The French Jacket Experience (guest post) Julie Starr

10 Mar The French Jacket Experience (guest post) Julie Starr

My friend and co-author, Julie Starr dedicates each January (+) to sewing a couture garment. She’s hooked on French Jackets and generously shares her experience below. Enjoy 🙂


The allure of the classic French jacket – its mystique has captivated for years. Long before rediscovering garment sewing several years ago I admired this garment for its timeless elegance on the outside, never understanding that the magic on the inside is the real story. Quilting lofty boucle to silk lining with rows of stitches that are all but invisible from the outside produces a sumptuous quality double layer that hugs the body almost like a sweater and feels like heaven to wear.

While creating this garment is a lengthy process with a great deal of hand sewing (many have estimated it to take anywhere from 70 to over 100 hours) none of the steps are particularly difficult. I find the slow and steady pace to be relaxing and contemplative, thoroughly enjoying the rhythmic repetition, the time honored techniques and the effort of perfecting one stitch after another.

JS2If one were ever to splurge on materials and trims, now is the time! Given the amount of labor invested, only the best will do. Quality boucle can be sourced at many online retailers – some of the more popular are Linton Direct UK, Elliott Berman, Mendel Goldberg, B&J and Emma One Sock. You’ll still be thousands of dollars ahead in the end. Did you know that the price of an off-the-rack Chanel original averages around $5000 and the made-to-measure haute couture version begins at upwards of $15,000 to $20,000?

For anyone interested in trying these techniques for the first time, Craftsy’s class  The Iconic Tweed Jacket, Lorna Knight  offers great value and an approachable starting point.  A few of the steps have been simplified and there are some shortcuts taken but I was truly thrilled with the success achieved on my first jacket and came away with the confidence to move to the next level.

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For a full-on couture experience, Susan Khalje’s class, in-person or on-line, is thought by many to be the gold standard. True haute couture methods are employed throughout and her three piece sleeve with vent allows for prominent placement of featured trim and fancy buttons, both true hallmarks of Chanel.

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A perfectly fitted muslin (or toile) is your best friend when beginning this project. Vogue 7975 is the pattern many use since its shoulder princess seams permit the best opportunity for bust adjustments.

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Once necessary adjustments have been made and the muslin fit is perfected, it is cut apart on the seam lines and used as the jacket’s actual pattern. No seam allowances are added; they are not used in couture sewing. For optimum accuracy, each piece is thread traced along the seam lines on a single layer of fabric and it is these lines that are matched throughout construction.
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Each boucle piece is then machine quilted to its corresponding lining segment and the boucle layer is assembled while keeping the lining edges free to be hand fell-stitched together on the inside.

The control one has by hand stitching is truly unmatched. Before falling in love with couture sewing I would have avoided hand stitching at all costs but I now find myself including some on nearly everything I sew. Collars, cuffs, facings and basting of any sort; they all benefit greatly from the accuracy of hand stitching.
Next each seam is carefully pinned and fell stitched closed by hand.



Once the “vest” has been completed the sleeves are similarly assembled then attached to the jacket entirely by hand.

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Front hook and eye closures are added and the jacket’s trim is hand applied before fell-stitching the outer edges of the lining closed.unspecified


The desired number of pockets and their placement is determined and they are constructed and trimmed in the same manner as the jacket. Each is backed with hand stitched silk lining and matching trim is applied.



Finally, decorative buttons are added to the sleeve vents and pockets and the iconic chain is stitched along the inner hemline. BUTTONSThe chain is said to counterbalance the weight of heavy buttons and prevent the jacket from slipping forward on the shoulders but primarily it adds that special touch of luxury on the inside!

CHAIN 2While I have made a matching skirt for all but one of my five French jackets, they are most often worn with jeans, proving there is a place in every wardrobe for this classic you will be proud to say you’ve created yourself. No one will ever believe you made it. 😉



Thank you, Julie!


