Who is your style icon? Icon is an overused word these days. Those who have earned this tag are few and far between and not, in my opinion, those who rock up to events with random animal products attached to their person. True icons uniquely represent the time in which they dazzled (or still dazzle) and yet are timeless in their elegance. These women are constantly referenced by design houses and copied by young people who were born long after these style mavericks lived.
The four women I have chosen spearheaded a look which was something different at the time, daring even, with little concern for the fads of the day. The pieces they became famous for are evident in most modern wardrobes today (even the connections between these four is clear to see) because their style was not about fashion. What these women have in spades is their exceptional taste and the ease and confidence with which they wear their clothes. They appear comfortable in their clothes and within themselves, even if evidence suggests this may not have actually been the case on occasion. More proof, if it were needed, of the power of the right clothes for the right body.
Born in 1883 and a bit of a tom-boy by nature, Coco Chanel set about simplifying the female silhouette. She wore clothes unlike anything seen before on a woman. Her look was unstructured and dressed down but the cut of the clothes so perfect that it was the epitomy of chic. Coco Chanel was the first to wear the striped Breton top, she created the little black dress and it was Coco who championed pearls, berets, slingbacks and bags with chains. The following three style icons would not have been quite the same without her influence.
Breton Stripes at H&M S/S ’14
Lesson learned: Breaking the rules is OK.
Three years after her death, Audrey Hepburn topped a poll in Harper’s Bazaar to find the most fascinating person of our time. Working closely with designer Hubert de Givenchy both on and off screen, Hepburn popularised the gamine haircut, flat ballet shoes, capri pants, big dark glasses, three quarter length sleeves and fitted shirts tied at the waist – all items that have rarely been out of fashion in the last fifty years. Down to earth and with size 8.5 feet of which she was paranoid, Audrey Hepburn is compelling in her simplicity.
Lesson learned: Embrace what you have, play down what you haven’t.
Despite emerging onto the 80s scene in a flurry of matronly suits and Sloane Ranger sweaters, by the mid 90s Princess Diana was the most photographed woman in the world, appearing on covers of Vanity Fair and Vogue. She became synonymous with a slightly blingy kind of showstopper gown, upping the glamour quota of her regular high profile appearances and changing the face of the British royal family. As she gained confidence, she became more sophisticated in her choices and her dresses were more body conscious. By the time she was divorced Princess Diana was wearing Versace and her impeccably groomed style had gone global.
Lesson Learned: Don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself
Kate Moss marked the 90s reaction to the bronzed and Amazonian supermodel look – the antithesis to Kate’s waif-like appearance. Her unfashionably skinny 5’7 frame and stunning beauty came to personify the times. As poet and critic Dame Edith Sitwell once said, “Why not be oneself? That is the whole secret of a successful appearance. If one is a greyhound, why try to look like Pekinese?” Kate Moss is the ultimate chameleon; the top of her profession for twenty years, with a personal style as laid back as her attitude. Hers is not a highly groomed look but that is why we love her, she is the epitomy of cool.
Note to self: “Never complain, never explain”*
*Attributed to Kate Moss