Choosing the fabric for the Chanel/Spadea

Chanel/Spadea Jacket materials

Chanel/Spadea Jacket materials

I’ll admit that finding the elements for a Chanel-style jacket is the most fun part, because you’re still living in a dream. While still stitching away on my second Chanel jacket during a holiday trip to Paris, I had the bad fortune to visit Janssens et Janssens fabric shop (janssensparis.com). The fact that it is a block down from Louis Vuitton should have tipped me off that the neatly arrayed bolts of fabric shelved floor to ceiling would start at 200 Euros a yard and go up from there. The slogan on their website loosely translates to “In the heart of Faubourg Saint Honore, the boutique for creative and elegant women who understand the price of fashion.” Talk about French understatement.

Nevertheless, the women who worked there were unfailing pleasant and helpful as I woefully eyeballed the bespoke tweeds, beaded confections and artfully printed cashmere challis. Just when I’d convinced myself that I couldn’t justify the yardage price vs. husband will kill me cost ratio, I saw an unmarked table of half-price remnants, which included the blue/gray boucle above. The fabric is a wool herringbone weave, with slubs of beige woven throughout, jazzed up with shiny silver threads. With a meter and a third left, the woman assured me that I had enough for a “jacket” (said with a knowing look). Sold.

There were a number of other people in the shop at that time, one of whom was an elfin French male dressmaker, who proudly told an Asian couple there, in English, that his jacket was “‘omemade”. He said he had once worked for Chanel, and as I was selecting trim for the jacket from the equally pricey yet out of control trim rack, he decided in that very French way to stop me from making any grievous aesthetic errors. The trim I’d picked, with the black gimp edges and beige velvet ribbon, was “too taupe” and just wouldn’t do. The saleswoman, seeing a large sale go out the window, insisted that my choice was a good one. “Ah” he said, in that French tone that means, “I’m going to compromise but still pretend you’re doing it my way,” “Here’s how you do.” He then told me to pull several strands from the fabric, two or three at a time, put them in a darning needle, and weave them in and out of the trim over the velvet ribbon. As a well-behaved non-confrontational American in Paris, I nodded my head and thanked him, thinking, “I’m not doing that.”

As my items were rung up, I heard him gossiping in French with the saleswoman, and was able to catch the following…that made-to-measure haute couture Chanel suits were starting at 40,000 Euros ($55,000 depending on the day) and the one for Madame So-and-So cost 50,000 Euros. Having made several of the jackets now using the haute couture method, I can just about understand how a hand-made suit could be as complex and costly as an Audi. And as an Audi owner, I can attest that the jackets last longer.

When my jacket was constructed, and it came time to trim it, I looked at the trim and realized that indeed it was “too taupe.” So I got out my darning needle and wove in those threads from the fabric. My French friend, you were so right.

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