that post with all the question marks in it

​I was totally planing on writing about books this evening (specifically Swamplandia! v. Rules of Civility), until I randomly ended up on the NYTimes website reading the now-defunct Go for Broke blog.  Basically, it’s a blog about fashion splurges.  I was poring over the inevitable Chanel jacket post, and made the mistake of reading the comments.  Woof.  “Whoever spends five-thousand dollars on a jacket deserves to be tarred and feathered.”  Not a direct quote, just a distillation.  Also, “I make xxx per year, and I would never spend that much money on a jacket.”  I’ve been getting all shifty-seated ever since.  

I would totally spend that amount of money on a jacket.  No, I wouldn’t rack up Carrie Bradshaw-sized credit card debt for it, but as someone who actually has an Oscar de la Renta fund (hush up, you), the comments were jarring.  First off, why do we always have to have nice things or give money to charity?  You can feed the children and clothe yourself at the same time.  Instead of buying racks of polyester sacks that’ll only last a season​, why not just buy one jacket?  Which one is worse for the environment?  For the arts?  For consumers themselves?  Not rhetorical questions, as I’d genuinely like know.

Buying a Chanel jacket is like participating in the slow food movement or buying horrendously priced heirloom tomatoes.  The only difference is, one choice is (generally) celebrated and the other is (again, generally) reviled.  Wouldn’t it be lovely if that much thought were put into everyday items?  The weighted hem, the quilted lining, the double-bound buttonholes?  Wouldn’t it be equally as lovely if all clothing were made by workers who were making a fair wage and who were celebrated as artists rather than treated as property?  Can you simultaneously advocate buying clothing of questionable origin and saving (invariably African) children?  Does one life, one system of inequalities matter more than another?  Again, not rhetorical questions.

One commenter said that their grandmother can whip up an identical jacket using the finest materials for about $75.  That commenter has obviously never set foot in a fabric store, or spent hours hunched over a cutting table matching patterns and aligning grains.  If you consider the materials, pray that the workers make a fair wage (say, 20USD an hour including benefits), and assume that the jacket takes the much-discussed eighty-plus hours to make, then the cost makes sense. With the manufacturer’s base cost, wholesale price (to places like Neiman’s), plus the standard 250% retail markup (which cushions for sales, theft, etc.), the price sounds just about right.  (Remember this article?)

Also, and perhaps irrelevantly, we should briefly discuss the “lining the pockets of the fat cats” argument.  I don’t mind paying for Karl Lagerfeld’s lifestyle if that means getting a stunning a jacket and preserving an artist’s legacy.  He’s an artist, a perfectionist, and someone who appreciates luxury.  He also loves his cat, which means that I shall give him all of my money.  I like to buy things once and buy them well.  Sometimes I feel that I’m totally alone on this.

in which i am obsessed

I’m still having dart issues, I can’t seem to quite get any of my dress bodices to behave themselves, and I am on the hunt for a new sewing machine.  Yet!  Yet, I am still consumed by my white whale: the Chanel jacket.  I’ve been thinking about it, though.  I really love the classic Chanel jackets of the 60s, but what of the actual suits?  I love them, love them.  Not all of them have the signature boxy shape, bouclé/tweed, trim-to-the-hilt look.  Karl Lagerfeld (our dear leader) has done an amazing job, but I don’t think very much can compare to the suits in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute’s archives.

Behold this gem from Mrs. Lewis Lapham:

Chanel Silk Jacket Met 1963

Where’s the wool?  There isn’t any!  It’s silk.  All, all silk.   Aren’t the pocket marvelous?  Granted, I am a famous pocket abuser, so those wouldn’t quite last a day of use, but still!  I especially love the ribbony trim and the sleeve length.  I think this could be recreated without too much anxiety.  (Let me alone with my delusions!)  There’s a skirt, too, but I think that the jacket completely outshines it.

What about this guy?

Chanel Suit Met 1964

I was looking at it and thinking that it had to be bouclé, but a quick glance over at the medium tab reveals that it is made of silk, plastic, straw, and metal.  Metal chain, silk fabric, plastic shiny stuff, but straw?  My favorite thing is that it doesn’t actually look like a suit.  I’m not wild about the bow, as I think I’d look gift-wrapped, but the rest of it could totally pass for a dress.  I am all. for. the short-sleeved suit.

Chanel Suit Met 1953-59

This is from the fifties.  I don’t think it looks too dated now, but am not sure how well I can handle a double-breasted suit with what looks like bracelet (or maybe 3/4) sleeves.  I have to admit, I’m totally enamored by the idea.  The blouse underneath it is to die for, though.  Observe:

Chanel Blouse Gray Met 1953-59

That, I’m definitely dying to make.

Navy Chanel Suit Met

But this one looks pretty classic Chanel, you say.  It is wool bouclé, and it is boxy, but there is absolutely no trim.  This really appeals to me.  Also, see the pockets?  They’re on the diagonal, which is fabulous.

Of the suits above, I’ve decided to choose the two I’m mostly likely to make and wear in the fall.  I think I’m still young enough to get away with the double-breasted—youthful insouciance and all that.  The navy is just far too much for me to pass up.  Naturally, the fabric comes before anything (including the skill and the pattern), so I’ve scoured the stores to see if anything matches up.  I’ve got a handful.

[This used to be an image of a badass collage.  Unfortunately, it was eaten during the Squarespace conversion.  However, I have this placeholder until I figure this out.  So sorry!]

The double-breasted suit would look really great in one of these gray tweeds from Mood.  The Oscar de la Renta at the top particularly speaks to me.  The navy is a bit trickier.  I once had a swatch of tropical-weight, basketweave wool from Gorgeous Fabrics (it still haunts my dreams), and I think it would make up a beautiful suit.  Unfortunately, it has long sold out, and the above have to do the job.  The top two are from Gorgeous Fabrics (and 25% off as of this writing) and the one on the bottom is an Oscar de la Renta bouclé from Mood.  One day we will discuss my obsession with OdlR.  Until then, we shall fantasize about Chanel.

All clothing images are from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  A quick advanced search for Gabrielle Chanel will do the trick.  The fabric images are from their respective vendors (Gorgeous and Mood).  The sucky Photoshop was done by yours truly.  The end.