French Jackets

The Chanel Shoulder

One of my latest projects has been to reshape the shoulder line on two Chanel jackets for a client. These are not couture but from the Chanel RTW line. Chanel does produce some of the very best RTW clothing and many of the techniques can be incorporated in home sewing. The first jacket was long, almost a coat. I’m not sure who they intended this coat to fit, but the sleeves were inordinately long. There is a white cotton cuff, attached by tiny buttons, which gives the illusion of a tailored shirt underneath. I’m fairly tall with longish arms so imagine how this looks on a petite figure! Also notice how the plaid matching is slightly off from sleeve to jacket body.

The sleeves needed to be shortened by a whopping 5.5 inches. In addition the shoulder was too wide and needed 3/4 of an inch removed and 5 inches of width removed from the body.

The width alterations needed to be done at the side back seam as that was the only seam without pockets or vent. Chanel leaves wonderfully wide seams in both the outer garment and lining. 3/4 inch or 2 cm. seems to be standard. Notice the hand sewn hem. Chanel also finishes each garment piece by individually overlocking so that taking in or letting out seams is a dream.

The sleeves needed to be shortened from the top down, leaving the working sleeve vent intact. My method is to remove the sleeves and open all seams except in the area of the sleeve vent. I certainly didn’t want to redo that detail! Trace off the sleeve patterns without seam allowances.

The completed sleeve pattern needed to be narrowed by 2 inches at the bicep, tapering to 1/2 inch at the hem. I slit the pattern and removed the excess width.

Place the altered pattern down the required length to be removed and recut the sleeve. I thread traced the new seam lines.

Notice that Chanel presses the center 3 inches (1 and 1/2 inches each side of center) open. The remainder of the seam is pressed towards the sleeve. The blue thread is my mark for the amount to narrow the shoulder when the sleeve is reinserted. I use Japanese basting cotton as it has some texture and tends not to pull out during construction.

Here is a second jacket getting similar treatment of narrowing the shoulders.

Notice the little shoulder pad with built in shape for the sleeve head. Here is my pattern for making these. I make my own shoulder pads and find them far superior to purchased ones, not to mention being almost free.
I posted two variations of shoulder pads Chanel uses in RTW on November 18, 2014. One of my readers, olden bears, kindly sent me pdf files for these and I’m inserting the link in case you want those patterns.

Shoulder Pad Pattern

This post has been edited to link to a pdf pattern. Click on the above link and the pattern should open in pdf format.
(I’ve scanned the new pattern but don’t have software to convert to pdf. I think if you open the picture and print, scaling to 8.5 x 11 paper it should be close to size. The size isn’t too critical and you can add or subtract according to your shoulder length.)

Here is the pattern for another shoulder pad with a built-in sleeve head.

Shoulder Pad Pattern
For each shoulder pad you will need to cut pieces 1 and 2 twice, piece 3 once and 4 once. Piece 4 is optional. Use it if you want an additional layer for more lift in the pad. Butt the edges together and sew. I use a three step zig-zag stitch.


You will have two (or three) dish shaped pieces. If using piece 4, place inside the sewn outer layer sections; Place piece 3 on top and pin the layers together.

Baste through all layers. I just discovered the basting stitch on my Bernina. Maybe I should read the manual. Your machine may have a similar stitch. Loosen the tension so you don’t wind up with a puckered mess like this.

Fit the pad over a tailors ham and steam heavily to set the shape. Let the shoulder pad dry before removing from the ham.

Completed jacket with a beautifully shaped and supported sleeve cap. I was also able to get a better pattern match between jacket body and sleeve.

French Jackets, Tailoring

Jacket Finished, Plus Two More

The last step in finishing was to add pockets. I played around with different sizes and debated two versus four. A great way to visualize size and placement is to cut pockets from shop towels (they are heavier than paper towels) and play around until you get the right look.

I had four larger buttons and decided to add them at the center front. They are sewn at the right front edge and don’t actually fasten.
I find it easiest to get pockets exactly the same size and shape by pressing the pocket around a cardboard template. I interfaced the pocket with bias cut interfacing which is cut just a tad smaller than the finished pocket. The bias gives the pocket a softer shape. I cut a slightly smaller template for the lining.
Slip stitch the lining to the pocket, attach trim and slip stitch to the jacket. Don’t catch the lining when doing this.

