famous women influencing fashion through the decades

Art: Sarah Schwartz

From Audrey Hepburn’s timeless grace to Zendaya’s trendsetting swagger, women have been influencing fashion fads for years. With the start of a new decade, let’s revisit some of the best female trendsetters throughout the decades and channel their energy and fashion sense throughout 2020.

These iconic women have styles that define decades and defy the test of time by continuing to influence today’s fashion trends. Many styles, all the way from the 60s, are finding their way back into our closets and our hearts. 

60s 

Some of the most inspirational fashion icons of all time come from this time period: Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy and Twiggy. The 60s are just not the same without them. 

Audrey Hepburn, best known for her role in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” is the epitome of class. Her sleek outfits, often all black, exemplify her elegance. While she was known for her little black dresses and strings of pearls, she frequently wore high neck striped shirts, cropped black pants, and ballet flats. 

Another famous 60s icon was Jackie Kennedy, the former first lady, who captivated the nation with her colorful and chic outfits. She famously wore pillbox hats, elbow length gloves and pearls during her time as first lady. Even after leaving the White House, she continued to influence fashion trends as many felt that she represented American women.

Twiggy’s wide eyes and famous cut crease eyeshadow instantly made her recognizable and she has since become nearly indistinguishable from 60s fashion. As a model, she captured the decade’s most popular styles and gave a new face to fashion with her androgynous appearance. 

70s

Think long hair, wide leg pants and lots and lots of corduroy. The 70s experienced the rebellious attitudes of the 60s that were carried into this decade and culminated with the anti-Vietnam War protests. On a lighter note, disco emerged and music flourished with the growth of Abba, Queen, The Rolling Stones and Donna Summer.

Farrah Fawcett was a famous actress known for her big, blonde hair. She embodied 70s fashion with her bootcut jeans, sneakers and oversized collared shirts. 

Cher has maintained her status as a fashion icon for over 50 years mainly due to her confidence and daring style choices. She has done it all: cut out dresses, furs, huge headdresses and sequins galore. Her long, sleek black hair is a staple for any outfit of hers and has become part of her legacy as an influencer. 

Beverly Johnson also changed the fashion world when she became the first black woman to be featured on the cover of American Vogue in 1974. She paved the way for models of color everywhere and looked good while doing it. Though she is not as commonly known, her impact on the fashion industry will never be forgotten.  

80s

Hello, neon and baggy clothes. The 80s is filled with unforgettable fashion trends, and many of them have made their way back into modern clothing. Look back at the pictures of your parents from the 80s and you will definitely find those same pieces hiding in your closet. Jean jackets? Oversized sweaters? Mom jeans? Yeah, I thought so.

Brooke Shields became a famous model in the 80s and instantly became recognized by her bushy eyebrows. She also rocked the big, voluminous hair and represented the youth of this decade. Shields was an influential celebrity during this time, especially since she spearheaded the bushy eyebrows trend.

Princess Diana is known for her stylish and often daring fashion choices. Since she was a part of the royal family, she was expected to follow certain rules, yet she let her personality shine through in her outfits. She wore lots of colors and even showed her shoulders, which is against the unspoken rules of the royal family. Her unforgettable style and kind personality have ensured that she remains an important figure in fashion, and to the world.

What even are the 80s without Madonna? While her style has changed many times over the years, her willingness to experiment with her appearance and try new looks helped turn her into the icon that she is. When she first became popular, her many accessories and bold clothing grabbed people’s attention, especially the multiple necklaces she wore. She challenged traditional fashion choices and instead created her own brand of edge and femininity, and she will forever be one of the most memorable musicians. 

90s

90s fashion hardly disappoints, especially since it heavily influences today’s fashion trends. Crop tops, baggy jeans, spaghetti straps, chokers, slip dresses, need I go on? While there are so many women who defined 90s fashion, these women truly changed the game and represent the most influential trends of the decade.  

Jennifer Aniston is without a doubt an iconic 90s fashion icon, specifically due to her character Rachel Green on “Friends.” Her hairstyle instantly became the must-have hairdo and her fashion sense became ingrained in 90s culture. Her baggy sweatshirts, plaid miniskirts, overalls and slip dresses with shirts underneath help define what the 90s looked like.

Courtney Love, a musician in the band Hole, is a symbol of the punk and grunge movements during this era. She wore babydoll dresses, ripped tights and even wrote words across her body like “witch” or “slut.” Her grunge style resonated with young girls across America, which fueled the grunge movement of the 90s and created a mix of rebellion and fashion.  

One of the most famous singers from this era is Britney Spears, and her fashion choices fully embodied the hottest trends of the 90s. She wore crop tops, low cut pants, baggy pants, body glitter, chunky belts, miniskirts and more. Spears was everything a 90s teenage girl wished to be, and let’s be honest, teenagers today feel the same way. 

2000s

Oh, the horrible low rise jeans, capris, tank tops over shirts and Juicy tracksuits. Okay, we’ll let the tracksuits slide, but the 2000s was a nightmare for fashion. However, there were a few gems that stood out and these women truly rocked the decade.  

As a rising movie star, Lindsay Lohan was an inspiration to many young girls, especially after her role as Cady Heron in “Mean Girls.” Her early 2000s outfits stood out as largely accessible for actual teenagers to wear and buy, which made her relatable and an inspiration to many people.

Full of teenage angst and talent, Avril Lavigne captivated teenagers everywhere, just as Courtney Love had done in the 90s. Not only did her music interest her fans, but many of them also wanted to replicate her style. Her heavy eyeliner, chunky bracelets, converse and tie that she would wear around her neck were staples of any edgy teenager’s wardrobe. 

Paris Hilton, the queen of the 2000s, rocked every trend that came her way. She wore Juicy tracksuits, tiaras, low rise everything and lots of pink. Her confidence and style made lots of girls want to look and dress like her, which made her into the fashion icon that she is today.

2010s

With the spread of the internet and social media, fashion trends come and go so much quicker than they have in the past. Skinny jeans are in, but so are baggy jeans. Oh, bootcut is also back. Today, the previous decades still inspire people’s styles, yet they could channel 90s energy one day and then switch to a classic 60s outfit the next day. Though we see a lot of repetition from past trends, these women use their individual styles to make each outfit their own and influence current generations.

We cannot stress this enough; every outfit that Zendaya wears looks amazing on her. No matter what event she is attending, her style never fails to impress. She does not shy away from a bold look and she embraces her own individuality. In this respect, she is a fashion inspiration because she encourages originality and inclusivity in fashion.

Michelle Obama not only serves as a role model to the entire nation, but also as a fashion icon. While she was the first lady, her style was classy and elegant. Now that she is no longer in that position, her style has arguably gotten even better as she has been experimenting with different colors, cuts and styles. Remember those thigh high glittery Balenciaga boots she wore? She is already a role model, but now she has also earned the title of a fashion icon.

At only 18 years old, Billie Eilish has already become one of the most successful artists of all time. Her fashion sense is original and creative, as she exclusively wears baggy clothing to conceal most of her body. Eilish wants to avoid being sexualized by her body which happens to so many young women. Her style sets her apart from everyone else in the fashion world and she takes alternative pop music to a new level.

Now, looking back at the different decades and fashion icons, you can see why fashion plays a huge role in our society. Which one was your favorite decade for fashion? Was it the 60s, 90s, 2010s? No matter what decade you chose, I’m sure you’ll rock it as your own!

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