i am pretty sure old coco knew what she was doing when she created her iconic cardigan jackets back in the day, given that her entire career was based on dressing the way she wanted to dress and letting people see how brilliant an idea it was.
and yet…what is it about the jacket that still holds so much power over us today?
when you get down to it, it’s basically the most boring garment in the history of garments. princess seams and a boxy cut: the end. so why spend either time (70+ hours) or money ($6,000 – $25,000) on it?
and yet….and yet…
there is an undeniable elegance in the simplicity of it.
i often find myself discussing this with fellow sewasauri when we have the chance to meet up. whether it is arguing with my anonymous co-seamster who just doesn’t see the appeal or debating the merits of different techniques with fellow-travelers who are intrigued and want to try one, it seems that most of us have an opinion on the iconic garment.
i have to admit that for me, it was fascination by way of repulsion. i just did. not. get. it. it was, for me, the ultimate garment of the ladies-who-lunch, or, worse yet, the upper-caste new yorkers gathered at charity and political events i have to attend for my job. a status symbol only: look at how awesome i am, (and yet, how much a part of the crowd!) and move on.
i think the first glimmer of interest happened for me when i realized that it’s also a kind of cool sewing status symbol: something to aspire to that was about what kind of skills i could develop instead of a socio-economic identifier. and then, as i do, i began researching endlessly, looking for photographs and re-reading the go chanel or go home jacket sew-along and hunting down the elusive threads article penned by susan khalje. and finally i began to see the jacket as something else entirely: a near-perfect blank canvas that goes with anything and can be almost anything, while still being the ultimate wardrobe staple.
i mean, as uniforms go, a chanel jacket, a pair of jeans, a comfy T and a good pair of shoes is about as awesome as it gets.
- making one of these properly, into something that will look and feel luxe and rich, is a huge investment in both time and money. caveat emptor. this is one of those projects that if you are going to do it right, then do it right, and splurge on those materials. even as i’m dabbling in the so-called shortcut method, i was reminded at every turn why the “right” way is actually the right way. there is a difference in the end result.
- embrace the basic bones of the pattern, and then do it your own way anyway – short, long, cropped, fitted, oversized, collared – because the point of making one is to make it your own. experiment with trims, buttons, and linings.
- have good tools. try japanese hand needles and japanese basting thread. it actually makes a difference!
- have a fitting buddy. maybe you can’t splurge on the time and cost of a 6-day class, but the important bits of the construction technique are well-explained in susan’s threads article. enlist a friend and help each other to get as good a fit as you can…and learn something about fitting in the process.
- don’t wait for a “special occasion.” don’t be afraid to wear it with jeans…shorts…sandals…or black tie. make it something you love so that the time and money are worth it.
so that is my take, just to wrap up my endless chanel-inspired recaps. i will continue with loads of work-in-progress updates and, obviously, cat photos. because even the cat was desperate to understand the tricky task of sleeve insertion.