There is nothing as iconic as a Chanel tweed suit.

In 1921, Gabrielle Chanel designed the first suit made especially for women. Like the impetus for most of the clothes she created, it came from her desire to wear something comfortable, yet fashionable and sophisticated.


The Chanel Suit featured a collarless, buttoned wool jacket with a matching straight A-line skirt. It was typically decorated with braid trim and metallic buttons. The fabric was usually tweed material and the jacket was lined with jersey or silk crepe. The jacket was designed for comfort without a collar, bust darts or shoulder pads, and with practical pockets. It had a gold chain sewn onto the bottom of the hem, weighted according to the weight of the fabric, so the jacket hung perfectly when worn.

Model: Marie-Hélène Arnaud; Suit: Chanel Photo: Sante Forlano, 1958
Model: Marie-Hélène Arnaud; Suit: Chanel Photo: Sante Forlano, 1958

The beautiful young Gabrielle Chanel was notorious for borrowing from the boys—raiding the closets of her lovers Captain Arthur Edward “Boy” Capel and the Duke of Westminster. She donned menswear and sportswear in an era where women were still wearing crinolines and corsets.

Gabrielle Chanel and Serge Lifar - 1937
Gabrielle Chanel and Serge Lifar – 1937

Beginning in 1924, Chanel commissioned a Scottish factory to create what would become her famous tweeds. Her exclusive colour tints were inspired by the palette of the Scottish countryside—Mademoiselle Chanel would often bring leaves and clumps of earth to her manufacturer to replicate the colours.

Suzy Parker & Coco Chanel, 1962, Photo: Richard Avedon
Suzy Parker & Coco Chanel, 1959, Photo: Richard Avedon

In the ’30s, Chanel switched factories to northern France and brilliantly began adding silk, cotton, even cellophane to her tweeds to make them lighter in weight and more high-fashion in appearance.

Chanel’s tweed designs were an instantaneous success in everything from sportswear to suits and coats. They often featured elaborate details and a matching hat.

Coco Chanel Paris, 1962; Photo: Douglas Kirkland
Coco Chanel, Paris, 1962; Photo: Douglas Kirkland

Women were quick to not only buy her clothes, but to adopt her bobbed hairstyle as well. The Chanel suit was copied throughout couture houses in Paris, and around the world.

Paule Rizzo, wearing a copy of the designer's pale tweed suit by Davidow, cover by Henry Clarke, Vogue March 1959
Paule Rizzo, wearing a copy of Chanel’s tweed suit by Davidow, Cover by Henry Clarke, Vogue, March 1959

Decade after decade, season after season, the jacket-skirt set has always been an intrinsic part of the House of Chanel. Since 1982, Karl Lagerfeld has continued the tradition and re-imagined tweed in endless and ingenious ways. A case in point: the recent Chanel Spring/Summer 2018 collection:

Photo: Karl Legerfeld
Photo: Karl Lagerfeld
Photo:Karl Lagerfeld
Photo:Karl Lagerfeld

The beauty of a well-cut suit—Chanel or otherwise—is that you can wear it 30 different ways. I think it’s the best investment a woman can make.
~ Rachel Zoe

A selection of Chanel jackets in Rachel Zoe's closet. Image via The Zoe Report
A selection of Chanel jackets in Rachel Zoe’s closet. Image via The Zoe Report

A Chanel suit was, and still remains, the epitome of style. It has stood the test of time –100 years later, Coco Chanel’s design is still relevant and wearable today.

Fashion is architecture: it is a matter of proportions.

~ Coco Chanel

I have a few vintage Chanel-esque tweed jackets and suits in my closet, but, as yet, not the real McCoy. 

Black & Blues

Some skilled and enterprising sewer made this two-piece tweed. Fits like it was tailored for me.



Jacket and matching pencil skirt in glorious colours and with covered buttons.


From Vancouver designer, Dana Cleland.




Very elegant.


Very vintage.




A Ports jacket in a wool and mohair blend.



Worn with my vintage Chanel handbag,


I’ve got the look, if not the label.


Enjoy my social media

Susan Written by:

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *