Karl Lagerfeld was associated with the fashion house Chloé during his career, serving as its creative director from 1966 to 1983. Under Lagerfeld’s direction, Chloé was known for its romantic and feminine designs, often featuring flowing silhouettes, soft fabrics, and delicate details.
Lagerfeld took inspiration from the 18th century not only for his couture and collecting practices, but also for his own persona, which was modeled less on aristocratic and gentlemanly archetypes, and more on the Enlightenment’s definition of wit, both as an abstract concept, and as a form of behavior. Lagerfeld’s unique wit appears perhaps, nowhere more audaciously than in his Satirical line, where the designs are expressed in surrealist, visual epigrams rendered in lavish embroideries.
One of Lagerfeld‘s preferred surrealist practices was trompe l’oeil, which highlighted the boundaries between the real in the imagined, perception and deception, as is demonstrated in his Lightbulb Dress (Spring/Summer 1996). Through boldly inventive and beautifully executed embroideries, Lagerfeld converts the everyday into the exceptional, reconciling the ordinary and the extraordinary, the unremarkable and the remarkable.
The Lightbulb Dress is rendered in black silk faille appliquéd with white and pink Rhodoid light bulb motifs and white, pink, and opalescent polymer strips and embroidered with gold, blue, and silver metallic thread; iridescent gold and silver plastic sequins; blue, pink, and clear crystals; and white feathers.
Photographed in The Metropolitan Museum of Art as Part of the Exhibit, Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty