Soft and subtle? Oui. Wonderfully wacky? Oui. The fall Paris shows featured looks that ran from reserved to rebellious.

Chanel: Anyone who has ever pondered Karl Lagerfeld’s breakneck transcontinental agenda knows that it’s simply not in the man’s nature to take the easy way out. Why settle for rough-hewn bleacher seating, for example, when you can build a mega-runway flanked by VIP boxes down the middle of the Grand Palais? Likewise, Lagerfeld could easily have indulged in the trend du jour with a dark-hearted dissertation on Goth at Chanel. But haute Victoriana and high-collared blouses have long been his haunts. Instead of reprising a style that he delivered to fashion’s fore, the designer took a softer tack for fall, crystallizing his couture message with a look that was by turns stark and Modish, then romantic, working in only a few wicked frills along the way.

To open, Lagerfeld rejuvenated the house staple — those evergreen tweeds — pairing narrow-cut coats with sprightly minis to match, all in a range that ran from tame to zany, as in a combo sparkling with tutti-frutti metallic camellias. Other innovations included a puff of a parka spliced with alternating bands of nappy tweed and nylon, and a sharp black coat bordered with golden bubbles. Lagerfeld’s array of pared-down, Sixties-ish sportswear looked just as fresh, with simple sweaterdresses, jabot-tied blouses and even a cozy cape blooming with knit camellias.

For evening, however, things took a turn for the far-out, as in too far out. Clearly, Lagerfeld is in experimentation mode, and he decked out dresses with tribal beaded breastplates and armored the shoulders of his coats with beaded medallions that clung like barnacles. Moving on to tackle the sheer conundrum, fashion’s eternal puzzle, Lagerfeld wound up in the boudoir, pairing moody sheer dresses with filmy palazzo pants underneath. His lacy gowns were delightfully brooding in chiffon and lace, but what girl — from Lagerfeld’s red-carpet clan on down — doesn’t want to show a little leg when she steps out? Luckily, it’s a problem with an easy fix. Slip into one of Lagerfeld’s heavenly dresses and leave the pajama bottoms at home.

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