While visiting a special exhibition at the Met this summer, I was particularly taken by a gorgeous piece from Chanel, unlike anything I had ever seen. A gilet is a generic term for a sleeveless jacket, or vest. This piece in particular is more of a statement that requires little else in a supporting role. Since I could not remove it from the case, the next best option was to make my own. Read on for how I made my own inspired piece.
The most important part of the piece, I thought, would be the pendants and charms I could find en masse. I majorly scored when browsing at Jo-Ann Fabrics in their jewelry-making section. They had a TON of vintage-looking options, so I was all set. Once I had gathered all the charms, I laid them out roughly in a sketch for placement on the piece. Also at Jo-Ann, I purchased three yards of black silk velvet ribbon for the halter and side ties.
First, I measured and cut my halter piece around my dress form. Next, I sewed two loops into the ribbon which I would be able to run chain through. I secured the ribbon to the dress form with safety pins to keep it from moving while I worked.
The Chanel piece is made of charms which are each connected invisibly by chain on the reverse. Since I was limited by charms that were meant for pendants, and no easy way to secure them from behind, I decided to construct a gridwork out of chain and then fasten the charms with wire to the chain. The wire does show, but only minimally.
Starting at the top, first covering where the halter meets the chain, I placed charms working my way down the piece, adjusting my original sketch where necessary for balance. Before all of the charms were placed, I sewed two pairs of even lengths of velvet ribbon onto the chain for my side ties. I ended up removing the bottom row of chain once I placed my bodysuit and skirt on the dress form, since I wanted the piece to hit just below my natural waist.
The finished gilet!
The gilet slips over the head, and is then secured around the back by tying the two sets of ribbon. It’s a heavy piece, but I just love how it turned out.