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Something You Should Wear Because It Doesn’t Fit Me In Real Life

I love this jacket. Some people have queried its potential in various chats, calling it “Mao-like,” and “boxy.”

Bill Cunningham's Jacket

I am here to tell you it’s lovely. Except if you have a broad back, which means a Medium constrains your shoulders and a Large probably flaps around the middle. Which means you return it to Steven Alan, wistfully. But if you’re narrow-backed, let me tell you what you get.


Bill Cunningham-homage, that’s what. It’s a beautiful color, the fabric is heavy, the effect, artisanal. As Sturdy Gals age, some intensify their Sturdy, some go all Grande-tastic, others trend Artsy-rrific. For those with dreams of beauty, what sturdier than the hands of an Artisan? The jacket would be great when you want something blue that isn’t denim. Practical, even better. Not cheap, for a casual piece, but those of you who believe in casual luxe, ding, ding, ding. Don’t ever say I keep the good stuff for myself.

Bill Cunningham’s Jacket, Sort Of, For 2016

Quite tough to find this jacket in the USA, today. But we can emulate. We can be inspired. La Garçonne might be convinced to make this jacket in a brighter blue?

Otherwise, Bill, we will have to do our measured best.

Photo of Bill Cunningham (known for decades of street style images, if he’s new to you) via New York Magazine. You can watch the documentary on him via Amazon, or Netflix. And someone I trust says it’s cry-worthy beautiful. . Bill died this year, at the age of 87.

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37 Responses

  1. As you know, I love it in the photo, but had a feeling it was going to be narrow through the shoulders/back. Is it worth you getting the large and having the sides taken in a bit?

    1. I thought about it, but the fabric is heavy and somehow I didn’t feel confident a seamstress would be able to cope.

  2. My GF wore a very similar jacket, perhaps darker blue, while teaching her painting classes in France. Hers had aged so that the heavy fabric had roughed up a bit into texture with even more depth, a hint of nap. She pinned a vintage scarab brooch to it, and I found it entirely covetable. Too bad about the back — I echo Kathy’s suggestion/question. . .

  3. What a perfect description, taken from the listing: “French chore jacket”! I adore it, particularly the detailing at the wrist, and the blue is not an ordinary blue, we can see that as well. Ding, ding, ding.

  4. It’s a little severe for me but I do love the Bill Cunningham connection. Actually, I can see it working with very skinny jeans, ballet flats and my camera. And thank you for the link!

  5. I am in the too boxy camp…if it were softer fabric worn open with a scarf it might appeal to me more. Somehow I think you could style it better if you were happy with the fit. I know you would!

  6. Bill Cunningham is my favorite part of the NYT. And I loved the documentary of him. But I can’t believe he would pay $400 for a cotton jacket. Did you see his apartment? It’s nothing but a bed and filing cabinets. The bathroom is down the hall.

  7. I am sort of intellectually drawn to jackets like that but they never look great on my body. I too have a broad back, and they hide any shape I have if they’re big enough at the shoulders and hips.

  8. To me this is a very masculine jacket especially in a canvas. If I was to wear this shape I would feminize it a lot by wearing something really slim in the bottom and add a belt to show your waist underneath. Also some necklaces and crunch up the sleeves….then I think maybe I can get away with wearing it.

  9. Cunningham buys his jacket- a French streetsweeper’s- in Paris, for I think $40ish. (He buys them in bulk and it’s all he wears to shoot.) Did you see the doc “Bill Cunningham’s New York”? Delightful and moving.

    I always wonder when institutional clothes like this are offered with hefty price tags- is this an improvement on the original functional piece- or is someone fleecing us?

    1. Well, if you factor in the price of a ticket to Paris. And assume you are amortizing that ticket over the few who want that type of jacket…

    2. Lisa, you might ask a friend traveling to pick one up; I did further research and found it’s apparently $20. Let’s assume you would look as good in it as Bill, but if not you;re not out a bundle. That “cost of a ticket” argument has justified a number of too costly purchases in my past ;)

  10. For an alternative, go to Lee Valley Tools and search Irish Denim Work Jacket. $85.00. The catalogue shows it on a woman as well as a man. I’ve only seen it on a male friend and it looks much better in person than on the page. Of course, the blue isn’t the same as the French jacket but it looks really good on. You could dip it in a dye bath to blue up those white threads. And you can phone them for a shoulder or upper chest measurement. Somehow I can’t imagine a French workman paying over $400 for a work jacket.

  11. The jacket would definitely look boxy on me! Everyone should watch The Bill Cunningham documentary; it is Priceless!

    The Arts by Karena

  12. All right. You guys made me do my homework. Here’s a link about how much Bill Cunningham paid, and how the price worldwide has risen. And here, in additional to the Irish link (thanks Barbara) is the closest I can find in the US. But it’s cotton/nylon, FWIW. $150. And there you have it.

  13. Hey Gals wise up: the pic of the Hickoree’s version has none of the magical allure and fine detailing of Lisa’s original pic. It just looks like a plain ol workman’s coat, which of course, it is. But the Steven Alan version is so…Parisian! Can’t you guys see that? I think it’s totally adorable. Come on Lisa, you can make this work for you. Pair with slim leg dark denim jeans (not those BF jeans) and a simple slim fluid scarf laid under the lapels. Ooh lala. We all need a bit of beauty in our lives. And we don’t want to look like workmen who are on a lunch break. These jackets are two different animals. Rant over.

    1. I do see it but I still say, break in one of the real ones, add your own touches. But then I am someone who thinks $225 jeans are not worth it. A lot of it is attitude.

  14. Your first photo shows the jacket in such an exquisite shade of blue. I would wear this jacket as much as possible just to be surrounded by that beautiful blue!

    1. Truly.

      LPC’s jacket is a bona fide Bunny Mellon grande dame I’ve-got-to-get-to-my-topiary-greenhouses-now-are-there-any-more-questions uniform.

  15. It is odd that the curvier one is the more the boxy jackets highlight this – it becomes negative space fashion. I wish I could have such an uniform style literally and figuratively as it must be great to accessorize it as well. Times like this i wish i could sew…

  16. Hahaha! ‘Mao-like’. I had a similar thought when I looked at it: there are certain styles I avoid as a woman of Asian descent, because a jacket cut like this paired with a cadet cap, and, well…

    I do hear you on the broad-shouldered and two different sizes front. Double high-five if you are also broad in the ribs/latissmus dorsi.

  17. I found your piece when googling for info on the jackets Bill Cunningham wears. I’d already found a Mao jacket in the back of my closet that seems remarkably close to the French worker’s jacket. The main difference I see is that my Mao jacket waist is more fitted – more like a wind breaker’s than a sports coat’s. Some of the French jackets seem to have a sports jacket type collar. I think I’ll keep looking for a French worker’s jacket.

    …Makes me wonder if the Chinese copied the French or if the similarity is a coincidence.

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