When it comes to fashion, reaching that truly iconic status requires more than just great clothes. Style icons have poise, grace, vision, courage and an open mind in order to take fashion to another level. Icon status has been achieved by a specific canon of women whose look has inspired, endured and infiltrated pop culture, designer collections and mass trends time and time again.
Sept. 16, 1924 – Aug. 12, 2014
American actress Lauren Bacall, who passed away on Aug. 12, was celebrated for her sexy elegance, relying on sophisticated trousers, midriff-baring ensembles, and form-fitting evening gowns.
May 24, 1945 –
Priscilla Presley, wife of the legendary Elvis Presley, made her mark on the '60s fashion scene, thanks in part to her glamorous, teased hair and bold wardrobe choices. She reigned over the rock 'n roll scene, often spotted at Graceland with her signature beehive hairstyle, dramatic ensembles, and striking eye makeup.
Nov. 12, 1929 – Sept. 14, 1982
Her life as an actress-turned-princess is usually found only in the movies (or fairy tales). The Hollywood actress was known for her classic beauty as well as her regal and tasteful style. The floaty blue dress she wore in “To Catch a Thief” was perhaps her most famous on-screen moment, while her sophisticated lace wedding dress to marry Prince Rainier III of Monaco was and is still her most memorable off screen look.
July 1, 1961 – Aug. 31, 1997
As one of the most photographed women in the world, Princess Diana had plenty of major style moments throughout her life in the public eye. Her most memorable is quite possibly the voluminous ivory silk and taffeta and antique lace wedding gown designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel. It was the occasion that officially ushered her into the royal family and introduced her to the world as a regal figure and international style icon.
June 1, 1926 – Aug. 5, 1962
Even after more than 50 years after her death, Monroe is still the most recognizable style icon today. Her allure lies in her bombshell curves, glowing platinum tresses and adoration for all things glamorous. The strapless pink gown and gloves she wore in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” and pleated, white halter neck dress that famously flew up above a subway grate while shooting “The Seven Year Itch” in 1954 are forever cemented in our psyche and are copied by pop stars over and over again. One can hardly wear red lips, short platinum hair, a halter neck top or sexy wiggle dress without recalling a Marilyn reference.
July 28, 1929 – May 19, 1994
Her pedigree, poise and marriage to a beloved U.S. president all add to the allure and impeccable style of Jackie Kennedy. She is best known for her polished ensembles – mostly pale colored suits and pillbox hats, and donning the chicest looks of the ‘60s and ‘70s style.
She was loyal to certain designers like Oleg Cassini, Coco Chanel and Hubert Givenchy, all of whose designs ultimately became mainstays of her signature look. Onassis was always dressed appropriately, whether for a presidential press conference or walking through the streets of Capri, Italy. The oversized style of sunglasses she always punctuated her look with has widely become known as “Jackie O” glasses, and continues to be an incredibly glamorous accessory for women today.
Jan. 17, 1964 –
The first lady looks as sophisticated in glamorous, floor-sweeping designer gowns as she does in bright cardigans and printed pencil skirts from J. Crew. Obama has been applauded for her ability to mix affordable retail designs with luxury items from designers such as Michael Kors, Tracy Reese and Jason Wu. She’s regarded as approachable and effortlessly stylish around the world: In March 2013, she was crowned fashion royalty by Britain’s Sunday Times Style magazine, which ranked the first lady at the top of its best-dressed list.
May 12, 1907 – June 29, 2003
Hepburn was a true fashion rebel, eschewing skirts in favor of jeans and khaki pants back in a time when women almost only wore skirts and dresses and possibly even girdles on a daily basis. Androgynous dressing can directly be attributed to her strong, angular and mostly male-influenced style.
Hepburn was so adamant about wearing the understated but chic button down blouses and high-waist trousers that defined her look that she fought against Hollywood studio executives in order to wear what she pleased. "Any time I hear a man say he prefers a woman in a skirt, I say, 'Try one. Try a skirt,'" she said, according to "Katharine Hepburn: Rebel Chic."
Jan. 16, 1974 –
Arguably a fashion muse for today’s biggest designers, stylists, photographers and most anyone interested in fashion, Moss has transcended model status into enduring style icon. Since emerging onto the fashion scene in the early ‘90s with her waif-like “heroin chic” look, Moss’ effortless yet glamorous approach to clothes, combined with a devil-may-care attitude, has always painted an aspirational image for anyone watching and trying to emulate her look. She is self-styled, has access to the best clothes in the world and seems to mix high-end and mass market, vintage and couture and bohemian and evening gowns all with the greatest sense of ease.
Dec. 27, 1901 – May 6, 1992
One of the most glamorous movie stars of all time, Dietrich looked just as opulent whether she was wearing a full fur coat and jewels or one of her signature, crisp tuxedos. Dietrich paved the way for cool, androgynous dressing by donning a tuxedo with tails in the 1930 film “Morocco”. Women wearing tuxedos became not only acceptable, but chic and sexy, and in 1966 it inspired designer Yves Saint Laurent to create a menswear-inspired suit with tuxedo details, but made with the sleek lines of a woman’s body.
