If you are sewing Claire Shaeffer’s Vogue Pattern V8804, for a Chanel-like cardigan jacket, and wish you could have Shaeffer herself show you how to, say, quilt the lining to the shell fabric or construct a three-piece sleeve, I’m happy to announce your wish has been granted! Shaeffer, couture sewing techniques expert, has penned a new book, Couture Sewing: The Couture Cardigan Jacket, Sewing Secrets from a Chanel Collector, which includes a DVD! Combined, Shaeffer will show you from start to finish how to make a Chanel-like jacket of your own.
|Photo of Claire Shaeffer by Judith Neukam|
From my chat with Shaeffer I can tell you that she is an expert on Chanel—not only the woman, but the house, its techniques, and its history. Her book is a must for every lover of Chanel, whether you are making Mademoiselle’s famous jacket or just want to learn about its meticulous couture details.
With brand-new Chanel jackets running in the four figures and up, plenty of sewers have thought of making their own, but the task can seem daunting, even to a sewing professional, so how did Shaeffer uncover the jacket’s design secrets?
“I never had access to their workrooms,” Shaeffer says of the Chanel atelier. Her repeated requests to make a visit were denied but that did not deter her from learning how the jackets are constructed. She looked at 200 Chanel suits and owns approximately 30 of them herself—from ready-to-wear to couture to copies. The extensive examination has given her impressive and deep knowledge of the techniques Chanel uses, and to pass on some of this expertise to readers, twelve of the jackets Shaeffer owns will be included in the book as a small portfolio, showing the design and fabric of each. Also included will be the names of designers at Chanel between 1971, when Coco died, and 1983, when Karl Lagerfeld began his long reign there. Another unique feature of the book will be a chapter on Chanel copies, which, back in Mademoiselle’s day, were sanctioned and a big business unto themselves.
As for a copy of your own, Shaeffer developed the jacket pattern V8804 with Vogue Patterns and wrote the instructions too, so if you take on the project under her tutelage and using her pattern you are in excellent hands. She has been sewing Chanel-like jackets since the mid-1970s. “Some were better than others,” she admits, “but it wasn’t until the mid-80s that I learned some of the techniques I had been taught were wrong. The most obvious is the faux buttonhole on lining or facing; it is not a true bound buttonhole.”
|Features of V8804 include patch pockets and a chain weight sewn by hand.|
Important questions for anyone wanting to make the jacket are: Do you need to have a lot of sewing experience before you attempt it? And just how long will it take? Shaeffer says it takes approximately 60-80 hours to sew the jacket, with all bastings. “Intermediate home sewers can make this jacket if they have patience and follow the directions without skipping steps,” she says.
|The Chanel jacket of my dreams! Can I learn to make it myself?|
What has Shaeffer learned about Coco herself during her long career of collecting, studying, and replicating so many Chanel garments? “Chanel was interested in the toile. The techniques probably came from the head of the workrooms. There’s a lot to be learned from the jackets because the design is relatively simple. Some of mine have no linings so you can see the construction inside.”
Her number one piece of advice to home sewers? She said it in a word: “Baste.”
Couture Sewing: The Couture Cardigan Jacket, Sewing Secrets from a Chanel Collector is out this month from Taunton Press.