God bless America--The Gap, the mall, Alicia Silverstone and the housewives of suburbia to be exact. Karl Lagerfeld saluted them all in a Chanel collection that bordered on brilliance--in a good taste-bad taste sort of way. Lagerfeld opened with what's probably the single best passage we've seen all week: a group of colorful tweed jackets, loosened up and tossed over midriff tops or bare torsos and hip-riding Gene Kelly chinos. So what if these khakis hit the meter at $600 or so? Nobody ever said all this Relaxed Chic comes cheap. And for those ladies who might find the look a little too relaxed, there's probably a tweed skirt or two back in the showroom. That's because Karl knows that sometimes a girl likes to match when she goes to the mall. She wants to look, for example, just like that middle American dream vixen-cum-movie star Cindy Crawford--lipstick perfect, hair piled high, shopping hormones raging. What better ensemble for such a moment than skintight, head-to-thigh unwashed denim? But alas, no one keeps those peak proportions forever. The mall rat's mom will feel more comfortable in cut velour sweats emblazoned all over the place with double C's--the better to fly first class out of Newark in status comfort.
Back on the good taste side, Karl's mannish black jackets over white pants were fabulous, and the bright tweed coatdresses with inset belts were plenty ladylike but not too sweet. As for the colored velvets--they were a little tacky, and Karl may not have been kidding. But he made glorious fun of himself and old Coco with those shiny white evening suits trimmed with orange plastic pebbles where the braid should be. The whole thing was so much fun that it almost made you forget just how smart Karl is. But as the soundtrack said, "This is the spell of Chanel."

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