Aug. 16, 1958 –
While her style may not be considered classic, it is the ultimate in boundary breaking, envelope pushing and pioneering fashion. A lot of Madonna’s allure is in her constant style evolution and changing look. The most memorable Madonna fashion era was her clothing and makeup during the mid-‘80s. Her floppy lace hair bows, scrunched pants, high top sneakers and arm full of bracelets influenced women then and still today. Madonna went on to don cone bras and ‘70s looking leotards and always owns the look and takes it all the way.
May 4, 1929 – Jan. 20, 1993
The epitome of femininity and style; almost all of Hepburn’s film looks have become major fashion moments. From the ultimate LBD and quintessential cat eye sunglasses worn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” to the belted circle skirts and basic button down shirts donned in “Roman Holiday”, Hepburn infused everything she wore with her classic and ultra feminine approach to style. Her quirky cropped bangs and perky ponytail added a uniquely Hepburn punctuation to anything she wore. She remained loyal to Hubert Givenchy as the designer who dressed her both on and off screen and looked just as gorgeous in ballet flats and capri pants as she did in an opulent ball gown.
Sept. 28, 1934 –
With style that’s best described as the ultimate ‘50s sex kitten, it’s Bardot’s tousled blonde tresses, heavy bangs, cat eye makeup and pale pink pout that most people recognize. The French actress also popularized the bikini after appearing in one on film and then cavorting on the beaches of Cannes during the Cannes film festival in 1953, wearing a two-piece swimsuit. Her fondness for flirty fashion even inspired the Bardot neckline, which is an open neckline that exposes both shoulders.
Aug. 19, 1883 – Jan. 10, 1971
One of the most influential designers of all time, Chanel carried her own visionary look and approach to style that still informs the way we dress today. She was the first to use and wear fabrics with stretch and movement, allowing women to feel less constricted in their clothing and start dressing with a more modern sensibility. Her signature string of pearls, which she wore tiered and draped over a little black dress (another signature item), is still a symbol of the luxury brand today. The famous Chanel tweed jacket so synonymous with the house was something regularly worn by Chanel, often paired with a black dress, pearls and an embellished hat.
July 24, 1969 –
From sparkly pantsuits to revealing red-carpet gowns, Jennifer Lopez’s wardrobe never fails to disappoint. The Latina singer’s most famous fashion moment was the plunging green print Versace she wore to the 2000 Academy Awards, later spoofed by “South Park” co-creator Trey Parker. Lopez carries a sexy and glamorous confidence that allows her to pull off any risqué outfit.
“If you mix Jackie O with Madonna in the ’80s and Ava Gardner, that would be kind of like my style,” she told OK! magazine in 2013. “You just have to decide what you feel most confident in, because confidence is what makes people sexy.”
Dec. 14, 1946 –
An actress, singer and muse, Birkin is best known for her effortless style and relationship with French singer Serge Gainsbourg. She continues to be an inspiration to current day designers, stylists, bloggers and fashion editors for her natural beauty and signature bangs. From simple flared jeans and a white T-shirt to a micro-mini LBD, Birkin always looked perfectly chic. The coveted Hermes Birkin bag was named after her, and Birkin’s daughters Charlotte Gainsbourg and Lou Doillon are also modern day style icons, posing for various ad campaigns and inspiring designer’s collections.
April 1, 1939 –
She may have been in incredibly stylish movies like “Love Story” and “The Getaway”, but MacGraw also honed her eye for fashion as a model and stylist for Harper’s Bazaar under legendary fashion editor Diana Vreeland and while working at American Vogue, before hitting the big screen. Her signature all-American look was cemented in history through her picture perfect Ivy League wardrobe in “Love Story”. Off screen, she dressed like a fashion editor, utilizing statement accessories, wearing thigh-high boots, short shorts and elegant silk scarves tied around her signature brunette locks.
Sept. 19, 1949 –
Catapulted into the global fashion scene as the “face” of the mid-‘60s, Twiggy embodied the style movement of the decade with her androgynous look, waif-like frame, large eyes and exaggerated eyelashes. Fashion actually followed her lead, with clothing like A-line dresses, unisex-looking items like uniform-inspired pieces and minimalistic and structured shorts and jumpsuits. Her pixie hair cut and big doe eyes are still Twiggy signatures and a symbol of swinging London fashion.
May 19, 1948 –
Strong and striking, singer and model Grace Jones captured the world’s attention in the ’70s with her fierce, unique presence. Her angular looks and androgynous style inspired the likes of Andy Warhol, and she quickly became an avant-garde fashion inspiration. Nearly 6 feet tall and boasting hard-to-miss cheekbones, she possessed an exotic, futuristic look that is still admired today.
Jan. 5, 1946 –
Keaton has famously perpetuated the menswear-inspired trend started by Marlene Dietrich and Katharine Hepburn. Her most memorable display of boyish style was playing the title role in “Annie Hall”. Keaton sported neckties, wide-brimmed hats, high-waist trousers and fitted vests in the film which went on to launch countless trends and inspire others to incorporate the laid back men’s-inspired style into their own look.