How Karl Lagerfeld’s Signature Look Transformed Over the Years

The iconic image of Karl Lagerfeld, who died on Tuesday at the age of 85, will always be white: ponytail, his uniform of slim black jacket and starchy white shirt, black pants or dark jeans, black gloves, and his signature black sunglasses. But that is not to say Lagerfeld always looked that way. Over the years, his appearance evolved from his early twenties to his mid-eighties. That white coif of his was once pitch-black, and he occasionally sported a beard to match. The colors of the suits changed, from black to gray to the occasional bedazzled jewel tone and back to black again, as did the shapes and widths of his various neckties. The glasses were just about the only thing to remain constant, other than his unique and fascinating persona. Here, a look back at how Lagerfeld’s personal style evolved through the decades.


Karl Lagerfeld wearing a simple black suit while accepting the First Prize in the Coat category at the Fashion Design Competition in Paris on December 11, 1954. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.


In November 1973, Lagerfeld sported a full beard to match his thick head of hair. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.


In 1979, the beard was shaved off, but his signature large black sunglasses are present. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.


In 1983 Karl Lagerfeld joined Chanel as its chief artistic director fashion designer and donned the uniform—black suit jacket, black tie, and white shirt with a high collar. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.


Lagerfeld shifted gears to a three piece suit later in 1983, and swapped out the black jacket and pants for grey. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.


The suits got slouchier—and the colors lightened up—for Lagerfeld by the time 1988 rolled around. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.


In the early 1990s, Lagerfeld made the move to all black, keeping the oversized frames, and adding a fan for his accessory. Top models Nadja Auermann, Claudia Schiffer and Christy Turlington posed with Lagerfeld during the Karl Lagerfeld Ready-to-Wear Winter fashion show 1992-1993 on March 1992 in Paris, France. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.


With a full head of his iconic white hair, the designer swapped out his signature suit for a sleek black turtleneck à la Steve Jobs at the Karl Lagerfeld at the 2002 Spring-Summer ready to wear fashion show. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.


In preparation for his photo exhibition titled Versailles à l’ombre du soleil in April 2008, Lagerfeld adhered to his classic uniform once again. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.


Lagerfeld greeted the audience after his show for Lagerfeld Gallery while wearing a black suit jacket and white tuxedo shirt on October 4, 2002 during the spring/summer 2003 ready-to-wear collections in Paris. Incidentally, this also seemed to have marked Lagerfeld’s blue jean phase. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.


Lagerfeld swapped out the signature black jacket for a crimson one at Art Basel in December 2002. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.


The designer donned a sparkly suit—a departure from his mostly understated uniform—during a Paris Vogue Party on October 13, 2003 at the Plazza Athenee Hotel in Paris, France. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.


Lagerfeld attended the 2004 Met Gala dressed in his shredded up interpretation of the theme “Dangerous Liasons: Fashion and Furniture in the 18th Century.”


Lagerfeld, his light beige suit jacket, tie, tight blue jeans, and his tan attended the Chanel Fall-Winter 2004-2005 Ready-to-Wear fashion show in Paris. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.


For the Chanel 2008/09 Cruise Show in Miami, Lagerfeld’s tie grew wide, and his suit jacket remained as white as his signature ponytail. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.


The designer went navy blue at the Cannes film festival in May 2015.


By 2016, it was all in the (jewel) details. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.


In 2018, the beard returned once again, as did the richly detailed designs on Lagerfeld’s suits (this particular tie was embroidered with an image of his cat, Choupette) on November 22, 2018 in Paris. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.


Lagerfeld went back to black once again, as he walked with his successor Virginie Viard on the runway during the Chanel show as part of the Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Spring/Summer 2019 on October 2, 2018 in Paris, France. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.