Chanel Tweed Suits: Lagerfeld’s Impact Over the Years

Following his passing last month, Karl Lagerfeld’s final collection showed on the runway March 5. The models walked through an alpine ski village in the clothes designed by Lagerfeld in a celebration of his time at Chanel. Vogue reported the show was led by some of the designer’s “favorite muses,” including Cara Delevingne, Amanda Sanchez and Penelope Cruz.

The collection was a clear picture of what Chanel has always represented: class and luxury. With a lot of tweed, houndstooth, long coats, pleated pants, chains and heavy layering, the collection was exactly what a Chanel woman would be found wearing in the alps.

When Lagerfeld took over Chanel in 1983, he did what Chanel herself never did: captured the essence of the brand while also giving it a modern appeal. This forward-thinking mindset is what allowed him to exceed the way he did. Without ridding the brand of the classic Chanel tweed suit, Lagerfeld constructed, season after season, new iterations of the suit in appealing, modern ways. Each year was a fresh take. And despite the terrible reputation Lagerfeld held over the years, he maintained the elegance and class of the Chanel suit while continually pushing the brand into the future.

Spring 1994 RTW

The Spring 1994 Ready to Wear collection was literally everything one might imagine it to be. There was more color and youth to the “mini suits”—like, Regina George-mini—and the collection overall seems to be aimed at a younger audience. This pastel pink suit was interesting for its ultra high-waist and chain-like belt. The collection was a huge step toward giving women what they want in life: to look cute and professional for work. The ‘90s were a time.

Courtesy of Vogue

Fall 2000 Couture

Apparently Lagerfeld decided to experiment a lot with tulle in 2000. The Fall 2000 Couture collection was all about this: combining the traditional Chanel with a fun accent fabric. Several of the tweed suits were tucked into wide belts, a staple of the early ‘00s. A lot of the collection incorporated puffs of tulle at the models’ shoulders or waists or included...bags made of tulle? A few outfits were also made entirely of tulle. Tulle, tulle, TULLE. Another noteworthy part of this show was the knee-high boots. Basically every outfit was paired with them, except for the models who wore evening gowns. This tweed suit incorporated what appears to be a tulle fanny pack. Love or hate?

Courtesy of Vogue

Spring 2005 Couture

The Spring 2005 Couture line was very prim and proper. Resembling all things Marie Antoinette in the styling and scenery, the collection was light and breezy and delectable—I feel like that’s a word that would have been used more frequently back in the 1700s. I can see the 2000s in this look, but I don’t really understand it. The belt certainly modernizes the suit more, but the overall shape and styling is very bland and a little too sophisticated. Maybe this wasn’t all that much a step into the future; perhaps Lagerfeld actually played it a little safe this time.

Courtesy of Vogue

Spring 2010 RTW

The Spring 2010 Ready to Wear show took place in a forest? Nothing too unpredictable for Lagerfeld. The line was actually fabulous, despite the fact that it was shown among dirt, trees and...hay? “Little Red Riding Hood” vibes. Totally strange, but totally worked. The clothes were impeccably made, chic and glamorous. Almost all white or off-white, the looks stood out against the scenery for the show. But some of the looks seemed like a strange, sexy take on Little Red Riding Hood herself, which borderlines on creepy. This season’s Chanel tweed suit is definitely my favorite take thus far, as the elegance totally beats out the working woman side of the concept behind the suit. It’s almost edgy in a way. Plus, all the models are wearing clogs.

Courtesy of Vogue

Fall 2015 Couture

Fall 2015 Couture was sort of back to that traditional look. This tweed suit was beautiful and very matchy-matchy, which we love. The most standout thing about the collection was the oversized coats and jackets paired with the looks. This one is like an oversized suit jacket. The wider shoulders give it a military jacket feel, and I feel like anyone wearing this outfit would exude confidence. Another classic. The whole look appears sort of flat, likely because it’s all one color, but I actually like that about it. It’s not trying too hard.

Courtesy of Vogue

Spring 2017 RTW

The Spring 2017 Ready to Wear show was wild. According to Vogue, Lagerfeld described the spring show in a way that no one understood—still, no one understands—by saying, “This is technology. But with the lingerie, it’s intimate technology!” This show was a collection of robotic-looking heads and hands and boots. Vogue described them as Chanel-bots, which, I mean, duh! This look from the collection still has the general idea of the suit, but I can see how it might have been influenced by technology. There is a lot of texture and overlapping lines. A deconstructed version of the tweed suit, maybe? It’s a lot more baggy and, though the fabrics are heavy, appears to lay lightly on the model.

Courtesy of Vogue

Fall 2019 RTW

And finally, Lagerfeld’s last collection: Fall 2019 Ready to Wear. The line was all things warm and cozy amidst the polar vortex we’ve been having here in Chicago. Lagerfeld showed himself, and Chanel, throughout the line. Lagerfeld’s final take on the Chanel tweed suit was all sophistication and elegance and seems to have been constructed to perfection.

This being the fall ready-to-wear collection, and a scene set in the alps, no less, we are presented with a pantsuit. The jacket and top were just traditional enough to pair with baggy pants of a different pattern and color. The outfit was topped off with a crossbody purse in a similarly colored pattern that almost blends in. The model wears—quite frankly, unfashionable—sunglasses and silver Chanel earrings. The ensemble is classy and rightfully overwhelming for its mix of patterns. It is Chanel. It is Karl Lagerfeld. The final collection exceeded at presenting the world nothing short of what could be expected and just the perfect amount of modern.

Courtesy of Vogue