned to the bodice lining and hand sewn together.

The entire lining is hand sewn to the jacket fabric...and those dang buttonholes. Not very pretty.

One of the last steps is making the pockets. Originally I was only going to have two pockets, which is not very Chanel, but I ran out of one of the trims - the selvage edge of the fabric (the fabric was purchased three years ago at Stonemountain).  As it was, I had to open up the back seam and cut off that selvage to make enough trim for the sleeves and pockets.  But after sewing on the two lower pockets, I knew I needed to add the two upper pockets.  Otherwise it's just another boxy jacket. I had one piece of the selvage edge, but it was cut too narrow. Solution - I just cut down the width a fraction of an inch and was able to make trim for the two upper pockets.

The pockets are lined and hand sewn to the jacket.
 When all is said and done, it's not a Chanel-styled jacket unless it has a chain at the hemline.  The Chanel chain gives the jacket it's "weight", and makes it hang better on your body.  Plus the weight of the jacket is one of it's endearing features when you slip it on.  The silk lining caresses your body...I can understand why you see a lot of sleeveless blouses underneath one of these jackets.

Even though I have enough fabric to make slim skirt from the wool, I'm just not that into suits anymore...and I can't even imagine a time that I'd wear one.  My Celeste will look fabulous with a pair of leather pants or skinny jeans, some sling back pointy toed heels and a huge string of pearls. Fall can't come soon enough!!

Laurel. Check that off the Bucket List!

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