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Explore Five Cuffs from Chanel Jackets

Threads magazine - 151 – Oct./Nov. 2011

I began to collect couture Chanel® garments to expand my knowledge of techniques when I was writing Couture Sewing Techniques (Taunton Press, 1994). Later, my collection expanded to include Chanel ready-to-wear and copies so I could compare the differences and better identify the original couture designs. Exposure to these garments is educational, as you’ll see.

By the end of the 1950s, Chanel had found her niche: the classic cardigan jacket. She revised it year after year with trims, multiple pockets, tweeds and nubby wools, and sometimes with collars. This became the signature Chanel jacket, even though there were other styles in the Chanel collections and other designers creating similar designs.

After Chanel’s death, many of her designs from the years after 1954 were recycled by the design staff at the House of Chanel. The popularity of the label and the revival of the House began when Karl Lagerfeld took her seat. He brought imagination and innovation to the designs while retaining the signature elements of Coco Chanel.

Here, I explore five cuffs from jackets in my collection; they are from the Chanel and Lagerfeld years. You’ll get an up-close look at the subtleties of trims designers have marveled at for decades.

Though they are frequently described as “braid trimmed,” very few Chanel jackets actually have the applied braided trims one associates with purchased embellishments. Many are simply topstitched; others have piping, binding, crocheted or embroidered trim from the same yarn, or applied trim from self-fabric, blouse, or lining fabric; and some have no trims. Most jackets designed after 1960 have three-piece sleeves with a seam at the center on top of the arm so the decorative sleeve vents are more prominent.

I hope the tour of these cuffs inspires you to incorporate inventive trim in your sewing. Whether you harvest…

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