French Jackets

French Jacket: The Trim

Trim for the French jacket was slightly delayed because Elmo was needed at my grandson’s birthday party this past weekend.  When we asked mom what he would like for his party, she said, “He would really love a visit from Elmo.”

Hoping to avoid having to construct Elmo, grandpa and I made the party store rounds but everything looked so amateurish that there were really no other options. Off to JoAnn’s for yards of red fur.

There was no way that stuff was getting all over my sewing studio so the kitchen was set up as a workshop. Finally, after a trip back to the craft store for additional materials, Elmo materialized. He travelled to Florida in his own suitcase and made a grand entrance singing “Accidents Happen” from the Elmo potty DVD. Grandpa got talked into wearing this getup in 90 degree heat!  He did have one couture detail: spiral steel boning was used to keep his mouth from collapsing. It was the only thing that flexed in two directions yet held the shape.


On to creating custom trim for my French jacket. Many of the trims available are simply too stiff and inflexible for this type of jacket trim. Many of the Chanel jackets I’ve seen have trims made from the fabric fibers and coordinate with the jacket.

I decided to try fringing bias strips. One layer looked too skimpy and two layers sewn together resulted in trim that I thought too stiff. The solution was to gather bias strips, compressing the fibers into a fuller fringe. This also produced a flexible and lightweight trim. I started with one inch wide bias strips cut from the jacket fabric. Leave the ends at at 45 degree angle; this makes butting them end to end invisible.
Adjust the fullness. You could measure but I just pulled up the threads until the gathering looked even. Then steam pressed the bias strip flat.
I fell stitched a narrow braid down the center. The bias strips were just butted end to end. Hand stitching controlled the fullness; don’t try this by machine. The feed dogs will push the fabric into all sorts of unwanted directions. Machine stitching is done after both sides of the braid are fell stitched.
Using a zipper foot, stitch along both edges of the braid using about a 2mm stitch. This locks the fabric threads in place.
Looked good but I felt it still needed something. Narrow silver snake chain was coutch stitched along both edges of the braid. Light grey thread makes the stitches almost invisible.
The edges looked a little scraggly so they were cleaned up. I used a transparent ruler and rotary cutter to keep a consistent width. Fluff them up after attaching so the edges don’t look quite so neat.
Attach to the jacket with a pick stitch using doubled waxed thread. Pick up just a thread or two on the right side and don’t stitch so deep you catch the lining. The stitches can be half an inch or so apart and will keep the trim in place just fine. Do this along both edges of the braid.
Fit the outer edges of curves first and ease the inside curves.
The sleeve trim was steam shaped before applying.
Sleeve and edge trim finished.
Looks good but I think I still need pockets; haven’t decided whether to use two or four. I usually do the trim one step at a time before deciding if the jacket needs more. One more tip. If you opt to use hooks and eyes to close the jacket, it stays closed better if you alternate them on each side rather than putting all the hooks on one side and all eyes on the other.
I’m exploring other ways to do custom trims and have several other ideas in the works.

41 thoughts on “French Jacket: The Trim”

  1. Elmo is truly wonderful . That will make some wonderful memories. I have made the trim by using a single layer of bias fabric strip overplayed with a single layer of bias silk chiffon , stitch it down the middle of the strip and then fol back each strip on itself this gives a very light insertion piece and then you can fringe the the boulle bit and it will be quit fluffy as if is double layer .

  2. Oh, Mary! My Linton tweed sits waiting in my closet. I was going to tackle a dress for the opera next, since I didn’t have a good trim solution for my own Chanel Jacket, but this has gotten me all inspired again! Your trim is GORGEOUS! Elegant, rich, perfectly suited to the jacket and buttons. Thank you so much for saving me the time to come up with this on my own! I owe you some chocolate, or something! Divine. Thank you so much!

  3. Thanks so much for showing the “evolution” of that gorgeous trim. The buttons are perfect, as well. What a brilliant tip about alternating the hooks and eyes; however, I think my future jackets will be buttoned. But, you never know – and I will be sure to remember this tip!
    By the way, Elmo is quite smart looking!

  4. Thanks so much for the great trim lesson, Mary! I have been searching for the “perfect” trim for my FJ now for weeks, and will definitely try the bias trim because I think it will be the perfect solution to what my mind’s eye sees for this jacket! Thanks again for lifting me to a new level in my sewing.

  5. Mary, I just discovered your site! Stunning. I will start the work in few weeks. Last year I tried to make a 3 pieces sleeve pattern, using the Vogue 8804. Applied it to a muslin “moulage”. Did not like it too much. glad to find a master. dg

  6. Wow, that trim is gorgeous, and so is the jacket! Good move on not cutting out “Elmo” in the same space, because you can’t use a lint roller on Chanel tweed. It reminded me that last year I had to stop in the middle of making a jacket to whip up a “Steampunk” vest for my son for Halloween. Sometimes those “quick and dirty” projects can be a nice break in the midst of something meticulous, though.

    1. Glad you like the jacket. I sympathize with you about Halloween sewing. Funny how you get pressed into these extracurricular projects. My next post includes another “extra” project.

  7. I can’t believe that is not the real Elmo. Fabulous work. Deserved a blog post all of his own. Shows how much we love the family – search the shops, give up, make an outfit that could find professional work, wear the darn thing in the searing heat just to see the sheer delight on our grandchildren’s faces. The jacket is pretty cool too!

  8. Hi Mary – I just found this blog through Sarah at Goodbye Valentino. This jacket and the trim are to die for!!! Absolutely beautiful! I’m so happy to have found you. Between you and Sarah I’ve got lots of inspiration.

  9. Well you’ve done it again with this post: in one blog entry you have given me more ideas and techniques than reading all the other sewing blogs on the web. It’s amazing how much info is contained in your brain, and all of us out here thank you for sharing it with us.

    I like your photos because if I study them beyond what you are trying to show, I see other valuable information. Example: I can see how precisely you hand set those linings, and the exquisite silver chain at the hem. And is that a Juki industrial you’re are sewing with?

    That is a wonderful Elmo. I do mascots for a local company, and I like developing and sewing the fabric and Lycra costumes, but I told them I won’t do fur, too messy, too much dust, and I really need a 4 or 5 thread industrial serger to do an adequate job. So I understand changing workstations to create Elmo.

    And that is one beautiful jacket!

    1. Thank you. I’m especially honored that another professional thinks highly of my creations. You definitely are aware of every detail. I have several machines and the industrial Juki is a wonderful workhorse. I use a Bernina for specialty stitches. The Elmo project was MESSY but he has made multiple appearances, including a professional film shoot in Manhattan. The head construction was the challenging part of the costume.

  10. Hi! I adore your blog. It is by far the best sewing blog out there. I’ve gotten into Chanel style jackets, and your blog is a huge help. I’m trained in Haute Couture, but Chanel style sewing is a different skill set, no question. I’m totally addicted to doing Chanel style menswear for myself since they no longer make menswear pieces, unfortunately.

    Where are these hooks from? They look really great. Do they come in black? I’m doing a black on gray jacket, and I want all the hardware in black. Sourcing is a pain. Worse case scenario, I can paint hooks, but I’m having trouble finding good quality hooks in this size.

    1. I have large hooks and eyes available. Navigate to the shop and you should see a listing for the hooks and eyes. Will be available in gold soon.

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