Lagerfeld brings girlish quality to Chanel couture

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If Chanel remains one of the last bastions of bourgeois French fashion, Lagerfeld has for some time been determined to attract his wealthy customers' daughters and even grand-daughters into the fold.

He did so by reworking the classic tweed suit into a decidedly cheeky soft-shouldered cropped cardigan jacket and girlish - though never silly - short, bell-shaped skirt. These came unadorned, with signature frayed edges, or in earthy hues and studded with rainbow-coloured crystals the size of boiled sweets.

Lagerfeld has, of course, long been enamoured with the boxy silhouette of the 1960s, which loomed large this time around too in the form of narrow little black evening coats and slender shift dresses finished with the world's tiniest and most unforgiving capped sleeves. Less structured, and more overtly feminine for it, was the lightest black and navy pleated or ruffled silk chiffon and lace eveningwear which fluttered prettily from behind.

With their ironed hair, spidery eyelashes, doe eyes and pale lips, models brought to mind every child-like icon of that period from Penelope Tree to Mia Farrow. Lagerfeld wouldn't be Lagerfeld, however, without at least a nod to the determinedly post-modern 1980s. Long fingerless evening gloves and thigh-high boots in faded denim or soft black leather with high crystal-encrusted heels paid more than lip service to that rather more brash era.

The great Roman couturier Valentino showed his collection the previous evening, this time with the prototype social X-ray Ivana Trump in attendance as poster girl.

It was, then, in this instance, almost as if the past 20 years had never happened. For Valentino's clientele - he has dressed everyone in the past from Elizabeth Taylor to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis - the adage that one can never be too rich or too thin continues to reign.

If the clothes looked somewhat dated in places - a sequence of jewelled lace cocktail dresses were certainly nothing new - the execution was immaculate from start to finish. Valentino received the Legion of Honour this week for his services to French fashion and it is true that, where daywear in particular is concerned, these are some of the most refined clothes the world is ever likely to see.

They are at their best when most understated: an apparently simple black silk evening cape, for example, was shrugged off to reveal a lining densely embroidered with faded pink roses.

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