By the request of my lovely Instagram friend @panthere_instyle, I have created an article mapping out the changes of the Chanel jacket over the ages. Chanel is a very mysterious company that fiercely protects its heritage, so this guide, in my opinion, is by no means exhaustive. If anyone has any additional information to contribute (especially older fans of the house with more experience in vintage pieces), I welcome you to comment below so that the article may be expanded upon or amended. I hope this information is of assistance in both authenticating and dating your Chanel jackets and RTW. If not, then it’s sure to be quite an enjoyable fashion history lesson and read. Below are the major areas of change that the Chanel tweed jacket has undergone since its creation in the 1920s.
Jewellery was designed specifically to be sold with the Chanel Jacket
Gabrielle Chanel was the ultimate stylist. She designed jewellery to compliment her latest designs, which were thoughtfully included in the garment purchase. The term “costume jewellery” references the fact that the jewellery was made for a specific “costume” or in modern terminology “outfit”. It is so interesting to think that a term we use so freely today was coined by Gabriele Chanel. For those interested, a beautiful example of a rare museum worthy Couture jacket from the 60s, complete with matching gripoix brooch can be seen here. Unfortunately today, Chanel sells their costume jewellery separately for what one may think to be rather exorbitant prices. Staying true to the spirit of Gabrielle Chanel however, you can still see the beautiful layering of accessories complimenting the clothes as the models parade in the latest collections. What wonderful styling inspiration it is!
With the perfect fit always being her top priority, Gabrielle Chanel invented a method to ensure her jackets fell perfectly. Taking inspiration from the chain motif she so loved, she decided to sew ones made of thick gold brass into the inside hem of her jackets. The end result was a jacket that sat perfectly. You can see an example of the original chain in the photo timeline below. The chain today in Karl’s era has been drastically downgraded. It is thin, silver and rather flimsy in comparison to the original. The change may be one of many made by Chanel over the years to lower production costs, but honestly who knows except them. The new flimsy one provides negligible weight to the jacket, and my best bet is that it wasn’t removed entirely due to its symbolic value. I am unsure of the specific year they decided to downgrade the chain, so I welcome anyone with references or personal experiences to leave a comment below. As a bit of trivia, for the Paris-Salzburg Pre-Fall, Chanel paid homage to the original chain by using it in some of the jackets. The two jackets I own from this collection have a thick, gold chain that would make Mademoiselle herself proud.
Vintage wool tweeds interestingly differ to modern ones in their weight. Ones today are lighter due to advancements in the wool cleaning process so apart from this, the process of manufacturing remains unchanged. Special laws are actually in place to protect its production and ensure that the tradition lives on with minimal deviations. Harris Tweed, a renowned tweed maker in Scotland, provided the fabrics for the first Chanel tweed jacket made in the early 1920's. For those interested, this traditional tweed manufacturer still supplies to Chanel today alongside a variety of other maisons (e.g. Linton Tweed and Lesage). Lesage, now owned by Chanel under their paraffection division, deserves a special mention. In the modern era they produce the special fantasy tweed fabrics, which require much time, dedication and skill to accomplish. Garments constructed from this tweed are most desirable in a Chanel jacket purchase, as this fabric is exclusive to Chanel only. With the tweeds supplied by other manufacturers, the left over fabric today may be resold to other companies for commercial use. There is a fabric store in Melbourne that sells left over Chanel tweed by the meter, and Willow ltd. (an ex Australian label) is one of many designer labels that have used Chanel tweed in their designs. I’m not sure how I feel about this though, which is why the majority of my pieces are Lesage tweed. Given the astronomical price of even the most basic, entry point Chanel jacket, I don't see the point of spending that sort of money if there is a risk of the fabric being used by a cheaper more accessible label.
In the modern era, as more technology is utilized in the creation of Chanel RTW, traditional couture techniques have become less prominent. This means that many vintage Chanel jackets may have superior craftsmanship to those sold today. Those knowledgeable in garment construction claim that there is more hand finishing consistent among all vintage pieces, therefore leading to superior fit and comfort. Although there will always be borderline couture pieces in each modern day collection to defy this general observation, they are priced accordingly to reflect the time and skill required in construction. I encourage anyone with additional information to add to comment below.
Chanel garment tags have changed frequently and significantly over the years. I will address this in more detail in a future post, as this is a very complex and time intensive topic to write on. With vintage designs, the composition label was handwritten, along with the collection year and the season. Can you imagine owning a Chanel jacket that has the handwriting of Gabrielle Chanel herself on the label (if it hasn’t already faded)? In the late 90's this practice stopped and the printed tags that we are familiar with today were introduced. Early printed labels specified the collection year and season, however in 2010 Chanel unfortunately decided to omit this information. This makes it very difficult to identify the collection of RTW pieces from 2010 onwards, especially considering the vast amount of clothes this house produces for a single season. I once out of interest asked a Chanel staff member to explain the rationale behind this change, and apparently it is to highlight that the house’s RTW is timeless and seasonless. Even though I love Chanel, with some of the items I’ve seen I politely beg to differ. Personally, I enjoy knowing the story and meaning behind each RTW item that enters my wardrobe, so I think this is a real shame they've taken the power away from us being able to date them easily. If you have a helpful SA they may help you identify the jacket on their system using the code on the label. Of importance last year, the Chanel RTW labels were updated with added security measures to help distinguish genuine pieces from counterfeits. I feel reluctant to share any specifics though, as this information may be misused in the wrong hands.
