Gabrielle Chanel once said, “I really care about women, I wanted to dress them in suits that make them feel at ease but still emphasize femininity.” She did exactly that with the creation of the timeless Chanel jacket, which was an innovation of its time. Here is a look at Chanel jackets through different decades, illustrated with jackets from our collection.
Upon reopening her atelier after WWII, Mademoiselle defied the popular fashions of that time, which were constricting and restrictive, barring any ease of movement. Her creation of the Chanel jacket was a feminist fashion move. Mademoiselle’s intent was to enable woman to move freely in comfort. She achieved this by designing the original jacket with its multi-paneled construction, straight silhouette, visible external pockets, hidden chain along the silk lining’s hem, and of course, made of supple tweed.
By the 1960s, the Chanel jacket had evolved into a status symbol. Haute couture pieces created by Mademoiselle herself marked the jackets of this era. Hollywood stars and international icons, including Elizabeth Taylor and Jackie Kennedy, favored Chanel.
The 1970’s were marked by the passing of Mademoiselle. Just 7 days after her death, the House of Chanel announced the arrival of Gaston Berthelot, from the house of Dior. In a statement to the press, Mr.Berthelot said that there will be no new styles designed, rather the house will release unpublished designs created by Coco Chanel herself. Ramone Esparza from Balenciaga arrived in 1973 but was replaced less than a year later by Mademoiselle's longtime assistants Jean Cazaubon and Yvonne Dudel who became responsible for the brand's haute-couture collections for the next ten years. Finally, in 1976 Phillippe Guibourhe was brought in from Dior to launch Chanel Creations (later renamed to Chanel Boutique) - the house's first ready-to-wear collection.
All of the designers remained true to Mademoiselle’s vision and released countless variations of her signature jacket.
Karl Lagerfeld’s appointment as Creative Director in 1983 propelled Chanel and the classic jacket into the future. While abiding by Mademoiselle’s style and recognizing the prestige of the Chanel jacket, Monsieur Lagerfeld reinterpreted and continued to modernize it. The 80s Chanel aesthetic echoed the extravagance of the era with shoulder pads on the jackets, statement gold buttons and over the top embellishments.
A zeitgeist of the times, the design of the 90s Chanel jacket reflected both the sexy provocative style and punk grunge vibe of the decade. From cropped jackets over tweed bras worn with miniskirts to twin sets with leather accents and baggy pants, there were no bounds in the ways the jacket was redesigned and restyled. Off the runway, the now slim fitting jacket was continued to be favored by the world’s most iconic women including Princess Diana.
The Chanel jacket of the 2000’s represented the multifaceted and dynamic lifestyle of the global woman. Hip-hop music, military influences, the bohemian lifestyle, casual chic and celebrity culture all served as inspiration for the ever-evolving yet perpetually timeless jacket. By this time, the jacket didn’t just give women the freedom to move, it gave women the freedom to express themselves.
Karl Largfeld perfectly put to words the enduring legacy of the Chanel jacket, “Some things never go out of fashion: jeans, the white shirt, and the Chanel jacket.”