Sunday, June 15, 2014

My French Jacket

I think last year when Melanie posted about making her French Jacket the entire blogging community went a little French Jacket crazy. I promptly bought Vogue 8804, the Claire Shaeffer French Jacket pattern, and then put the pattern away. I bought fabric for it at Christmas, courtesy of my Mum.

The pattern and the fabric sat in my pattern drawer until just after Sewjourn last December, when I saw Leith's version as a work-in-progress. Seeing her's spurred me on and, nearly six months later, I have a French Jacket.

Let's start with my muslin.

This is a terrible photo, sorry! I started with a size 12, which is my standard size in a Vogue Pattern. Overall, the fit was okay, however, I made three adjustments to get a closer fit and the look I wanted:

  1. Starting at the CB bottom, I took about 3cm in total out of the CB up until about half way up. 
  2. In the jacket side front and starting at the shoulder seam, I took about 3cm out of the princess seam, until about 10cm down (ending just above my bust). 
  3. I trimmed off the button placement allowances. I wanted it to close with hooks rather than buttons, so I just left a 1.5cm seam allowance on top of the CF.
I figured if it needed any other adjustments, I'd do them as I sewed the jacket. There were no glaring fit issues so I figured minute fitting could be done as I sewed. 

My muslin sat in a box for about two months. I just couldn't concentrate on it. Then, one day, about 2-3 months ago, WHAM! French Jacket sewing was all I could think of. 

If you follow me on Instagram, you'll have seen some progress shots. I'm going to start here with the finished shots and then show you some progress shots. I wore it for the first time to my sister's engagement party, which was last weekend. 

I wore it with a black ponte Vogue 1314 - I'll review this dress again in another post soon.

Can you tell I'm a bit pleased with it?

Those buttons. I love them. They're from Buttonmania and I want a million more.

The lining. Silk satin. Such beautiful stuff. So easy to sew for a silk.

The venue was actually so overheated that I wore the jacket for these pics and then took it off. I lovingly placed it on a table at the back of the venue and nearly had a heart attack when I went out there about an hour later to get my lippie and discovered it under about 20 jackets. I felt like doing a mother lion roar and yelling "this is my FRENCH JACKET, DON'T TOUCH IT"!!! Instead I secured it in a safer spot and went and got another champers. 

So... a few changes I made to the pattern:
  1. I didn't quilt the lining and shell fabric together for two reasons. One, I did a practice quilt on some scraps of fabric and it showed way too much on the outer of the shell. I didn't like how it looked. Two, after consulting with Leith, we both thought that in the 'Making of a Chanel Jacket' video clip on YouTube that they do not quilt the jacket in the video. That made me think that Chanel jackets are not always quilted together. 
  2. I interfaced the jacket pieces (not the sleeves) using a very soft and fine fusible interfacing. The difference to the tweed was amazing. 
  3. I reinforced the sleeve head. The tweed I used was so soft and fine that the sleeve head was collapsing on itself. 
  4. I put trim all around the bottom hem - V8804 doesn't call for that. 
  5. I put very slim shoulder pads in. Again, I think the tweed really needed them. 
Here are some progress shots:

First bit of trim I sewed on. 

Pockets completed. You hand stitch the pocket lining on. 

This is my one regret - I wish I had attached the trim on the sleeves closer to the bottom of the sleeve hem. There is a little bit too much fabric showing under the trim. 

Getting there! At this stage there no machine stitching left to do. All hems are hand stitched, all the trim is hand stitched. I loved it. To me, this project signified hand stitching, and lots of it. I wanted such a project. I really love hand stitching. It is therapeutic to me and I think achieves greater accuracy in detailed projects like this.

Final stage here. Attaching the metal chain to weight the hem. I still cannot believe how much this little chain makes a difference to the way the jacket hangs. It is not a step to be missed.

I thought I'd also include where I sourced everything from:

  1. Tweed fabric, silk-satin lining, interfacing and slim shoulder pads: Tessuti Fabrics. 
  2. Mohair braid trim: M&J Trimmings in New York. 
  3. Buttons and French Jacket hook and eyes: Buttonmania.
  4. Chain trim for hem: Clegs. 
  5. Fleece for sleeve heads: an old jumper of my daughter's. 
Finally, I used a few resources A LOT:
  1. Every single post Poppykettle wrote about making hers.
  2. Couture Sewing Techniques by Claire Shaeffer. 
  3. Goodbye Valentino's posts about making her own.
  4. A Threads article about sleeve heads that I now can't find anywhere.
  5. A bucket load of internet resources, including blogs for inspiration and tips. I looked at other sewists' versions of the French Jacket constantly, and at images of Chanel Jackets. I also constantly looked at the white version Cate Blanchett wears in Blue Jasmine after I saw the film last year. I love that white Chanel Jacket. I cannot wear white like that until Little M has moved out of home. 
So there you have it! I made a French Jacket! And I love it. I'm slightly afraid of wearing it, but plan to tomorrow to work. 

I also really want to make another jacket now too. Bellatrix, I'm looking at you....


  1. Such a lovely Jacket :) You look gorgeous. Fit is perfect , Congrats. And LOL I do understand how you were feeling when you found your jacket under many .- Diya TheHobbyHarbor

  2. It's beautiful! Such a classic, and well worth all the effort. I'm sure you will enjoy it for years.

  3. It's a master piece Rachel. Wear, enjoy and continue to feel pleased with yourself. You deserve it!

  4. Wow Rachel this is fabulous! That fit is just wonderful and well worth all the effort. Lovely

  5. Oh, Rachel, it's such a beauty!!! And you're absolutely right, a lot of Chanel jackets these days aren't quilted. It's a cost saving measure, apparently. Quilted lining is gorgeously lovely and lush, but it's certainly not the be all end all. I have V8804 too and think it's beyond ridiculous they don't carry the trim around the back! And thank you for informing me Clegs sell that chain... I was beginning to wonder if that could be sourced locally :)
    I don't doubt this gorgeous creation will get lots of wear... and now I'm even more excited to keep on sewing the next one I'm making! Bring on the bellatrix :)

  6. Wow, it is gorgeous. Well worth the time and effort. I hope you are brave and wear it because you deserve all the praise you get when people realise you have sewn it yourself.

