Thrifted Inspiration: Chanel

Dear readers,


I’m not much of a shopper and I feel like my appetite for the RTW I can afford is decreasing everyday. However, if there is one thing I cannot resist, it’s designer labels at the thrift store. Especially the French luxury Ready-to-Wear pieces. I have such an admiration for those brands that the idea of owning a little piece of it is just too tempting. I thought I may share my occasional weakness with you!

Chanel Shell-4

I found this Chanel silk shell at Beacon’s Closet in Manhattan for about 50$ if I remember correctly. The color is a very trendy “millennial pink”. Based on a quick internet search I would think it’s only from the late 90’s, but this garment has had a rough life. It has a tiny hole and some discoloration. It’s still wearable but definitely not in “mint condition”.

Chanel Shell-5

The shape is very simple, semi-fitted, no darts, hip length with a placket opening at Center Back (and the original button, yay!!). It’s a size 36 (french sizing) and although it’s a bit big on me I will be able to wear it. The fit in the bust is very nice and the armholes/neckline do not gape at all.

In terms of construction, the armholes and neckline are finished with a .5cm/1/4″ bias binding. The remarkable feature for me are the teeny tiny flat felled side seams, no more than 1/8″. I tried to replicate them on my machine but I can’t say I was very successful, as  evidenced below:

Chanel Shell-8

Another notable point is the shoulder seam with a fused seam allowances, then stitched, pressed towards the back bodice and overlocked. One of my favorite features is the lingerie strap guard. I usually don’t make the effort of sewing some on in my handmade garments and I think I should! The buttonhole is very fine. I don’t think there is a way for me to achieve this quality. My home machine produces ok-buttonholes for things like cotton shirts and little human garments but I think it would ruin the look a delicate garment like this one…

Chanel Shell-3

This kind of pieces really inspire my sewing, as I love the idea of putting a lot of effort in garments that you can wear any day of the week. And in case you want to re-create a vintage Chanel silk shell at home, watch what will happen at Just Patterns (hint hint)… I hope you enjoyed looking at the details of this simple top. Chanel has a special place in my personal fashion Pantheon ( and I would love to hear which are the brands that keep inspiring you?

13 thoughts on “Thrifted Inspiration: Chanel

  1. Kathy

    What are fused seam allowances? I haven’t heard of that before. I love to find designer things at a price I’m willing to pay. As a sewer I appreciate the extra details that are found in more expensive (originally) pieces.
    I shop at consignment stores all the time and have my teenage daughters doing it too. my older daughter likes having something different than what the other girls are wearing.

    • Sewing Tidbits

      My picture is not super clear but the shoulder seam allowances have been stabilized with fusible interfacing. You see sometimes similar strategies in couture sewing classes using silk organza in that area.
      I wish I was as cool as your daughter as a teenager!!

  2. Becky

    This is a beautiful top, but I would have trouble spending that much on a top that had a hole in it! Nevertheless, I would have drooled over it. I am not enamored with any particular designer, but I love simple, elegant clothing that is made well and endures the test of time. I am not into trendy clothing very often unless it meet those critiera. If you put out a pattern for a top like this with detailed instructions, I would certainly buy it!

    • Sewing Tidbits

      It’s more a small snip than a full hole, and won’t show if I wear it tucked in. But I agree with you, it actually breaks my heart that this top has been so mistreated!
      The pattern is ready, it needs to be digitized and graded but I think we will have to change the finishings (the back closure and those tiny flat-felled seams) because they would be too hard to replicate…

  3. Sheryll

    Thanks for showing us inside your Chanel top – it’s so pretty, and amazingly current too! It is exactly the sort of top Chanel designed for wearing with her famous suits.

  4. Beth (SunnyGal Studio)

    like you I find it really interesting to look at designer stuff to see the construction details. I wish I could do a handworked buttonhole, have tried a few times and they turn out a mess.

    • Sewing Tidbits

      In general i would love to get better at handsewing, including buttonholes but so far I never had the patience to dedicate the time it would take. And my recent attempt at embroidery tells me that I’m not particularly gifted in that area 😂

  5. maryfunt

    I’ve had my hands on another version of this exact top. It was sewn in 3 ply crepe de chine and lighter weight silk charmeuse binding. I also fell in love and copied it. You are so right about the back closure and buttonhole. They took hours! I’m sure yours will be treated properly now.

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