Hulu’s Becoming Karl Lagerfeld Sent Me Down A Vintage Chloé Rabbit Hole

Give me all the printed dresses.

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Much of the fascination and buzz around Hulu’s new original series Becoming Karl Lagerfeld is understandably centered around the primary love story between the designer (played by Daniel Brühl) and longtime companion Jacques de Bascher (played by Théodore Pellerin). Yes, the Hollywood account of the tumultuous and complicated relationship, and brief love triangle involving Lagerfeld friend and rival Yves Saint Laurent, is bingeworthy in itself. But, in marathon watching the show, another obsession brewed for me. I found myself enthralled by the ‘70s-era vintage Chloé that floated across the screen, showcasing Lagerfeld’s early — and often overlooked — artwork long before his iconic reign at Chanel.

As the show’s six episodes depict, the German designer served the French label founded by Gaby Aghion for 20 years, from 1963 to 1983. (After his initial stint at Chanel, Lagerfeld returned to Chloé from 1992 to 1997 before heading back to Chanel. Becoming Karl Lagerfeld Season 1 focuses on the designer’s pre-Chanel life and career.) It’s this two-decade timeframe that I’ve been particularly fascinated with, thanks to the vibrant and bohemian retro designs that reflect quintessential Chloé, not to mention a different side of the late Lagerfeld, beyond the tweed suits and pearl-adorned frocks for which we’ve come to know him.

Chloé by Karl Lagerfeld Fall 1979 Ready-To-WearWWD/Penske Media/Getty Images

One specific scene from the first episode of the inaugural season showcases said side perfectly. A pre-ponytailed Lagerfeld is presenting his first ready-to-wear collection for Chloé, as artistic director. With much at stake and a notoriously hard-to-please fashion editor in the front row, Lagerfeld wants a spectacle. He commands the models, donning colorful, printed silk gowns and dramatic headwear to keep the energy up. “Don’t forget, we’re not modeling haute couture,” says the designer to the ladies in the scene. “I don’t want anyone standing up straight like they were swallowed by a broom. It’s about being free. Modernity on the catwalk, understand? You’re allowed to have fun.”

And fun they had. The subsequent scene shows the models dancing down the runway as if stepping into a booming nightclub, spinning, performing splits, and stealing sips of attendees’ Champagne. Their carefree movement breathes life into their ensembles, which include belted halter gowns adorned in graphic geometric shapes and patterns, candy-colored shirt dresses, and midriff-baring silk pant suits tied cheekily above the waist.

This boldness and free-wheeling approach to design may just be why Lagerfeld-era Chloé is such a hot commodity and so hard to come by on the vintage market. “His work from the late 1960s and early 1970s shows how well he works with prints,” Lauren Lepire, founder of vintage retailer Timeless Vixen, told Vogue in March 2023. “The bold graphics with flattering silhouettes really speak to my personal taste.”

Chloé by Karl Lagerfeld Spring 1984 Ready to Wear Runway Show Penske Media/Penske Media/Getty Images

The pieces also read very wearable. Lagerfeld’s printed day dresses became an early signature of his, thanks to their timelessness and ability to transcend eras. If you’re able to get your hands on one of these patterned treasures (I suggest searching 1stDibs and The Real Real for authentic items), you’ll likely discover this magic for yourself. Easy, A-line button-downs and silky tank midis will fit nicely into your spring and summer dress roster.

Ahead, see some of the vintage pieces I’ve tracked down from Karl Lagerfeld’s run at Chloé. Don’t sleep on these gems as they’re rare and in high demand, especially now that Hulu’s highly anticipated series is available for streaming.