The Chanel Little Black Jacket of Past and Present


Coco Chanel’s legacy is rich with stylist axioms and witticisms once endowed by the daring French designer.  Her credos cast a spell on us, giving generation after generation the gift of refined simplicity and casual extravagance.  It is because of Coco Chanel that we giddily mix and layer jewels (both real and costume), slouch coquettishly in our striped mariner shirts and have utmost faith in the permanence of that little black dress.  Chanel was and continues to be a study in opposites: lean and luxe, dressed up but dressed down; boy meets girl.

Gabrielle Chanel working on a model for her first collection in 1954 Unknown Photographer. © Chanel

Among all the influence that Mademoiselle Chanel had upon the fashion industry and personal style was her singular, perfectly tailored, collarless tweed jackets. Chanel was obsessive about fit, often ripping and reworking armholes (see above) and even going so far as to lace her skirts’ hemlines with chain so that they would hang properly.

00290-203x300As a result, the timelessness of a Chanel jacket extends beyond the annals of style but even into the precarious world of fit.  Even at 58 years, the Chanel jacket still feels supremely chic and fresh — no matter how one styles it.

Even today Chanel’s time-honored traditions are celebrated each season.  Lagerfeld’s Pre-Fall collection dressed the jacket in all the decadence of Paris and Bombay, presenting rich embroidery, gilded bronzed cuffs and epaulets (left).  Fall envisions the iconic jacket taking a stroll through a layered uptown/downtown mix.
131-203x300There are cropped tweed jackets paired with gauzy swirl-around scarves and floral tops; other times they feel modernist yet with the slightest tinge of vintage appeal, as though they crept from the closet of Blade Runner’s neo-noir heroine (right).

So precious is the jacket to the House of Chanel that they have devoted an entire book (available on the Seventh Floor later this summer, 212 872 8960), short film (see below) and exhibition to its legacy.  Beginning this Friday, June 8 at 18 Wooster will host a fleeting yet spectacular exhibition honoring the French house’s The Little Black Jacket: Chanel’s Classic Revisited.  This Friday through next Friday, June 15 you will see the jacket and its modern muses through the eyes of Karl Lagerfeld and Carine Roitfeld (think model Song Hye-kyo sporting hers with sequined hotpants and rollerskates or Freja Baja dressed in a habit, looking deviously virtuous) who deftly prove that not only can the Chanel jacket be worn during any decade, it can be worn with just about anything — including painter’s overalls.

Experience the history of the Chanel jacket on Pinterest

Second Floor
212 872 2814


Runway images © Chanel




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