Karl’s Leading Ladies

Karl Lagerfeld’s Oscar Red Carpet Gowns tell a fashion story that is part of the Oscar red carpet history and of a cultural lexicon of Chanel fashion that has permeated our culture. It is with great sadness that the world mourns the death of a man who seemed literally, so ageless. From afar his irascible personality always amused, his marketing genius and creativity inspired and lately his love for a white fluffy cat, “Choupette” endeared him to a new generation of fashion followers all over the world. As the Oscar red carpet is just a few hours away, I join the audience of fashion-watchers who are anxiously awaiting  to see who will wear a Karl Lagerfeld creation this year.

Karl’s masterful Oscar gowns were based on a his constant search for a new story or his own casting of a role for his leading ladies; princesses, fairies, winter sprites, grand dames, showgirls and every sort of female fantasy projected onto these unique ladies who willingly played along just to be included in this ultimate exclusive club. Artful spangles, sheerness or feathers or jewel encrusted glories became jewels in themselves. His ability to cast his ladies in the perfect dress was almost uncanny; he could see Kirsten Dunst in a sexed up Peter Pan collar or ‘JayLo’ wearing a sheer bodice that revealed her (almost) nude upper torso or Penelope Cruz looking like a heroine from a 19th century Manet painting; using art deco tailoring on Juliette Moore she always resembled an upscale 1920s film star. Nicole Kidman’s unique height and coloring placed her into the world of forest sprite, with lightness and air that never weighed down her personality.  Some of these dresses were ‘Good Luck’ charms for the wearers, as well.  All in all, Karl seemed to capture the star’s inner personality and the zeitgeist of the moment but then, he always did it so beautifully in all his CHANEL collections where his settings spared no expense and took us from airports, to fairy forests, to nightclubs to even the streets of protest for women’s rights.  Karl was always about the women, the stars, the glamour and everything a girl could want in a fashion brand, never forgetting the leading lady of his fantasies, Coco herself.

Take a moment to look at the gallery and see for yourself  just how unique, glamorous and extraordinary these fashion moments are.  I am not sure they will ever be repeated. The HOUSE OF CHANEL appropriately will go through a period of mourning before they announce his replacement (an unimaginable idea) just 24 hours before the Oscars.  Fashion and Oscar have sometime had a dubious history (remember the moment BJORK showed up dressed like a swan?) but this is almost forgiven when Karl’s dresses grace the red carpet.  We must all raise our glasses (exquisite cut crystal of course) and drink a champagne to Karl’s unique life and art in the history of fashion and for Hollywood, the passing of a mastermind who made his leading ladies of the red carpet rise above the earth and into the stars, above.

(Editor’s Note: See photo credits are at end of the post).

Photos Distributed by AP: Mario Anzuoni, Eric Gailland, Lucas Jackson, Richard Shotwell, Jordan Strauss, Mark J. Terrell