  • Jeanette Madden
    Posted at 09:31h, 10 March Reply

    Wonderful post!

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 17:39h, 10 March Reply

      Thank you, Jeanette!

  • Lone Star Couture
    Posted at 09:33h, 10 March Reply

    Timeless elegance. Each time you make a French jacket I say “that one is my favorite”, and this is no exception. Great collaboration on a post, ladies!

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 17:39h, 10 March Reply

      Thank you, Dorcas, my fjbff😘

  • Anna Hinkle
    Posted at 09:35h, 10 March Reply

    Very interesting, informative and beautiful, thank you for sharing. I would like to add that Angela Wolf also offers an online class through Pattern Review called The Contemporary Couture Jacket. She has made some beautiful jackets using her technique, which is very similar to this one. I have completed one jacket and am about half way done with another, and have also found that I enjoy the hand stitching more than I expected to.

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 17:45h, 10 March Reply

      Thank you, Anna. I follow Angela and I’m a fan of her work. I would love to try her jacket class, as well. It’s always interesting to compare the different methods and techniques. Nice to know that you have also caught the handstitching bug!

  • Keysie Maddox
    Posted at 09:35h, 10 March Reply

    WOW – gorgeous and so tailored. Love this. So much detail. pays off.

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 17:46h, 10 March Reply

      Thank you, Keysie!

  • Jean Humphrey
    Posted at 09:36h, 10 March Reply

    Beautiful! I must take this challenge!

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 17:48h, 10 March Reply

      Thanks so much, Jean! It’s a fun tradition to look forward to after the holidays.

  • Brenda Everett
    Posted at 09:42h, 10 March Reply

    Beautiful jacket Julie!! Maybe someday I will be able to commit the time to making one. I LOVE the off white and black color scheme you chose and oh the fit! I would wear it everyday!

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 17:53h, 10 March Reply

      Thanks for your comment, Brenda. The nice part about it is you can do small steps and stretch it out as long as you like. My feeling is there is so much pleasure in working with these beautiful materials that I don’t find myself thinking about the finish line at all.

  • Tamara Oster
    Posted at 09:50h, 10 March Reply

    Stunning! Simply stunning and inspiring! I love to hand sew, but have never had the courage to try my hand a couture. Thank you for breaking this down in to easy to understand bits, I will take the challenge and like you, set aside one month each year for making a French jacket.

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 17:59h, 10 March Reply

      I’m so glad my jacket has inspired you, Tamara! I find it such an ideal project to look forward to in order to unwind after the holidays. Couture really doesn’t take courage – focus and commitment perhaps – but the prize at the end is a great feeling of accomplishment and a beautiful one of a kind garment!

  • Nova
    Posted at 10:01h, 10 March Reply

    Your notion of dedicating each January to making a hand sewn couture garment is very appealing. Awakening to -21C and falling snow this morning, I find the notion of such specific planning to be very appealing. In addition to the joy of the actual construction process, there is the excitement of anticipation and planning and accumulation of the materials, and then the special remembrance of looking back at each garment and remembering the year that both preceded and followed the construction. The benefits of mindfulness and meditation, but with a wonderful garment at the end of the process! Rather like planting daffodils in the fall, with the concominent anticipation of seeing the first plants break through the soil in the following spring, and then reliving the process as they continue to grow and bloom.

    The jacket is truly very beautiful, and thank you for summarizing the learning curve you employed to get there. And also for the motivation to get out of bed on this cold and gloomy morning, and maybe even set aside some time to plan in a more structured way a new approach to entering the sewing room, so that I may, so to speak, mimic your beautiful achievements.

    Thank you, both Julie and Sarah.

