old metallic pieces, neon tops of the 80’s,Great Gatsby inspired silks, satins, feathers and beads, the block heels, wedges and 70’s looking boots,vintage dresses and round sunglasses (Windsor glasses), retro shades, crop tops – fashion has never seen an amalgamation of every era’s style, until now.
Although “fashion” and “style” has always been differentiated (just how the fashion industry detaches chic, elegant, classy and beautiful from each other), the two has always been paired. Throughout the evolving era, fashion compliments style while style takes a bit from fashion and evolve itself into something more. So does its icons.
Style Icons of the 20th Century
Since the rage of television and film, the world tuned to every piece that gets broadcasted. And in every decade, each fashion trend changes as the whole world watch and change with it. But somehow, amidst the slur and blur of fashion, notable people in the said industry have remained true to their own style. These icons, now still being venerated by the masses and the trendsetters, have left some timeless pieces for us to be inspired by.
The Sydney Morning Herald has compiled the list of top 4 style icons in every decade, starting from the 1940’s to the 90’s, from the Clothes Show London survey. Let’s examine each icon’s preferred style, how they managed to shape the fashion industry’s palate and how their influence survived and became an emblem of today’s Millennials.
40’s Style Icons
Famed for her prominent cheekbone, pencil thin eyebrows, Dietrich was known for her continuous reinvention of style. Born in Germany in 1901, she turned down the Nazi’s offer to become a Third Reich’s poster girl and chose to become an American citizen instead. Dietrich was the pioneer of the androgynous looks in fashion. Confident and unabashed, Dietrich style was unique and glam, channeling her art and drama.
Dietrich’s style and pieces: tuxedos, men’s suits, driving outfits interchanged with mink stoles, form fitting dresses, silk blouses, pencil skirts, Dior and Lanvin gowns. She tops her style with hats, be it fedora, beret, top hat or cloche.
See Marlene Dietrich timeless style in this slideshow from the NYMag.
Fred and Ginger
Fred and Ginger were famous for their Art-Deco style and iconic musical, Top Hat. Called the screen’s most sophisticated couple, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were style icons that influenced both men and women’s fashion at the time. Ginger had put into fame the Kitty Folyle look (dark coloured dress with white collar, lingerie style décolletage, paired with diamonds). Ginger immortalized several dress styles in their musicals. These notable pieces included one made out of silk georgette, bias cut, sequined and with swirling hems. The other one was the ethereal Ostrich dress (now still appearing in red carpet events).
Fred’s style on the other hand were both formal and casual. He wore a soft-shouldered tweed sports jacket, button-down shirt, bold striped tie, flannel trousers, silk paisley pocket square, and suede shoes which are still copied today.
Fred style and pieces: tweed sports jacket, suede shoes, felt hat, flannel and soft cut trousers, tie and button down shirt and a watch chain
Ginger style and pieces: halter dresses, nipped at the waist and flowing up to the knee, gowns in tight fit bodices, floor length, dancing dresses in baroque patterns, elbow length gloves, button shirts, cropped pants, plaid blouses, A line skirt, blond hair and big eyelashes. She wears chunky heels, strappy sandals and tap shoes.
Known for her little make up, cherry pout, distinctive locks (called the sensuous rip curl that frames a strong feature), Lauren Bacall was an epitome of sexy yet elegant look. Peplum and Houndstooth fashion pieces have been attributed to her. Her outfits were simply tailored, neat and chic with corsages, bows and dainty frills in demure colours.
Lauren’s style and pieces: tailored suits, crisp white shirt, vivid scarves, Houndstooth, peplum, sensuous bobbed curls, played lips
The English gentleman, Niven with his pencil thin mustache, was known to air grace and sophistication. He inspired the gentleman image in a single-breasted Price of Wales check suit with a peak lapel. He’s suave appeal and style has been seen as ahead of his time.
David’s style and pieces: single breasted check suit, peak lapel pencil thin mustache, shawl collar tuxedo
50’s Style Icons
For readers information, I am an Audrey Hepburn fan and I can last a day watching and re-watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s, so there but I’ll try to be unbiased as much as possible. Iconic as she was, Hepburn name is synonymous to grace, class, elegance and style.
