Thursday, October 28, 2010

A nice visit

I had a visitor at the office today. Someone else who enjoys buying expensive clothes and taking them apart; she may be familiar to some readers.


Claire Shaeffer is the author of a number of books on couture sewing techniques, and whose book "Behind The Seams- Chanel" I reviewed in this post. There were a number of interesting details in her book that I wanted to have a closer look at so when she told me she was coming I asked her to bring a few garments along. Fortunately for me she had room in her suitcase!

I have talked about the shaping that can be done in a tailored suit by stretching and shrinking using heat and steam on wool cloth, instead of using darts and seams, and that this shaping can be sensitive to humidity. We see inside this Chanel jacket that the craftsperson made provisions for this; the back was shaped as described, without the use of a dart, and to preserve the shape, a darted piece of organza has been carefully pad stitched to the shell fabric. Brilliant. The gold lines are bits of lining left over from when the lining was removed without removing the quilting- Chanel quilted the linings to the shell fabric, which was the inspiration for the quilt-pattern handbags that are now so famous. Another design element of those handbags is the gold chain- Chanel would sew chains onto the hems of jackets to give them weight so they wouldn't flop all over the place.

Chanel back

Another brilliant little couture detail can be seen on the belt of another Chanel jacket she brought. It's not immediately obvious, but the blue edging around the belt is really just the stripe in the tweed- when the belt was cut, an additional length of just the blue stripe was cut, and this was worked around the ends of the belt and slip stitched by hand to give the impression of a braid trim.

Chanel belt

Then there was this jacket from Yves Saint Laurent, one of my favorite couturiers.

YSL label

It was interesting to find that the canvas had been laid in on the bias, and that every single panel was canvassed from top to bottom. This jacket would be just beautiful when worn.

YSL canvas

And, of course, my favorite shoulder treatment.

YSL pagoda

That pagoda shape is probably the most difficult of all to achieve- there are a series of cuts in the canvas, similar to what I do in mine, but whereas I put one cut in the shoulder, this tailor has put two. Then the cloth has to stretched and shaped properly to fit over the canvas.

Just a brief taste of what we looked at this morning- my camera has been acting up- but these are garments that have been fully and beautifully documented in her books which can all be found on Amazon and which I heartily recommend.

Oh, and I almost forgot.

This label looks familiar.

Where have I seen something like it before? :)

Chanel label

ford label


Anonymous said...

Were the Chanel coats that you showed from the "Boutique" line or the couture line?

R. Jeffery Diduch said...

As far as I know they were all from couture lines as they were all clearly hand-made, and exceedingly well made. But I will check with Claire.

Andre said...

J, do you know what the state of couture is like today? I've heard people say that skills and techniques are being lost because the emphasis in many houses have shifted to RTW away from couture.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to try a Chanel-style jacket in the next few months, so this is very timely. Thanks for the great post.

Erica Bunker said...

How interesting! I use Claire Shaeffer's books as sewing bibles! Ironically, I've just completely one of her Vogue sewing patterns!

Pam said...

That's fabulous! Thanks for the comment - I just read Claire Shaeffer's Couture Sewing Techniques as well! So apropos that she stopped by! I can't wait to largely hand sew my own garment - I have taken a class. Love your blog, BTW!

Zoran Arizanovic said...

nice lady
I have her book couture sewing tech. its a big help, and your blog as well

R. Jeffery Diduch said...

Mark- they were all couture.

Andre- Claire had a few anecdotes to share. First, despite the decline in the number of clients, the demographic is shifting. Americans are no longer among the most important consumers of couture- after Saudi and UAE, China and India are the biggest consumers of couture.

She was in the Ungaro workshops last year and the workers in the couture atelier were doing alterations on boutique (RTW) garments, and were not happy about it. Apparently there was not enough of their regular work to keep them busy. Hmph.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Jeffrey.

The couture line can be summed-up in one word: DYNOMITE!

The Chanel boutique line is sold RTW in Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale's, etc. It is lovely and is the top of the line for
RTW womens clothes.

However, the few couture pieces that I have seen (at resale stores, such as Decades [LA] and Tamara's [NYC]) are extraordinary. The cloths are unique to the couture line. My wife tried on a suit at Decades, and the tweed was extraordinary, better than anything I have seen anywhere. Thinking back, we should have bought it even at $3,000 because a couture piece in my wife's size rarely comes onto the resale market.

Anonymous said...

An additional note:

Emmanuel Ungaro appears to be a mess. The new owner is losing money every year, and it would not be surprising if he were to close the business. He thought that it would be a passive business investment, but he has had to take the reins. He is from the Silicon Valley world, and he has had to learn the fashion world from step A.

Mr. Ungaro is no longer in the business. The house is a revolving door of designers who fail to click with either the press or the public.

The travails of the owner were chronicled in a recent article in the New York Times Womens' Fashion Magazine in September.

R. Jeffery Diduch said...

From a technical perspective, Chanel's couture stuff is simply MIND BLOWING. So is YSL's. I wish I had known them. And Mark, you really should have bought that suit. Thanks for the note about Ungaro.

Anonymous said...

balenciaga did that label first

Marysia said...

Fab thread on your post Jeffery.

I am currently working on my toile for Claires Vogue Pattern 8804 and am lucky to live in the U.K. so I have bought my wool/silk tweed from Linton's who supply Chanel with their fabric........Silk charmeuse is in the post to me for the quilted lining and I have been in contact with the company in the U.K. that you mention for the silk thread for the handworked buttonholes...........daunted, of course I am, but I will do it if its the last thing I do.

Thank you for the most terrific blog. I have Claires book and have other references - Susan Khalje............having just gone through an online couture course.......I live in an area that has no fabric or notion shops or classes either. On line help is an absolute life line to me, so thank you so much for a wonderful and inspiring blog.
Kindest regards.

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