I had a chance to get a closeup look at some geniune Chanel jackets at an upscale resale shop on Madison Ave. and noted some distinctive details. Trims are applied after construction and are made to be removed if necessary for cleaning. More about my findings in the next post.
I was sidetracked by an request from my daughter-in-law. She was invited to join the hunt staff of our local equestrian team. Hunt staff wear red jackets and bespoke versions are a small fortune. Since I had made her wedding gown, she figured a jacket would be an easy task.
Just make a tailored jacket from a commercial pattern, right? Wrong. Riding clothing is another animal. We combined my research and her knowledge and came up with a punch list of what this garment needed.
*Roomy armholes with significant ease in the back to allow the rider forward arm movement
*Sleeves pitched much more forward than conventional clothing as the arm is held almost horizontal
*Abrasion resistant lining in the jacket skirt to resist wear
*Flared skirt with most of the flare at the back to cover the seat while in the saddle
*Warm lining as hunt season runs through the winter
*Slippery sleeve lining to allow the jacket arms to slide freely over shirts/sweaters
Mood Fabrics had a beautiful heavy wool/cashmere/nylon fabric. They also had abrasion resistant lining and wool flannel for the upper jacket lining. I drafted a fitting muslin from cotton canvas which mimicked the weight and drape of the wool better than lightweight muslin. Note the exaggerated curve of the sleeve.
The roomy armhole. I would never have guessed this much ease would be required.
The jacket fabric was thick and required loads of steam and heavy use of a tailors clapper to get things flattened into shape. I found it helpful to flatten the inside of especially bulky seams with a clamp from the hardware store. Get loads of steam into the fabric, clamp it down hard, and leave until it’s cold.
Also, don’t sew across the layers of intersecting seams. You can get a much flatter press by folding the seam allowances to one side and end the stitching at the seamline. Fold the seam allowances the other direction and begin stitching at the seamline. The seam allowances will remain free and press much flatter.
Inside the jacket showing the various linings used.
The color of the upper collar is unique to the particular hunt club; her’s is purple. The fabrics were so heavy and it was applied with traditional tailoring techniques.
Here’s the finished work.
I couldn’t resist using the leftover fabric for a matching jacket for the one year old. Fittings were a bit of a challenge on a squirmy baby but we got it done!
Mommy and daughter out for a ride.

French Jackets

French Jacket; The Beginning

Now that my body double dress form and three piece sleeve research are complete it’s time to try them in action.

This is from my stash, probably purchased at B&J Fabrics several years ago. Now seems like a good time to get it made.  Another hallmark of couture construction is the shaping of garment sections with steam before any sewing takes place.  “Vintage Couture Tailoring” by Thomas von Nordheim has probably the best diagrams of how to shape jacket and sleeve sections.  Claire Shaeffer’s videos also explain the process well.

If you haven’t seen it, the video “Secret World of Haute Couture” is a great watch. It’s about 45 minutes and interviews some of the purchasers of haute couture garments. Although these ladies don’t sew they do understand and appreciate what haute is and how it feels. About 10 minutes into the film, one of the ladies who worked in haute couture for years explains, “You don’t just cut the fabric and sew it; you work the fabric. It is shaped with special irons so that when you roll it up, pack it, etc it still looks perfect.”  The importance of prefect fit is also stressed; “the clothing fits like a second skin; feels like you are wearing nothing at all.”

I used Vogue 8891 as a starting point. I reshaped the front princess seam so it would be easier to shape a rectangular piece of fabric into the proper shape.

Trace the grain line about one inch from the fabric edge. Place your muslin pattern (no seam allowances) on top.
Smooth the fabric so the grain line follows the pattern shape. You will notice ripples form; these need to be steamed out so the fabric is now shaped like the pattern.
The same process needs to be done on the back sections.
And all sleeve sections are steamed to further build in the shape.
Although Claire’s pattern instructions don’t specify this type of shaping, notice that what was a curved quilt line now tends to follow the grain of the shaped garment sections. I spaced my quilting lines about 1 and 1/4 inch apart and followed the lengthwise grain on each section. After quilting I like to roll the raw edges of my lining sections under; it just keeps things neater.
I cut the sleeves after completing and fitting the jacket body. Pins show match points. Most boucles do have a subtle pattern, so look carefully if you think yours doesn’t.
Almost completed. Here is the jacket front and back. Notice how the armhole has been eased and tightened before the sleeve is set.


I decided to shape the upper neck edge. An easy way to get a smooth shape that is symmetrical is cut a cardboard template. Press the neck edge under. Flip the template for the other side.

Needs sleeve buttonholes and a good final press before I’m ready for trim.
Pockets? Undecided yet. I’ll wait and see what the trim and buttons look like first.

couture sewing

Marfy 3182 Continued

I’ll give more info about changing the sleeve bands.  This is a long, detailed post so skip to the end if you would just like to see the finished photos.

