Petulant and angry teenager that I was, I used to get really riled up about the oft-touted wardrobe staples that apparently would transform your style and miraculously solve the conundrum of what to wear day, in day out.  The perfect white shirt.  The little black dress.  The cashmere sweater.  There's often a subtle name-dropping that comes packaged up with these wardrobe basics.  "I love my James Perse t-shirts."  "Equipment shirts are essential!"  "I can't live without my Jo Malone candle" (does anyone really NEED a fruity slash floral noted candle burning in the background?)  I suppose it's that idea of pre-ordained, dictated ideas of good taste, something that I vividly remember from an Elle interview with the Meadham Kirchhoff guys.

The Chanel jacket is the undisputed king/queen of this wardrobe staple hierarchy, the big daddy-o that deserves all the name dropping.  I've lost count of how many style talking heads have raved and vouched for their Chanel jacket – how it pulls an outfit together, how it transcends generation and defies age, how it's a classic that never goes out of fashion.  I'm certainly not disputing those statements and I'm definitely no longer that angry girl with a vendetta against the tried-and-tested fashion agenda (well, most of the time anyway‚Ķ.) but I'm definitely curious as to how this history-laden piece of clothing does feel like on the real, live, flesh.

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I've never had the fortune of owning one, coming close a few times whenever I've seen them in vintage shops because every so often I would be tempted by the idea and the ideals of the jacket.  I've shirked away everytime though when I thought that the jacket might fall short of the tall order of expectation.  I've never even tried one on until a few days ago.  Swanky vintage stores hide their Chanel jackets high up on unreachable rails and tut at you .   

Fortunately the unveiling of the touring Little Black Jacket exhibition in Tokyo, where Karl Lagerfeld and Carine Roitfeld come together to create a set of photos to pay homage to this very item of clothing, gave me the opportunity to reassess the LBJ situation.  The exhibition will be followed up by a book that comes out later in September featuring Roitfeld herself on the cover disguised as Coco Chanel.

Exhibition pictures 01 - The Little Black Jacket CHANEL's classic revisited by Karl Lagerfeld and Carine Roitfeld

Exhibition pictures 05 - The Little Black Jacket CHANEL's classic revisited by Karl Lagerfeld and Carine Roitfeld

Exhibition pictures 14 - The Little Black Jacket CHANEL's classic revisited by Karl Lagerfeld and Carine Roitfeld

Exhibition pictures 17 - The Little Black Jacket CHANEL's classic revisited by Karl Lagerfeld and Carine Roitfeld

Exhibition pictures 19 - The Little Black Jacket CHANEL's classic revisited by Karl Lagerfeld and Carine Roitfeld

Chanel have also cleverly created a now-viral video, which condenses the making of the jacket into a few minutes, capturing all the essential traits that make the jacket wholly recognisable – the distinctive metal chain sewn onto the inside edge of the jacket to ensure it hangs properly on the body, the nubbly tweed that Coco Chanel favoured as early as 1936, using cheap tweed from her then-beau Duke of Westminster's factory, the shrugged-on collarless shape, the 3/4 sleeves that were designed to allow bracelets to be shown off and the specific striped panelling that lines the jacket, allowing it to be sized up or down if you take it to tailor.  The blending of the story and tales that come with the creation of the jacket along with a weirdly practical care for functionality makes it a piece that can only really be appreciated when you try it on for size, which is exactly what I did with this sample Chanel Little Black Jacket, the same one featured in the vid.  Kaiser Karl and Madame Roitfeld will probably be displeased with the distraction of colour that I've injected through pastel prints and washed out neons, judging by the suitably stylish black and white photos in the exhibition.  I'm nothing if not predictable though. 

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The verdict?  I hate to confirm the cliche but the Chanel LBJ does shrug on like a dream, with the chain mechanism engineered to make you feel like you don't want to take it off.  The 3/4 sleeves surprised me with their length.  My nagging mother would complain that the jacket was too small but of course, the shrunken look of the sleeves is how Coco Chanel intended them to be.  Sadly of course, the LBJ had to go back to its cream carpeted London Chanel HQ (bar none, the softest carpet I've ever padded around on‚Ķ.) but at the very least, I've now found out for myself what all the fuss is all about.  Stamped.  Done.  Sprogs of ageing rockers or well to do older socialites can carry on bleating on about how great a Chanel jacket is and how they've inherited a whole rail of them from their mothers.  Now to set about the task of actually getting one and then desecrating it with neon plastic trim or something equally out of place and wrong.

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Worn with Louise Gray shirt, Tory Burch trousers, Underground creepers.

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Worn with COS dip-dyed top and fluoro skirt, DKNY sheer black top and Nike trainers.

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Worn with Liberty x bStore shirt dress and belt, General Idea shorts, J.W. Anderson shoes.

Comments (49)

  1. Mary Jane K. says:

    Thank you for that highly informative and personal insight! I’ve read about the LBJ just short time ago in a fashion magazine and wondered about how highly it was praised as the thing of all things. You made me really curious and I think I have to do some follow up on it :-)

  2. Ha! Evidence of generation gap: when I read your post title “LBJ”, I thought Lyndon Baines Johnson. The Little Black (Chanel) Jacket is gorgeous!
    http://styleseer.blogspot.com

  3. Mary says:

    you use in a creative way, as usual

  4. susie_bubble says:

    Lol…. I’m normally not into fashion acronymns but didn’t think anyone would think i was posting about a dead president. *trying to remember all USA presidents of the 20th century off top of head*

  5. Joana Gomes says:

    I actually prefer how you’ve worn it rather than some other higher-end versions of its wearability.
    xo Joana

  6. Perfect POST…i love Chanel Jacket and the history is amazing =)
    XOXO from MUNICH
    La Vie Quotidienne
    Today you can check my USA Flag Pants and I Love NEW YORK T-shirt in: http://www.laviequo.com
    I open my sHOP in: http://laviequo.blogspot.de/2012/04/laviequocom-shop.html

  7. Love the little black jacket!
    So perfect and so Chic!
    Thank you for sharing… ‚ô•
    xoxo

  8. Kazuko says:

    loved the story about the LB(Chanel)J – and unfortunately, it confirmed the idea I had of a Chanel jacket (and now I want one more than ever). oh, and how well it suits you…!

  9. Günsel says:

    congrats for breaking your rules once; its so sweet on you, and excuse me: black is your color

  10. jean cave says:

    Admit it!. . . you don’t want to take it off.
    My entire basic wardrobe is black but recently I bought a navy/conker striped
    Marimekko jacket.

  11. sourapril says:

    Love how you transform the Chanel jacket.

  12. I bought an imitation one from Zara last year, and honestly it goes with everything! Love how your mixing it up with some prints and colour though, so chic!
    fashion-pudding.blogspot.com

  13. Amy Rose says:

    Ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod.
    I saw the jacket and started hyperventilating. You’re soooooo lucky to have it! I’m so ridiculously jealous. I have a ‘Chanel- esque’ one from M&S, of all places, and I swear it’s my go- to jacket.
    Coco sure was onto something….
    Summer Dreaming: The Perfect Wardrobe now up at
    http://lanvinmyman.blogspot.co.uk/
    -Amy Rose x

  14. watisoni says:

    oH L.B.J! One day the day will come where you will be sitting in my CLOSET just so I can marvel at your BEAUTY! . As for now I shall be drooling over images of you. Susie , it was great being able to see you style high end into a casual outfit :) . PS- Thanks again for visiting BRISBANE. I have definitely taken something back from the talk. Please visit us AGAIN :)

  15. Peter says:

    I love how you’ve worn the Chanel. It is extremely versatile! My throw-on-always-and-forever article of clothing? The classic, tweed, Brooks Brothers jacket my father gave me.
    x Peter @ http://low–couture.blogspot.com