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 18:07h, 10 March Reply

      Nova, I cannot tell you how perfectly you’ve encapsulated everything that is dear about my January jacket tradition. My sewing friend, Dorcas and I do it together long distance; she’s in Houston and I’m in Charleston. The planning and plotting is as much fun as the sewing and having the jacket at the end and we look forward to it each year. Thank you and I certainly hope things warm up for you soon🌞

  • Anne Rhodes
    Posted at 10:06h, 10 March Reply

    Thank you! I really had no idea what all was involved. Beautiful!

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 18:09h, 10 March Reply

      You’re welcome, Anne. Thanks for your comment. It’s a wonderful process that I enjoy getting lost in.

  • Margene Yeaton
    Posted at 10:10h, 10 March Reply

    Bravo, Julie! Stunning. Thank you, Sarah, for posting this.

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 18:11h, 10 March Reply

      Thank you very much, Margene! I’m thrilled that Sarah invited me to share the project on her blog.

  • Cindy Symes
    Posted at 10:23h, 10 March Reply

    Just beautiful! And I’ve got the course, the jacket already fitted, the fabric, the trim and even the chain! I just need to DO IT! Thanks for the push! And I, too, love the idea of saving January for French jacket sewing! You’ve got some stunning jackets! Love them!

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 18:17h, 10 March Reply

      Thank you, Cindy! Sounds like you are well on your way! I’ll bet once you get your pieces thread traced there will be no stopping you 😉 Good luck with your jacket!

  • Mary Frances Giattina
    Posted at 10:27h, 10 March Reply

    One word: WOW!!! Great piece and beautiful work. I’m retiring on March 31st and am so looking forward to taking the cover off my machine and getting back into sewing. Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 18:20h, 10 March Reply

      Congratulations on your upcoming retirement! Thank you so much – so glad you found my jacket inspiring. If I didn’t work full-time I think I’d probably spend most days in my sewing room in my pajamas!

  • Rheta Stears
    Posted at 10:37h, 10 March Reply

    Wow ! Your jackets are amazing. Did you keep track of the hours it took you to make it ? I am so happy to see so many people sewing again. You are inspiring.

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 18:23h, 10 March Reply

      Thank you very much, Rheta. I don’t track the time spent – I find that part of the joy is getting lost in the project and losing track of time altogether! I, too, am thrilled to see the sewing community continually growing each year. There are so many talented people out there to learn from.

  • Gwen Dearling
    Posted at 10:56h, 10 March Reply

    So beautiful! I would love to do all the hand work on the jacket but arthritis is making hand stitching difficult. Is there a machine method class available that emulates the finished look? I would be happy with second best as I am not giving up tailoring but want to do my best for the gourgeous finished look. Jackets and coats are my great love. I had stopped tailoring but back with great enthusiasm.

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 18:33h, 10 March Reply

      Hi Gwen. The Craftsy class has a bit less hand stitching since some of the lining sections are machine stitched together instead of hand fell stitched, but there is still quite a bit of hand stitching. Quite a while back there was a Threads magazine article featuring a “speed method” French jacket, if you will. If I recall correctly, it cut the project time nearly in half by using much machine stitching. I’ll try and track that down and share the information. Thank you for writing!

      • Julie Starr
        Posted at 09:56h, 11 March Reply

        Gwen, I was able to track down the issue number of Threads containing the article called “Shortcuts to a Designer Jacket” from 2006. Used back issues are often available for sale online – perhaps you can find this one and give this method a try. Good luck!

    • goodbyevalentino
      Posted at 11:13h, 11 March Reply

      From Julie – Gwen, I was able to track down the issue number of Threads containing the article called “Shortcuts to a Designer Jacket” from 2006. Used back issues are often available for sale online – perhaps you can find this one and give this method a try. Good luck!

      • Gwen Dearling
        Posted at 14:15h, 12 March Reply

        Thank you so very much for your assistance. I am looking forward to trying the machine method. Please keep inspiring us to be creative as well increase our skill level. Thank to both Sarah and Julie.

        • Julie Starr
          Posted at 07:39h, 13 March Reply

          You’re welcome Gwen – glad to help!