I decided I would like the sleeve trim to extend to the vent rather than just a band encircling the hem. I chose black silk peau de soie for the trim on this jacket. Peau de soie has a satin weave and is moderately stiff so it will provide the support necessary for the collar and cuffs. The silk version behaves much differently than polyester so be sure you are buying the real thing.

sleeve trim layout - Copy

I made the trim slightly narrower than the Marfy pattern, decreasing the width from 1 and 3/8 to 1 and 1/8 inches. I also narrowed the trim bands around the neck and front to match.  Not a big change but I felt it looked better. Here is the new pattern with circles for the buttons so I can visualize the finished look. I use paper towels or shop rags for this. They are flexible,cheap, can be written on, pressed and don’t tear easily.

Completed pattern and marking the peau de soie trim. Cut it on the true bias so it curves smoothly.

satin trim layout - CopyI allowed 1/2 inch seams.  Cut 2 for the right side and 2 for the facing side. I allowed wider seams at the upper edge of the facing pieces so the sleeve lining can be sewn to them. Press on a quality fusible interfacing, also cut on the bias. Peau de soie curls like crazy but the fusible will tame it. I used satin weave fusible here.

peau de soie curling

Next take your pattern back to the sleeves. You will sew the underarm seam first. It’s much easier to work on this before the sleeves are set into the jacket. Now mark exactly where the trim will be and staystitch on that line.

staystitching first
Just a quick note about my serged edges. Sergers are generally a BIG no-no in couture sewing. I do use one for certain things. This fabric was so loosely woven it ravelled like crazy and I’m not sure hand overcasting would have kept it together.  I serge only the face fabric after basting to the underlining. This ensures the serging won’t distort the fabric. I use fine cotton embroidery thread, a three thread stitch and set to the longest length possible. This gives a very flexible fine edge and doesn’t destroy the drape of the fabric. Note how the underlining is turned back and I am only catching the outer layer.
Next staystitch the trim exactly on the stitching line. Stitch only the inner edge; I will double check the trim width after sewing it to the sleeve and readjust my seam lines if necessary to have an even width band.first stay of facing
Now carefully line up your seams and stitch the long edge of the trim to the sleeve. Don’t cross seams; leave long thread tails and tie them off. You might not think this would make a big difference but it really does. Seams will press much easier and the garment won’t be stiff, especially where multiple seams cross. Takes more time but it really is worth it.
trim stitch 4
Work your way around the trim, stitching each segment after lining up the seams. Make sure you cross the corners at a sharp angle to give a clean line to the finished trim.
trim stitch 2 - Copy
finished first step
Double check that your bottom edge seam is an even width all the way around and remark if necessary. Now you need to apply stay tape to that bottom edge (remember this is cut on the bias) so your hem doesn’t grow. There are commercial tapes and some books suggest using the selvages of silk organza but I have found this too stiff. Make your own by cutting bias strips of china silk. Pin one end down to your pressing surface and pull hard on the other end while hitting it with a good blast of steam. You will feel the fibers release and stretch. Pin the other end down and let it cool. Steam and stretch again to make sure you have stretched it as much as possible. Don’t unpin until it’s totally dry and cold! You will have the best stay tape that’s fine, flexible and won’t show through to the right side. I cut 1/2 inch strips and wind up with stay tape about 1/4 inch wide.
trim stitch 6
One more quick pressing note. I dislike using a spray bottle as it’s tough to control where all that water goes; not good if you’re working on silks. I use a cheap chip brush and brush water on top of my press cloth exactly where I want steam, then press dry without using steam. Much more control as to where you are putting steam. Then weight the seam (I’m using an old, heavy iron, not plugged in of course) and let it sit until cold. Amazing how much flatter you can get bulky fabric using this technique.pressing 1
pressing 2
pressing 3
Now attach the facing to the lower edge. Notice how this is wider than the 1 and 1/8 on the right side. This gives me room to sew the sleeve lining high enough that it doesn’t peek out. Sew only the lower edge as I’ll show you how to turn the corner and get it perfectly sharp and straight.
sleeve facing 1 - Copy
Press the seam open and then turn all layers away from the right side.
turning corner 1
Now fold the right sides together keeping all the seam allowances to the wrong side.
turning corner 3
Stitch and press open using a point presser.point presser
Some books tell you to trim the fabric at an angle but I’ve found I get much sharper corners if I don’t trim anything. Insert a point turner or I use a pair of blunt end scissors or not too pointy knitting needle and turn the corner. Carefully work the fabric over your instrument until the fabric forms a sharp corner. Work carefully as you don’t want to poke through.turning corner 5
If the fabric bunches up and won’t cooperate turn everything wrong side out and try again. Try placing your turning instrument next to the inside of the right side and turning the seam over.