Just like garment tags, Chanel buttons have gone through many changes throughout history. I have used vintage consignment listings as my reference, as it has been difficult for me to ascertain this information otherwise. In Gabrielle Chanel’s time (1971 and earlier), while the CC design was seen, it was common for some buttons to have no Chanel reference at all. She loved understated elegance, so the lion or camellia symbolism where she found strength in starred instead as the face of the design. In this period, the house of Chanel was sometimes referenced on the back of the button, however often it was left blank. In the post Gabrielle Chanel era, the buttons varied. Some featured Chanel branding, while others displayed the codes of the house or ornate patterns. On the back of the button however, Chanel was written in capital letters with the copyright sign. I think this feature remained until the late 90's or early 2000's (please comment below if you know). Today however, the backing is left blank. Post 90's to modern day, Chanel buttons come in all shapes and sizes and at times are whimsical to play into the theme of the collection. They all feature the CC logo, which is either prominently displayed as the centerpiece of the design, or quite discretely hidden. For the jackets with no buttons, a small plaque reminiscent of the collection may be sewn onto the garment. Sometimes the plaque is decorative and ornate, or at other times may display the logo. Beautiful buttons are quite important to the fashion house, so much so that all the buttons of a collection are passed around and explained to the staff in their training. Buttons are now used as a medium to help convey the story of a collection, and are one element of the jacket that has definitely become more elaborate over the years.
Early on, Chanel jacket zippers were made of metal. Plastic coil zippers weren’t invented until 1940 and their use in RTW wasn’t widespread until 1960. This is a useful tool in determining the era of a vintage piece. Today both plastic and metal zippers are used, and selection is most likely made to complement the aesthetic of the garment.
Chanel jackets are nearly always lined. With the odd rare exception, the number of fabric panels used for the jacket will always equal that of the lining . This is one reason why Chanel jackets are special, as this feature means a more comfortable fit and a greater allowance for a seamstress to tailor a piece to someone’s unique shape. As a result of this, you can achieve a made to measure fit with some Chanel RTW jackets. Throughout the ages silk has been the choice of fabric used for the lining. It is a beautiful natural textile that is luxurious, breathable and lightweight. In Gabrielle Chanel’s time the lining was usually plain in a colour to suit the jacket, however during the 80's small CC's were woven into the silk design. This remained consistent up until the early 2000's when the CC's were replaced with a subtle camellia pattern. Modern day, the camellia print is still going strong, seen in the majority of Chanel jacket linings. This however is not always a general rule, as some exceptional pieces may have a lining composed of a recognizable print unique to the collection (like the gold glitter tweed jacket in this edit) or conversely they may consist of plain silk.
What Adrianna is wearing
Chanel Gold glitter tweed jacket from the Cruise 2015 Dubai Collection, Chanel slingbacks & Chanel vintage jewellery from Hawkeye Vintage
Did You Know? More Interesting Facts About The Chanel Jacket
The third jacket to be featured in "The Chanel Jacket Chronicles" is from look #27 of Chanel’s Cruise 2015 Dubai presentation. This piece is very special indeed as Karl Lagerfeld, a designer never to openly divulge preferences, stated in an interview that this jacket dress was his favorite of the entire collection. An incredible feat and honor when you consider the beauty of all the Middle Eastern inspired designs on show. Affirming his love for this gold glitter tweed jacket, Chanel released Karl's initial sketch for the design - the only sketch that was showcased from this collection. He also included very special details in its construction, which are reserved for Chanel's most important and historically significant RTW pieces. The lining is in an iconic printed silk lame reminiscent of the collection, a feature that affirms its importance to a Chanel aficionado. What further adds to the collector appeal and charm of the jacket is the fact that it featured briefly in Chanel's most recent No. 5 commercial. Featuring supermodel Giselle Bündchen, who represents the modern "Chanel woman", the visuals of this ad are unforgettable as is the melancholic rendition of "The One That I Want" which plays in the background. Every time I look at this jacket, I see an important part of Chanel's recent history and I'm sure when we look back over Karl's era this jacket will become sought after and of collector significance.
Please share your Chanel Jacket Experiences Below
If you have learned something new, or have anything to add to this discussion your opinion is very much valued here.
I am extremely passionate about the Chanel jacket that it would actually make my day (and probably several other readers' too) hearing of your own special experiences or acquired knowledge!
Do you have a Chanel jacket, RTW or bag related question that you can't find the answer to? Not sure whom to ask? Please feel free to ask away and I will do my best to answer it for you.
Also, if you have any other suggestions for future write ups in this series, please leave it below. 🙂