There are a handful of truly exceptional luxury brands that are so renowned, particular designs and specific colors are immediately associated with them. It’s a testament to their widespread acclaim that transcends cultures and generations. When it comes to Chanel, there are in fact a few designs that are synonymous with the French heritage brand – the quilted 2.55 bag, the Camelia and of course, the signature Chanel jacket.
When Gabrielle Chanel reopened her fashion house after the second world war, she conceptualized the boxy garment, inspired by men’s Austrian jackets. At the time of its creation, the Chanel jacket was in contrast to the popular fashions of the 1950’s that were still largely restrictive for women. Mademoiselle Chanel believed that fashion didn’t only exist in what one wore but also had to do with the way one lives. With that in mind, she endeavored to give women clothes that fit their active lifestyles, providing both comfort and style. The Chanel jacket is an embodiment of this ethos and has since become an icon in its own right.
Every Chanel jacket is constructed with multiple panels. The panels of the outside fabric perfectly match the panels of the interior lining. This construction ensures that the jacket fits a woman’s body perfectly, that it drapes fluidly and that its shape is retained. When it comes to the sleeves, two pieces of fabric are required to provide mobility and comfort.
With the longevity of the garment in mind, it’s constructed with a little extra fabric at every seam, allowing it to be sized up or down by as much as two to three sizes. This ensures that the jacket can be adapted to fit any physical changes.
HIGH QUALITY FABRIC
Chanel jackets are only made with the highest quality fabrics. There has been a wide range of textiles used over the years. While the fabrics and colors used continue to change, boucle wool tweed is still the most closely associated to the garment. There’s truly nothing quite as iconic as the classic Chanel tweed jacket.
The history of the famous Chanel tweed can actually be attributed to Mademoiselle’s then lover, the Duke of Westminster. As the story goes, upon borrowing a tweed garment from her beau, Mademoiselle realized that the fabric was both comfortable and sophisticated – perfect for her own designs. The rest is history.
At the time the Chanel jacket was first released, exterior pockets were exclusive to menswear. A true visionary of women’s fashion, Mademoiselle’s designed the jacket with exterior pockets that were not only highly visible but were also fully functional.
Pocket details have varied depending on the year and season a jacket was made. The original Chanel jacket had two pockets but since then, designs have varied from two to four pockets and sometimes, none at all.
The trim of the jacket, also known as the braid, is a distinguishable design detail that makes it immediately obvious whether a jacket is a Chanel or not. A Chanel jacket either has a contrasting or a ton sur ton (tone on tone) trim, which follows along the garment’s neckline, goes down the jacket’s front, and continues along the hemline, emphasizing the jacket’s shape. The trim is also visible along the jacket’s pockets and cuffs.
When Mademoiselle would say, “Never a button without a buttonhole.” she was serious. Chanel jackets feature unique buttons that are handcrafted in Paris. The buttons’ designs usually feature symbols closely associate with the fashion house. These have included the interlocking CC logo, the Camelia and a lion’s head representing Mademoiselle’s Leo star sign. On occasion, the button design has also referenced the theme of the collection the particular piece belongs to.
Georges Dusrues was the first to produce Chanel’s button collection in 1965 and immediately became the fashion house’s supplier of choice. Far from your regular button, Chanel jackets are embellished with buttons that are more like jewelry. While some jackets are designed without it, those that do have a button closure will also feature three matching buttons on the back of both sleeves.
An invisible detail within the jacket is a thin chain that rests along the its interior hem. The chain is meant to weigh the jacket down and help it drape on the body properly. The chain is securely fastened to the garment by hand and won’t easily detach.
However, depending on the jacket’s design, some may not include the interior chain. Heavier jackets, as well as long coats and cropped versions are unlikely to have the chain.
In the words of Gabrielle Chanel, “Elegance is when the inside is as beautiful as the outside.” A Chanel jacket is a physical representation of this quote. For the couturier, it was important for a jacket to be as beautiful on the inside as it was on the outside. The fashion house has stood by this throughout the years.
Almost all Chanel jackets feature a luxurious pure silk lining in a precise shade that matches the jacket’s exterior color. While the print of the lining depends on the year the jacket was produced, you’ll often find the iconic interlocking CC logo, a Camelia pattern, or pearls. However, it’s also important to note that light, summer jackets may not be designed with any lining at all.
The design of the jacket’s lining also serves as a good indicator of when it was released, especially if the jacket no longer has the label attached.
Regardless of the precise style of a Chanel jacket and when it was made, it will always have the Chanel label at the center top of its interior. The exact design of the label has changed over the years and so it’s important to check what year your jacket is from and if its label matches Chanel’s design during that period. While the design of the label may change, it should always indicate European sizing.
It’s important to note that Chanel jackets don’t always include all the aforementioned design features. Some jackets can have more or less design features than others. To gauge authenticity, it’s important to consider not just the presence or absence of these features, but the quality of their construction and its consistency with the fashion house’s design codes.
To quote the legendary couturier herself, “Fashion has two purposes: comfort and love. Beauty comes when fashion succeeds.” It’s clear that Gabrielle Chanel succeeded with the design of her exceedingly beautiful and enduring Chanel jacket.