couture sewing

Inside Chanel

Ever wanted to see inside luxury ready to wear and compare the construction techniques to yours?  Here is a glimpse inside a few pieces of Chanel and other luxury garments.  These aren’t technically couture as there are no fittings and they aren’t made for an individual client but some of the techniques are worth considering using in your sewing.

I found more hand sewing than in most ready to wear.  The hems are sewn by hand using a catch stitch. Jacket linings are completely sewn together before inserting but are hand tacked along the shoulders and underarm point.  The jump pleat at the hem is slip stitched by hand.

Chanel Hem

Closeup view of the jacket hem. Notice the hand stitching and how it is placed.

I noticed loads of serged edges. All garment and lining pieces are individually serged along all sides(except the armhole seam). In couture sewing, sergers are generally a big no-no. Raw edges are hand overcast but how time consuming is that! The difference is that an extremely fine thread is used; no wooly nylon or what is sold as serger thread.
Chanel Dress Pieces
The pockets and pocket flaps on this Chanel dress were slipstitched by hand. They are removed here for alterations.
White Jacket
Pink Chanel Overlock
Here is a Pucci dress using the same fine thread to finish the seams.
Pucci Dress
Also note the wide seam allowances. Most are at least 3/4 inch and some are 1″ to 1 1/4″. Linings have the same generous seams.
Chanel Lining Overlock
So what kind of thread and where to buy? Oshman Brothers in NYC is one source. You are looking for Gutermann Skala U81. I also have the U151 which is slightly thicker but the U81 is the thinnest thread I have ever seen.
The thread on the left is Gutermann 100 sewing thread, middle is Skala U151 and right is Skala U81.
Another source is Bergen Tailor Supply.
Also you need to set your serger for a narrow three thread stitch. On mine this is done by removing the left needle and using the three thread narrow hem but loosening the tensions. You’ll need to play with your serger settings and once you discover what works, write it down. I have it on a post-it note next to the machine.
For unlined garments I noticed the edges were serged, turned under and stitched. Here is a test on silk charmeuse using the Skala U81 thread.
Serger Sample 1
The serged edge is turned to the wrong side and edge stitched.
Serger Sample 3
Finished seam pressed open. Put strips of brown paper under the seams to prevent any press marks on the right side.
Serger Sample 2
This seam finish wasn’t limited to silk blouses. Here is an unlined Chanel jacket of silk and linen check. The jacket seams were serged, turned under and stitched. The sleeves were lined to make the garment easy to slip on and off.
Chanel Plaid Unlined Jacket
Sleeves are a whole topic of their own and I will delve more into that with the next post. Interesting the way the top sleeve seam is pressed open for about two inches each side of center at the sleeve cap. The armhole is stayed with narrow, lightweight bias tape and the shoulder pad incorporates a sleeve head.
Chanel Shoulder Pad
Exploring the Chanel shoulder and armhole led to a self-taught course on sleeve drafting, fitting and how to achieve that high, slim Chanel sleeve. More about that to follow.

Meanwhile I did manage to get Style Arc Franki dress finished and incorporated some of my new-found finishes.
Style Arc 4

I used a linen knit and lined with bias-cut silk charmeuse. The lining extended to the armhole edges where it is fell stitched, eliminating facings. I used the fine overlock thread for seam finishes and also used it for a slipstitched hem on the silk lining.
Style Arc 2
Style Arc 5
Hope you enjoy. Mary