Britta's Letters from (and sometimes about) Berlin

Friday, 7 December 2012

Lagerfeld's Photo Exhibition 'The Little Black Jacket'

Britta Hill
Dear You
The Little Black Dress, they say, fits in everywhere (until one summer day in East End you feel slightly overdressed); accentuates the personality of the woman and not of the dress (until someone says: "Oh, you have been there too?"); Black is so practical (until you pick the blonde hairs from it); Black becomes everybody (until someone says: "You look so pale today"). 
Black is beautiful. 
And now we have an exhibition in Berlin, 'The Little Black Jacket', an homage of Karl Lagerfeld to Coco Chanel, who in 1954 also invented the famous black Tweed-jacket. 
It shows brilliantly what fashion is about: while today the Jacket seems almost staid, back then it was daring: cut straight, without collar, rep on tweed - that was a breach of style (it was a time in which fashion rules were still strict and complicated - "no really elegant woman wears an alligator handbag after 5 p.m.", wrote Mme Dariaux even in 1964). 
Almost staidly - except one does something with it. And that works - it is proved by the 113 actors and models who Lagerfeld photographed in this jacket. You can wear it quite virtuously: 

but you can also boldly change it with a pair of scissors: 

What does Husband (an expert on exhibitions) say to the formal presentation? 

"Sorry - the hanging is unimaginative. It is more a display (as in shop windows) than an exhibition: by stringing together the exhibits these are not related. Exhibits which are put into the room and not only 'along a wall' create corporeity and thus press the spectator to search his own way and so make his own discoveries, instead of - as here - only pace off the given front." (Hans-Otto  Huegel) 
               Looking at the photos one notices that the gaze of the models, though often directed at the spectator, goes through him - it is a 'posing', the model very seldom makes contact with the spectator. (Here I remember a quote of Lagerfeld: "The girl is not selling her private life, but her image.") Most consequently we see this on the photo of Anna Wintour:

(Funny: three students at my side were discussing that a) they immediately had recognized who was in that photo, and b) regardless of how big a crowd there would be, they would be able to recognize - from behind! - the great Anna Wintour everywhereYou bet!) 
Anyhow: ordinary mortals have to bent down deeply if they want to decipher name and profession under the photos. 
Nothing more is given - you might see it as a flaw of the exhibition, but I think I can detect Karl's mocking smile about the 'avarage spectator' in it: as in luxury labels it stresses very subtly that 'one keeps to oneselves' - the connaisseur knows anyhow...  
And: "Package is everything". Choose the deepest subway-tunnel (as they did) - clad it in black, with a few very elegantly dressed body guards at the entrance (why? there hung only prints, not even real photographs) and with a few beautiful lights the 'rather dark' becomes instantly much more distinguished. 

Britta Huegel
Though Mme Dariaux wrote a word of warning in her charming book 'A Guide to Elegance': "A really elegant woman never wears black in the morning." 
Maybe that's why the exhibitions opens at 11 a.m. 

(until 14 December in Berlin, Eventlocation U3 Bahnhof&Tunnel, Potsdamer Platz 1)


  1. This is a really lovely post, Britta. Here I am!! I can read your posts again without any difficulty. I don't know why I couldn't before. Anyway, I'm very happy to be here!!

    I suppose the “little black dress”is one of the ultimate expressions of chic nowadays. I wonder what accessories you'd like to wear when you wear black... I only put on a pair of mabe pearl earrings. I remember that Audrey Hepburn was so beautiful in black!!

  2. Dear Sapphire,
    thank you! I'm glad that the confusion is (nearly) over (I mixed the title - well, now it is right). Audrey Hepburn was really lovely with the pearls! In my holidays I tried a lot with the LBD - a pink pashmina, or a broad belt, or a white jacket; high heels, ballerinas, a scarf - and a lot more, very versatile - but: sometimes it is easier to run around in Jeans :-)

  3. What an interesting post, and interesting exhibition. I think your husband's opinion is quite perceptive. The Black Jacket, or the Little Black Dress and the rules of fashion are not heard of often today. A lady never wears.... fill in the blanks. Style has taken a beating over the years.

  4. Dear Janet,
    thank you! In a way the beating of style has been a sort of liberation - the strict rules of fashion (and other sections in life) don't exist any more. We can (almost) wear what we want - of course that also means that WE have to make a lot of decisions - instead having a given routine. When I read that alligator-handbag-sentence of Dariaux, my imagination promptly saw the Ladies of Hamburg (they still exist in abundance!)standing at the Alster, looking at their little diamond-jewelled watches - and 'Oh my God!, it's five o'clock! - throw their handbags into the water :-)