  16. There’s a lot to say about this classic jacket. I loved this post. You totally got the spirit of it.
    Greetings from Santiago, Chile.
    http://carethewear.wordpress.com
    Twitter: @cristianpavezd
    Facebook: http://on.fb.me/uywe6X

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  21. Suzi says:

    Just gorgeous! Now I want one!
    Suzi x
    http://fortheloveofaudrey.com

  22. Nathan Niche says:

    ahhh the chanel tweed, classic!
    idk y but i LOVE it when ur hair is up in a pony tail, makes u v pretty ;)
    and how lovely is that skirt proportion on u! fab look dear-
    xx nathan.niche
    -FIND YOUR NICHE-
    http://style-niche.blogspot.com

  23. I went to Doll House and had the worst experience of my life. I ordered a dress 3 months before my formal and it didn’t come in. she told me the the dress was customised but was told a week before my formal that they could not do it and was told to chose another dress from the shop which upset me as I had my heart set on the dress I ordered. Thank you Doll House for destroying my only formal – it was the worst time.

  24. wow the Chanel jacket is a good mate for a lot of styles <3

  25. Sue says:

    wow, i’m here for the first time and i love your blog. You are so unique, i haven’t seen a blog like yours. And the Chanel jacket is one of my biggest dreams!

  26. Emily Sharp says:

    Chanel have done it again. The LBJ is so cute! I love to wear blazers and jackets, they can really set off an outift as well as being super practical. Chanel big thumbs up! http://www.abitkitsch.co.uk

  27. phaydra says:

    I would love to be able to such an amazing exhibit as The Little Black Jacket. However, I prefer the plaid Chanel jackets over the black. The black is just so plain and you can’t see the details as much. Oh, how I covet a vintage Chanel jacket.

  28. Yuka says:

    the exhibition was so beautiful and so chanel ‚ô•
    http://dontthinkjustfeel-yuka.blogspot.jp/

  29. Carol says:

    I loved your blog!
    I just posted new looks from Beverly Hills, and Farmer’s market in L.A check it out!
    http://www.thegavlaks.com

  30. I love the last look, you’re a master of layering!

  31. I love your blog ! You’ve got a really talent for mix styles. It’s so amazing !
    xx
    http://www.somewhere-blog.blogspot.com

  32. I love your blog ! You’ve got a really talent for mix styles. It’s so amazing !
    xx
    http://www.somewhere-blog.blogspot.com

  33. sharilee says:

    Love Love Love!!
    What would the price range for a gorgeous jacket like the one you’ve got here? Sooo craving it

  34. Nice blog post. Keep up the good work. I have just bookmarked this blog and will follow your blog for more great posts

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  38. Madeleine says:

    Susie!
    They really do shrug on like a dream and the skirts are just as good. I bought mine in a Paris consignment store (Spring 2006) Simple black just like this one and took it into 5 rue cambon and they said it had probably never even been worn! And it fit like a glove, whoever had it made was the exact same measurements as me! It was just meant to be. It was a dream come true for me at 18!
    Madeleine Louise,
    http://www.wekilledcouture.com

  39. fashionvo says:

    I just love this style!

  40. Tony says:

    Is there some missing leather lacing on the buttons like on that last close-up? Is it normal for the logos of the buttons to be not right side up?

  41. susie_bubble says:

    This jacket was a sample so it has been used on numerous shoots so may have some minor mishaps…
    This jacket brand new would of course be in immaculate condition.

  42. Lola says:

    The closest I’ve ever got it to stroking one I saw in Harrods, it looks perfect on you!

  43. Fumi says:

    And I always thought you were the girl that had inherited that whole rack of Chanle LBJs….

  44. Fumi says:

    Ooops…typo…Chanel!

  45. LawandChanel says:

    Love! I adore this jacket and love how you’ve worn it; definitely pulls an outfit together as you’ve mentioned and heard so many times before. Now to start trawling the local vintage stores for one…

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