The completed sleeve:trim finishedAnd a closeup of the finished sleeve:

Cuff detail
Cuff detail

This side was just off. Notice the stitching line at the top of the trim is slanted.
I do try and fix these little details. Maybe someone else woundn’t notice but I know it’s there and it would bug me.  The top edge unpicked and restitched.
mistake fixedInside the finished sleeve with lining hand stitched around the vent.
inside ventI’m still not sure about the buttons. I need to wear this tonight and this was all Joann’s had. I tried black but everything had a rough surface which I was afraid would snag the peau de soie trim. Also undecided about whether or not to have the buttons contrast.  I’ll wear it for awhile and reevaluate when I can get to M&J or other source. Also, the front buttonholes are just openings in the seam which joins the trim band to the jacket. That makes them invisible; it was just a bit tricky getting all the layers to line up so the openings were in the same place on both sides. I then slipstitched all layers together around the buttonhole edges.

Photos of the finished work

finished 2
Collar worn folded down or flipped up.
finished 3
This pattern could also be made as a quilted unstructured jacket and I would make the following changes:
Eliminate the collar and trim
Raise the underarm an inch or so
Eliminate all facings and canvas interfacings
The front neckline might need to be raised/reshaped
Take at least an inch off the sleeve width.
Here is my test version in polar fleece and I think it will work out nicely as a quilted jacket.
test version
I liked the raglan sleeve lines on this and will try and get a quilted version started before too long.

couture sewing

Jacket Finished

After enjoying a wonderful Thanksgiving with family, I’m back with the finished jacket.

Front View
Front View
Back View
Back View

I had some dotted silk crepe in my stash and decided to use it for the lining. I attached chain at the hemline, adding weight so the jacket hangs properly.

Side View
Side View

Next post will be first steps in the boucle jacket. I’m still exploring options for trim. This is where many non-authentic jackets fall short. The wrong trim can turn your designer jacket into an upholstery project. I’m looking closely at the designer photos for trim ideas and will report. Thanks for following me.

French Jackets

More Chanel

I found fabric for the Little French Jacket Sew Along. This is a metallic tweed and I found a lovely light lilac charmeuse for the lining. Also found buttons but I’m still searching for trim. Fortunately the trim goes on last, so I have time.



I found this photo and fabric and want to finish this before starting the quilted jacket. Here is the photo and I found an almost prefect match at B & J Fabrics.



I used a basic princess line jacket and added the shaped insert at the waist. The challenge was matching this plaid pattern. I cut a full pattern, both right and left sides, so everything could be laid out before cutting.ImageImage

The pattern has no seam allowances. Thread trace around each piece. Without seam allowances, it’s much easier to see exactly where the match points are. I decided to underline this jacket with silk organza. I usually throw the organza in the washer, dryer and then press. That makes the organza softer and preshrinks it. Baste the organza to each pattern piece, making sure to match the grain lines.

There is inly one way to match this pattern and that’s to thread baste each seam from the right side. Turn one seam allowance under, match the plaid and slip stitch. This will hold your fabric without slipping when it is machine stitched. I slip baste with matching thread (in this case black), so it doesn’t need to be removed. You will need to remove the seam line tracing thread.



End all machine stitching where two seam lines cross and tie a knot. Don’t cross one seam with another. It’s amazing how much more fluid the garment feels if you take this extra step. I can elaborate if this isn’t clear.

Finally got the jacket body together! All that basting and matching does take time. I found the prefect white enameled studs on EBay. They are about 12mm in size and looked best to me placed with about 2 cm between each one.



Some photos of the jacket so far.ImageImageImageImageImage

One more sleeve to go. Don’t cut the sleeves until your jacket body is finished. I make a muslin sleeve, pin it into the garment, and mark where the plaid pattern needs to be placed. I then take the muslin sleeve and lay it on the fabric. Allow generous seam allowances in case you need to move up or down to perfectly match the fabric.

Thank you for following my blog. I realize some of this is very technical but please post comments and I’ll try and clarify anything you aren’t sure of. I love couture sewing and appreciate the time and skill that goes into those spectacular runway designs.

I’ll get this jacket (and hopefully skirt) finished and start on the quilted jacket next week. Please check back for updates.