  • Brenna Nepomuceno
    Posted at 11:43h, 10 March Reply

    This is so pretty! Fitted perfectly, and flatters her.Nice job!

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 18:36h, 10 March Reply

      Thank you, Brenna!

  • Mary Funt
    Posted at 12:02h, 10 March Reply

    Beautiful and classic jacket. What a wonderful overview of the process. Is the three piece sleeve pattern from Susan’s jacket? I’ve also made a few of these and the soft cozy feeling of these jackets is amazing. Using a patterned silk charmeuse for the lining does make it a special garment. Thanks for the inside views.

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 18:45h, 10 March Reply

      Hi, Mary. Yes, the 3 piece sleeve is from Susan’s French jacket pattern, which comes with her online course and I believe is also available separately on her website. One of the things I love is that has a beautifully graceful curve to it. I took Susan’s class before her pattern was released and she was still using Vogue 7975. Since Susan personally fitted my muslin, I now use the body from the Vogue pattern along with the 3 piece sleeve from her own pattern. The best of both worlds! Thanks for commenting.

  • Anne
    Posted at 12:07h, 10 March Reply

    Lovely. I was at Linton Tweed today. I forgot to take the piece of fabric to try to match plain fabric for sleeves (not enough of the original) – I guess I put off the making for a bit!

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 18:48h, 10 March Reply

      Hello Anne and thank you! How lovely to be able to say you were at Linton Tweed today! Their customer service is wonderful and the swatches are generous and reasonably priced but oh how I would love to be able to see and touch all those beautiful fabrics in person!

  • Leitner Winstead
    Posted at 12:26h, 10 March Reply

    Thank you for sharing this lovely process! The end result is gorgeous. I am a professional designer/seamstress and I am thrilled when other artisans share their experience!

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 18:52h, 10 March Reply

      Thanks very much for taking the time to comment, Leitner. My sewing would not have progressed beyond the basics if not for the generosity of the sewing community and their willingness to share and inspire. It’s a wonderful group to be a part of!

  • Millie Payne
    Posted at 12:59h, 10 March Reply

    I am so pleased to read this well-illustrated post. I have been following Susan K’s Instagram posts from her couture classes in Australia. Having you explain the process of making the muslin, using those pieces as the pattern…it all seems so straightforward…just having the resolve for the time to set aside and DO IT. Thank you so much for sharing your work process, and seeing the beautiful garment fitting you so well, I want to make a French jacket too.

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 19:11h, 10 March Reply

      Thank you, Millie. I’m so happy to be able to follow along on Instagram with Susan’s grand Australian tour! Every class I see makes me long to be back in her couture bubble for another session! The French jacket process truly is straightforward and is just that – a process. Once it’s broken down into manageable steps it’s quite doable for any intermediate sewist with determination.

  • Anna
    Posted at 13:00h, 10 March Reply

    I have the pattern and fabrics but am reluctant to give it a try. I’m a plus size and will never be anything else because of my bust size. Have you ever seen one of these suits upsized? Yours is gorgeous and I almost drooled over it. It makes me want to go online and order everything from Linton (whom I have been stalking).

    Thank you for the the post…since I live in Texas this might be a good summer project! lol

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 19:15h, 10 March Reply

      Anna – please don’t be reluctant at all. It’s truly a matter of proper fitting of the muslin and nothing more. That’s the beauty of couture – there is no such thing as upsizing – it’s YOUR sizing. Go for it – order all the Linton! 😄

  • Sharon kane
    Posted at 14:03h, 10 March Reply

    OMG! OMG! OMG! What a beautiful piece. The Chanel jacket is one of my most favorite jacket styles of all time.. So classy. Thanks for showing all the detailing that goes into such a classic.. Beautiful job, well done.

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 19:18h, 10 March Reply

      Mine too, Sharon – I’ve admired the Chanel jacket style for decades. It was my pleasure to share my jackets so thank you!