Audrey’s style and pieces:: white shirt, little black dress, ballerina flats, well fitted suit, dark skinny jeans, slacks, dark and big sunglasses, scarf, pearls, trench coat, hat, dark turtlenecks, thick, broad squared shaped eyebrows, thick winged eyeliner and red lips, mid forehead fringe and volumised, soft curls.
Grace Kelly is well known to sport her own style and to be always glamorous in her evening dresses, in her tailored suit, full skirted floral skirt and casual jeans. Here look was defined as sophisticated, feminine, clean, classic and simple which was quite a contrast to her contemporaries during the era. Married to Prince Rainier III of Monaco, Kelly became a timeless icon who prompted Hermes to design a bag in her name.
Grace’s style and pieces: understated evening gowns, well cut tweed suits, hats with little veils, Shirtwaist dresses
Known for his mysticism, Dean was labelled as a style icon and a sex symbol. His style was casual cool and was always looking effortless. His outfits were minimalistic, he doesn’t roll sleeves nor wear hat. He was rarely seen wearing jeans but he definitely dressed down Hollywood to bits. Dean was seen as a symbol of the youth’s fashion at that moment, a different fashion sense from their parents. Living a short life, his sense of style has reached out in the modern fashion times.
James’ style and pieces: red blouson jacket, black leather jacket, Breton sweater, opened shirt to the abdomen, cigarette dangling from lips, polos, striped tees, loafers, grey wool trousers, work boots
Now, who would have forgotten Ava Gardner’s bombshell and femme fatale aura? Throughout her career, she has donned memorable pieces like the seductive black dress in black strappy heels, fitted shirts with wild belts, faux fur, floppy hats and bathing suits.
Ava’s style and pieces: leopard print bathing suit, long black dress, black heels, gloves, fitted blouse, faux stole, floppy hat, scarf, sweater
60’s style Icons
Bardot was called the sex symbol of the 60’s, with her blond hair, vivaciousness and style, she has impacted many generations. Bardot is French and is known to paved the way for the sex-kitten style and look.
Brigitte’s style and pieces: made over eyes, fluffy and styled blonde hair styled with wide headband, cigarette pants, and high waisted jeans. Pumps, wide brimmed fedora. Striped tees, LBD, lace, polka dots, strappy sandal
The Beatles style evolved from since they started until they have turned into a global phenomenon. Their style started from fierce pieces, motorcycle jackets and jeans, to tailored collarless suit in the ’62, years later into paisley tunics and Nehru jackets velvet trimmed togs.
Beatles’ style and pieces: shaggy hair, sharp suits, skinny ties, motorcycle jackets, jeans, cowboy boots, pompadours, paisley tunics
See the Beatles style evolution in this illustration.
Sedgwick is known for her Kohl rimmed eyes and her timeless appearance in Andy Warhol’s film and fashion magazine. Her short hair was another piece she rocked. She was always seen and photographed with her statement earrings.
Edie’s style and pieces:: crop top, black leotards, tousled short do, oversized chandelier earrings
Twiggy, a supermodel, has been famous for her eyelashes and huge eyes. Her boyish body paved way to androgynous styles in the 60’s. She had the pixie glamour look. Her gamine style is sweet, childlike, gentle, innocent and charming.
Twiggy’s style and pieces: mod bob, shift dress, black opaque, full length tights, falsies
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We’re done with the 40’s, 50’s and the 60’s, eras when everything oozes with glamour and fashion that modern times today are trying to emulate. From time to time, we see these fashion pieces and signature looks in the runway, in red carpets and even in our own wardrobe. And as always, we channel the glamour of the 40’s, 50’s and the 60’s like never before. Although these eras are dreamlike and seemed too far away to be real, many of these styles live on.
Now we move on to the 70’s, the 80’s and the 90’s. Click through the 24 Style Icons throughout the Decades (Part 2) for the second part.