  7. It's beautiful, and a real sewing achievement. You should be very proud!

  8. Oh I love it! I also have all the supplies for making my own French jacket, but have lost one of the pattern sheets! I might have to clean my room to find it. You look great and so does the jacket!

  9. This is so beautiful - the jacket is so beautifully made, and looks great on. Well done! I feel like making a Chanel-style jacket is a kind of advanced level sewing rite of passage, you should be very proud.

  10. Congratulations on making such a beautiful jacket. I made up a lined tweed jacket last year. I've recovered but not enough to consider making another for quite some time.

  11. I agree with Suzy! This is a rite of passage so biggest congratulations. It looks amazing. If I were you - even with the heat, I would NOT have taken it off!!

  12. Thanks Kirsty! I was loathe to take it off, but it was soooo hot. My hair was actually wet with sweat (sorry, a bit gross) after dancing for 5 minutes. My beloved jacket would have gotten all sweaty and gross!!

  13. Thank you! It's weird, I thought I would welcome the end of making it, but I have actually missed having bits to do on the couch every night. I'm really keen to do more - I'm definitely getting started on a Bellatrix in the next week!

  14. Thanks Suzy! I do feel proud. It was a very fun and rewarding project.

  15. Thank you Maree! I intend to wear it with everything! I'm also thinking it will look good with a short skirt and boots.

  16. Thanks Kristy! The Blue Jasmine Chanel jacket is simply sublime. I was watching it like a hawk the entire film. I think you'd look gorgeous in a white version - can't wait to see it!

  17. Thanks Christy! Do you mean you've lost the pieces or instructions? Is it for V8804 - maybe I can help you out?

  18. Thanks Claire, I really do love it!

  19. Thanks Marie. I will definitely wear it, don't worry!

  20. Thanks Mel! It is really interesting about the quilting. I think I will do it on my next one (I am definitely making another). I just need to buy more appropriate fabric for quilting. I thought it was really weird about the trim not being on the hem too - that is one of the defining features of that style of jacket! Re: the chain - there is another place that sells it too - Kate from Buttonmania told me about it, but I can't recall the name of the shop. I know it is on Swanston St though.
    Can't wait to see your next jacket!! I'm tracing off the Bellatrix pattern tomorrow night!

  21. Thanks Anna! It is definitely one of my most rewarding projects to date.

  22. Thanks Jane! I think I will!

  23. Thanks Diya. I know - the horror I felt!

  24. Yeah, the fabric you're working with has got to have enough 'loft' for the stitches to sink into and be camouflaged. I'll ask Kate next time I'm in getting buttons :)

  25. I think I'll probably opt for a boucle next time. I really want to try quilting it.
    What are your thoughts on the Susan Khalje Cocktail Dress pattern? I'm thinking about it for Frocktails.

  26. So inspiring, Rachel! Isn't it funny how a project can sound unappealing and then something switch gets flipped? I'd love to make one of these some day - I really enjoy hand-stitching, too.

    I wonder if that mother-lion feeling ever goes away? :)

  27. Wow!! Great job! It is a beautiful jacket!! Congratulations!

  28. I think it's a stunning pattern, and has such potential to incorporate small amounts of unusual/fancy/luxe fabrics or lace, the kind of thing that really gives a garment the punch factor, but without breaking the bank or becoming too visually overbearing. I reckon it's a winner of a pttern. I'm planning to buy the course but for the moment I don't want to sew dresses right now, so will wait. I'm most likely going to wear my sequined frock again for that exact reason... or maybe I'll wear pants and my French jacket ;)
    A few weeks back I was looking at pictures of Jackie O in a variety of quilted Chanel jackets - on quite a few of them the quilting lines were visible. Interesting!

  29. Thanks for your thoughts. I really want some $154/m lace from Tessuti, and was thinking of incorporating an affordable portion into the dress. Thanks! I'll also look up Jackie O in Chanel jackets - have you read The Pink Suit? It is a fiction book based on the story of the pink Chanel suit being created for Jackie O. It's a fun read.

  30. You have done an amazing job - it looks great on you! I bought this pattern a while ago but have also sat on it mainly because I thought it was a bit too old for me (I am 37!). You have convinced me to give it a turn :)

  31. ack! I had this pattern IN HAND today at JoAnn and put it back. Your jacket is GORGEOUS!!!!!!!!!!! I love all the details. Very nice work!

  32. I'd love to see your version! And nope, I don't think it goes away. My sister wore my tailored Lady Grey to a wedding a while ago and I fretted over it!!

  33. I'm 33 :-) - I think it depends on the fabric and trim and what you wear with it. Give it a shot!!

  34. I'm laughing at the imagine of you screaming at the party for everyone to get their jackets off your beautiful French jacket! Don't these people know a handmade beauty when the see one? LOL.

    It's a beautiful make - and it looks lovely on you. The chain around the hem is really interesting - I've never seen that before (or heard of it)!

  35. How lovely and what a classic timeless piece to have in your wardrobe! You have done a lovely job and the fit is spot on!!

  36. Those colours are fantastic on you Rachel! And great jacket too of course.

  37. Thank you for sharing - and congratulations on the jacket - it looks amazing! I bought some (real) chanel fabric in Rome on a vacation, but I'm too afraid to cut into it - Your great version gives me a bit of courage back:)