  • MaryEllen
    Posted at 14:59h, 10 March Reply

    Amazing,beautiful,stunning – not enough adjectives to describe how wonderful his jacket is . I love the idea of setting aside a certain month for couture sewing -as well as the idea of wearing with jeans 💋

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 19:22h, 10 March Reply

      Thank you so much, Maryellen! It’s a tradition that I really look forward to, especially since January is quiet and typically Charleston’s coldest month. Nothing better than curling up in front of the fireplace to do some handstitching!

  • Kathryn Barnhill
    Posted at 15:37h, 10 March Reply

    what a brilliant idea- devote January to a couture garment

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 19:24h, 10 March Reply

      Thank you, Kathryn! It typically spills over into February but it’s a great winter pick me up!

  • Heather Myers
    Posted at 19:01h, 10 March Reply

    Thank you! Beautiful and inspiring. That’s a great January project!

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 19:24h, 10 March Reply

      Thank you so much, Heather!

  • Rosalind Clayton
    Posted at 19:58h, 10 March Reply

    Absolutely stunning! Your work is always top notch! I’ve wanted to make one of these jackets for a couple of years now, & your idea of setting aside a particular month to concentrate on one is a great thought! I will do this for sure some time next fall. Thank you for your excellent sewing details & for your inspiration! I will also check out the Craftsy class you suggested.

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 09:14h, 11 March Reply

      Thanks you very much, Rosalind. I was notified yesterday that Craftsy is running a sale on all their classes right now so it’s a great time to enroll.

  • AJW
    Posted at 20:52h, 10 March Reply

    Thank you for such an informative, detailed post! Beautiful jacket!

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 08:47h, 11 March Reply

      Thank you, AJW!

  • Vanessa
    Posted at 23:04h, 10 March Reply

    Such a perfect garment! It looks beautiful on you!

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 08:48h, 11 March Reply

      Thanks, Vanessa! One can’t help feeling a little more beautiful while wearing one of these sumptuous jackets!

  • Patricia Pfeiffer
    Posted at 00:06h, 11 March Reply

    Gorgeous! I am inspired. Did I read that right? You machine quilted the boucle to the lining?
    Did you also line your skirt with the silk charmeuse? I bought a pretty wool blend boucle with the intention of making a coat, but I think a channel jacket and skirt would be more versatile, and the channel jacket project sounds like more fun. Can you recommend sources for trim, what types are traditional? Also, silk prints seem to be scarce online. Any hints about where to find them? I like the idea of a print rather than a solid, and maybe a shell of the silk would be a nice go-along to wear under the jacket. Like you, I always avoided hand sewing, but have been doing more of it lately and find it to be relaxing, and certainly more appropriate in some instances.

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 08:59h, 11 March Reply

      Hi Patricia. Yes, that is correct – the boucle outer fabric and silk lining are quilted together in rows to create an incredibly luxurious feeling double layer. My skirts are typically underlined with silk organza and lined with matching silk charmeuse, however there was no fabric to spare this time so I used a stretch poly satin and it worked out just fine. Another whole post could be written on trims! This particular one is from M&J Trimming but here is where one can get really creative. Trims are often layered for more substantive dimension. I have a Pinterest board called “Chanel Inspiration” where I gather hundreds of images for ideas. Britex and Etsy are also good resources. Occasionally you can find vintage trims for a one-of-a-kind look. As for print linings, I love them, too. They bring a little bit of secret fun on the inside!

  • Cheryl Lemmons
    Posted at 08:43h, 11 March Reply

    Julie, another stunning suit!!! Your work is exquisite. I’m wondering if you’ve tried Susan’s jacket pattern? I have it but haven’t tried it yet. You make me want to get out my boucles and get a jacket started. Beautiful! And thank you, Sarah for posting this.

