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….) but I'm definitely curious as to how this history-laden piece of clothing does feel like on the real, live, flesh.
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.
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.
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….) 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.
Worn with COS dip-dyed top and fluoro skirt, DKNY sheer black top and Nike trainers.
Worn with Liberty x bStore shirt dress and belt, General Idea shorts, J.W. Anderson shoes.