A Line of Beauty. Chanel SS’1999 Couture

On Monday, May 1st, the 2023 Met Gala will take place. This year’s Costume Institute exhibition, “A Line of Beauty,” will celebrate the oeuvre and life of Karl Lagerfeld. The exhibition will see Andrew Bolton and Wendy Yu, curators in charge, examine the work of Karl Lagerfeld (1933–2019). Throughout his lifetime, Lagerfeld worked at prominent fashion houses such as Balmain, Chloé, Fendi, Chanel, in addition to founding his namesake brand.  More than 150 pieces will be on display in the exhibition, many of which will be accompanied by Lagerfeld’s sketches. In the last couple of days, I looked back at my all-time favorite Chanel collections, designed by the one & only Karl. Here is the last one, a special one: it has a very special place in my heart. Hope some of these magnificent vintage looks will end up on the red carpet on the first Monday in May…

Lightness is the quality that made Karl Lagerfeld’s late 1990s and early 2000s haute couture collections sing. He gave the concept a literal spin for spring-summer 1999 by abolishing black from this collection entirely. There was a quietness to this line-up that the neutral and pastel palette contributed to. Floating tulle and organza captured the collection’s dreamy mood in a truly delightful way. Maisons de couture have workrooms dedicated to flou (draping) and tailoring. Lagerfeld didn’t ignore the latter, but there wasn’t an ounce of stiffness in the soft, almost sporty, haberdashery he sent out that season. Bold accessories offered a contrast to the suppleness of the collection. Small, sculpted gold bags and earrings that were abstract falls of silver hoops inserted a sort of tech-y vibe into the goings-on and seemed to signal that as the fin de siècle loomed, Lagerfeld was looking forward, not back. The relative scarcity of Cocoisms meant there was more room for a bit of playfulness, like the triple scoop of sherbet-colored taffeta looks that appeared near the end of the show, worn by Devon Aoki (raspberry), Colette Pechekhonova (blueberry), and Esther Cañadas (lemon). They proved so utterly irresistible that Uma Thurman wore Cañadas’s dress to the Oscars that year.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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