Suit up: Return to the corporate world with Chanel's work jacket

Woolen textiles like tweed give your look a casual elegance while being functional and comfortable.

Backstage of the Chanel Fall/Winter 2020-2021 fashion show (Photo: Benoit Peverelli) 

It may seem strange but not everyone subscribes to the idea of working in pyjamas. Granted, working from home may be both productive and efficient thanks to modern technology, but there is a certain pleasure — and psychological comfort — to be derived from the ancient ritual of getting battle-ready.

To the modern corporate warrior, this would begin with the choice of one’s armour. Despite the encroachment of Casual Fridays and Silicon Valley-style dress codes, the business world has yet to see a free-for-all when it comes to dressing up — or down. And the fail-safe item most women would invariably turn to would be the jacket.

There’s certainly no magic behind the classic jacket. Straight and structured, it immediately conveys a sense of “I mean business”. But for the longest time, it wasn’t the most comfortable thing to wear. The same could be said of women’s attire in general then.


Romy Schneider wearing Chanel in L. Visconti sketch Il Lavoro (Photo: Paul Ronald)

It was only in 1925 that the designer Gabrielle Chanel debuted a tweed jacket and skirt suit that combined suppleness and comfort with functionality. “A Chanel suit is made for a woman who moves,” she once remarked. “The elegance of clothing comes with the freedom to move. I really care about women and I wanted to dress them in suits that make them feel at ease, clothes they can wear to drive a car but that still emphasise femininity.”

Chanel’s decision to use tweed was also a daring one at the time, given the fact that it was predominantly reserved for menswear. But choice of fabric aside, what set a Chanel jacket apart then as it does now lies in what cannot be seen with the naked eye: the method and precision of its construction. There is reason, after all, that a single jacket bearing the Chanel couture mark takes no less than 130 hours of workmanship by the maison’s atelier of craftspeople, with each piece responding to an absolute exactitude.

The jacket’s front is cut on a straight grain, with no darts at the bust so as to increase its suppleness, flexibility and support without losing shape or structure. This same principle is applied to the back, separated by a simple seam sewn down its middle. Sleeves are set high on the shoulder to maximise comfort and there are as many linings as there are tweed panels, with the within and without almost a perfect mirror image of each other. There is edge-to-edge closure, and no shoulder pads or stiff interfacing.


Backstage of the Chanel 2019-20 Cruise collection (Photo: Benoit Peverelli)

Fashioned out of signature tweed or bouclé, the jacket also comes with pockets — a nod to Mademoiselle Chanel’s worship of practicality (she used them as a stylish means of storing her beloved cigarettes and perhaps a pair of scissors) and love of keeping her hands free — and it may be done up with buttons that resemble little jewels, bearing the maison’s iconic interlocking double C logo, sheaves of wheat, the camellia or perhaps the lion’s head motif to signify her strong Leo star sign and personality.

Connoisseurs and those who are privy to the pleasure and privilege of having worn one are also well aware of the fact that each Chanel jacket is weighted with a brass chain secretly sewn into the jacket’s hem, on the lining, ensuring a perfect, impeccable fall, without crease or curl.

Did we mention earlier that there’s no magic behind the classic jacket? Perhaps we got it wrong. It is magic, after all. Wearable magic.


This article first appeared on April 27, 2020 in The Edge Malaysia.


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