  • Julie Starr
    Posted at 09:05h, 11 March Reply

    Hi there, Cheryl! Thank you so much. My last two jackets have been made using the body of the Vogue 7975 muslin Susan fitted on me in class along with the three-piece sleeve from her own French jacket pattern. Her sleeve is incredible! It has a graceful curve that is so very lovely. I hope you are able to get working on a jacket soon! Great to hear from you.

  • Linda LaMona
    Posted at 14:22h, 11 March Reply

    Beautiful jacket! The work you put into making this really shows in the finished jacket. Thanks for sharing the process in making such a very Chanel like jacket.

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 19:27h, 14 March Reply

      Thank you, Linda. I find the process so joyful that it really doesn’t seem like work!

  • Bunny
    Posted at 17:33h, 11 March Reply

    Great post. I am always loving some couture! I would like to add that Claire Shaeffer also offers a class in this couture jacket, supplemented by many samples of couture jackets from the house of Chanel itself. It was very illuminating when I took it and I would love to take it again.

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 19:25h, 14 March Reply

      Thank you, Bunny. I have heard Claire’s collection is legendary. I would love to make her Vogue 8804 pattern for its pretty collar and feel that any opportunity to take a workshop with others who share a passion for couture is priceless!

      • Julie Starr
        Posted at 19:30h, 14 March Reply

        Oops – it’s V8991 that has the collar!

  • Becky Bagwell
    Posted at 08:12h, 12 March Reply

    Wow! Says it all!

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 18:56h, 14 March Reply

      Thank you, Becky!

  • Reader
    Posted at 21:55h, 13 March Reply

    “No seam allowances are added; they are not used in couture sewing.”

    I don’t believe that’s a correct statement. It’s true that the thread-traced sewing lines, not the cut edges of the pieces are joined, but one cannot sew a garment without seam allowances. The seam allowances may be many more widths than in a RTW garment and they may be wider than in RTW to permit the garment to be altered later.

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 08:03h, 18 March Reply

      Thank you for clarifying my statement, Reader. You are exactly right and I see that I could easily have caused confusion by wording it the way that I did. Of course you need an additional fabric seam allowance beyond the thread traced area – I call that “chunking out” the pieces. A good 2 inches is a rough guide so that garments can be altered, if desired.

  • celeste yanish
    Posted at 22:14h, 17 March Reply

    Ms Starr, the Chanel jacket is absolutely beautiful. Exquisitely finished, perfectly fitted, and well-planned; you are a tribute to the sewing community.

    I was visiting Paris two years ago with the Tilton sisters’ group; we were strolling an outdoor organic market when I saw my first Chanel jacket in the wild (not on a rack or in a photo). The young woman wearing it was wearing jeans and sneakers…it was a true Paris moment that I will never forget. A Chanel right next to the lettuces…I knew I wasn’t in Minnesota any more.

    Thank you for showing us your beautiful work. Do you have trouble keeping the white boucle clean?

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 08:06h, 18 March Reply

      Thank you so much, Celeste! A trip with the Tilton sisters would be a dream come true. I can only hope to wear my jacket in Paris someday! I’ve only worn the jacket once so I can’t speak to your question at this point. Fingers crossed the navy trim at the cuff edges helps to keep wear and dirt at bay.

  • Jeff Laskowski
    Posted at 20:29h, 19 March Reply

    Very nice!

    • Julie Starr
      Posted at 17:48h, 21 March Reply

      Thank you, Jeff!

  • Debbie Hixenbaugh
    Posted at 19:20h, 21 March Reply

    Wow! I want to do this, and will begin also next January to do the same. What a wonderful idea! My dream is to hopefully become as good as you and Sarah are. I love both your style, glamour, and taste. Thank you both!

  • Margo Johnson
    Posted at 23:39h, 24 March Reply

    Truly beautiful! Thank you for sharing! I never realized the linings were quilted to the boucle in such a fashion. I appreciated the images and the inspiration.

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