Vintage Experts Praise ’80s Chloé, ’90s Chanel Vintage Tributes at Met Gala 2023

Vintage experts are weighing in on their favorite vintage looks and tributes from Met Gala 2023: “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty.”

“Nothing really beats the early ‘90s Chanel ready-to-wear collections. It was just such a moment in fashion where things were bright, playful and fun,” Bridgette Morphew, founder of Morphew Vintage, told WWD.

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Many other vintage enthusiasts agree.

“What Goes Around Comes Around and our clients love the early-’90s-era Chanel moments,” added Seth Weisser, WGACA’s cofounder and chief executive officer. “Between 1992 to 1998, Karl truly broke the mold and took the brand to the next level. Between the supermodels he worked with and the overstated layering of his incredible designs, this was one of the most key eras in his career.” WGACA recently had its own tribute to Lagerfeld, launching a retrospective and exclusive Amazon drop last week.

Per a Google trend analysis Tuesday, searches for 1992 spiked 600 percent following the Met Gala, showcasing the impactful breakout year for the designer at Chanel.

As for the obvious, Chanel looks were plentiful at this year’s Met Gala.

Best dressed standouts — all in Chanel haute couture bridal — included Penélope Cruz, Dua Lipa and Gisele Bündchen wearing vintage (or vintage-inspired looks in the case of Cruz). Perhaps Bündchen earned extra points for re-wearing the Chanel spring 2007 haute couture look. She previously donned the ensemble for a Harper’s Bazaar Korea editorial, which was photographed by Lagerfeld himself at his home. Lipa’s look was first seen on Claudia Schiffer on the Chanel runway in 1992.

Pretty in pink, Naomi Campbell and Nicole Kidman also donned Chanel haute couture looks from 2004 and 2010. On the simpler side, Irina Shayk wore archived Yohji Yamamoto, from his spring 1998 collection, topped with Ana Khouri jewels.

Naomi Campbell
Naomi Campbell

Beyond Chanel, Lagerfeld for Chloé had many moments worth noting, too.

Veronica Norris, creative director at Amarcord Vintage Fashion, told WWD speaking of Karl Lagerfeld-era Chloé, “The things Karl did there were stuff of vintage legend — of fashion dreams, then and now…The beaded trompe l’oeil designs from then are out of this world. As are the Violin and Shower dresses of 1983.”

Soft and demure glamour dominated the vibe at Met Gala 2023, reminiscent of Lagerfeld’s time at Chloé. Though as Norris said, Lagerfeld for Chloé also took on unusual prints and “harkening looks” made modern before the designer ventured into whimsy and surrealism for the ‘80s.

“It’s incredibly hard to limit his work at Chloé to one favorite — but if I had to, it would be spring 1984,” continued Norris, who often turns to whimsical inspirations for the window displays at Amarcord’s Bedford Avenue store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. “There were thread, spool and pin-cushion bracelets, beaded tops and dresses on hangers that appeared to be attached to the dresses, pearls on ‘threads’ with oversized needles subtly atop the shoulders and lapels of jackets. Sewing needles and scissors in the model’s hair, and as brooches. One model even had a bun that was fashioned to be a pin cushion. Then, Iman walks out in the holy grail — a black dress with beaded scissors ‘cutting’ their way around the body to reveal red beaded panels. To me, it’s very hard not to want to wear these pieces, to own these pieces, and above all, to view them as complete works of art.”

A big-time supermodel in Lagerfeld’s world in the ‘90s and a close collaborator with the brand today as sustainability ambassador, Amber Valletta wore namesake Karl Lagerfeld in a tribute to the iconic “Violin” dress from his Chloé days. The dress was later reissued in 2013 and worn by “It” girls like Chloë Sevigny. Valletta’s Met Gala 2023 look was designed by Anita Briey, the former couture Atelier director and close study of Lagerfeld.

Amber Valletta at the 2023 Met Gala: Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 1, 2023 in New York, New York.
Amber Valletta at the 2023 Met Gala in Karl Lagerfeld and ethical Brilliant Earth jewelry.

Retro recreations were popular, spanning Olivia Wilde (also wearing a Violin dress based on a 1983 Karl Lagerfeld design for Chloé), Vanessa Kirby (also a 1983 Chloé design), Jennie Kim (a fall 1990 Chanel remake), Lizzo (in custom Chanel based on a 1990s-era Chanel dress), Allison Williams (in a Patou-inspired gown) among others.

Anne Hathaway, wearing Versace, paid tribute to not only Lagerfeld’s aforementioned take on whimsy and artful cuts but also vintage Versace, namely a spring 1994 Versace black safety-pin dress from 1994, once making headlines on Liz Hurley who wore the dress to accompany then-boyfriend Hugh Grant to the “Four Weddings and a Funeral” movie premiere. Previously, Helena Christensen donned the number on Versace’s spring 1994 runway.

Pearls — a signature of the designer — may have been the most popular detail on this year’s carpet.

“What I find most admirable about Karl’s work is the obvious attention to every detail of a collection. The designs were not the only thing that was important,” Norris continued. “The close attention he paid to the runways they walked on, to the advertisements that followed, his elaborate visions told an entire story every single time.”

Young environmentalists also had their say on the red carpet.

“More and more, the younger generations are reaching for sustainable designs and vintage falls right into that,” Morphew said. “Plus, wearing vintage is a sign of true style. It says, ‘I don’t care what is on the runways, I’m gonna wear what I love.'” (And for the record, Morphew confirmed Kim Kardashian also pulled a Chanel Haute Couture from 1986 from Morphew before ultimately opting for a custom pearl-dripped Schiaparelli gown).

Billie Eilish at the 2023 Met Gala: Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 1, 2023 in New York, New York.
Billie Eilish at the 2023 Met Gala.

Vocal steward for the environment, Billie Eilish wore a custom look by Simone Rocha that repurposed the designer’s signature archival fabrics, though not reaching as far back in the archives. Fabrics spanned fall 2018 corded lace, fall 2019 baby lace, spring 2022 antique lace and fall 2023 linton tinsel cotton tweed, per the designer. The laces were patchworked across Eilish’s gown, with her hair dyed jet black to accompany the brooding, dark feminine design.

Not to mention, Yara Shahidi’s Jean Paul Gaultier corset was also borrowed from the past—Gaultier’s spring 2008 mermaid haute couture collection.

But perhaps most noteworthy from head to toe, Gen Z climate activist Maya Penn, in her Met Gala debut, wore a custom Coachtopia (Coach’s new circular brand) silk chiffon dress made from remnants and leftovers from the Coach fall 2023 show. Per Coach’s Instagram, the ruffles are embroidered vintage lace scraps and the sequins are made from discarded bike tire tubes, aluminum soda cans and found plastic including old VHS tapes for trim. Penn carried a “Wavy Dinky” bag from the twice-sold-out Coachtopia debut line.

Tag-teaming tributes is the art and fancy of the Met Gala.

Aurora James wore Bode’s interpretation of Karl Lagerfeld’s canary yellow 1954 Woolmark Prize-winning coat. In collaboration with ​​The Woolmark Company, the coat incorporates 100-percent merino wool and mimics the twill design Lagerfeld created for the prize decades earlier.

There were other times in fashion history that Lagerfeld leaned into that yellow tone. “Currently we have a great canary yellow dress from 1991, modeled by none other than Linda [Evangelista] herself,” Morphew said.

But why, at this year’s Met Gala, were recreations more popular instead of true vintage, despite the impressive body of work to pull from?

“These are not pieces that you just find out in the wild,” Norris reiterated. “They’re pieces that collectors, historians and us dealers absolutely dream of acquiring.”

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