The Woman Maketh the Dress

July 6, 2016

The atelier on full view at Chanel Haute Couture Fall 2016 via Vogue Runway

A salute to the true heros of couture.

If the whispers are true that Karl Lagerfeld is on the final stretch of his illustrious tenure as Chanel's creative director, then it would make sense for him to be feeling sentimental. He's always been one to honor the legacy of Chanel while imbuing his own touch to his collections, combining past and present (and sometimes even future!) for a truly remarkable end result. Two months ago it was Cuba's history and exciting future prospects that captured Lagerfeld's imagination; for spring couture it was Japanese gardens. But this season Lagerfeld was looking inward, to the legacy of the house of Chanel itself and the women who make it all possible.

Haute couture is first and foremost a celebration of exquisite craftsmanship. In a world of 3D printing and machinery, couture is more important than ever, reminding us that no matter how much technology advances and ameliorates the production of clothing, it will never be able to compete with the precision and care of the hand. And that was the overarching theme of the Chanel show: les petits mains—literally "the little hands"—aka the seamstresses at the atelier. These are the women who work tirelessly to create the gorgeous couture creations, spending hundreds of hours hand-sewing beads and fabrics for a single garment. Their dedication to detail is remarkable, their talent endless, and yet they rarely get the recognition they deserve. True, Lagerfeld may be the one who thinks up the designs and themes of each collection, but without les petites mains, the couture clothes would never come to be.

The atelier on display via Vogue Runway
So Lagerfeld brought his team front and center, turning the Grand Palais into a working atelier, with the seamstresses cutting, draping, and fitting while models passed through in the finished creations. Couture is about the process as much as the result, so it's fun to see the women in their natural habitat, working through the many stages of the creation of these wearable works of art. At the end, Lagerfeld took his bow alongside his head seamstresses, reminding the world that even the most lauded of artists do not work solo.

Finale looks via Vogue Runway
Lagerfeld's ladies via Vogue Runway
As for the clothes? Classic Lagerfeld-era Chanel. Exaggerated shoulders and structural shapes were the style du jour, all beaded and sequined. Each look celebrated the talents of the atelier, plain and simple, and the clothes were timeless and stunning. I love Lagerfeld's themed collections as much as the next girl, but sometimes the celebration of legacy and craftsmanship is all you need. Here's to Chanel, to Lagerfeld, and most importantly, the atelier workers who make Chanel Haute Couture what it is.

See the Standout Looks from the Collection:

See the rest of the collection here.

Shop Chanel:

Which look was your favorite from the Chanel Fall 2016 couture show?


  1. The structure of the first top in the second row is so unique and interesting! :D -Audrey | Brunch at Audrey's

    1. Agreed, Audrey! I love the attention that was paid to cool structure and shape this season! Thanks for reading!

  2. This collection is absolutely stunning and I can really feel how it is an ode to classic Chanel while still incorporating a modern edge. Had no idea Karl Lagerfeld will be stepping down!

    Rae | Love from Berlin

    1. Agreed, Rae! Nothing has been announced in terms of Lagerfeld's tenure at Chanel, but a lot of people have been thinking that the end is near (he is 82 after all). Thanks for reading!

  3. Loving everything about this post! Such great style.

    XO, Jessi


I love hearing your thoughts! Thanks for reading! ♥︎Lindsey