America has been home to many people who have influenced, shaped, and revolutionized the fashion world through the years. Among this trendsetting group, some stand out from the rest as particularly iconic. Such fashionistas did more than set trends—they broke boundaries and went on to influence fashion for years and decades to come with their unforgettable looks. Whether they were pioneering new trends, serving as muses for designers, or changing long-held notions of fashion, their influence is undeniable and continues to be seen today. Continue reading to learn more about some of the top American fashion icons of all time.
Katherine Hepburn was one of the most idolized actresses of her generation and continued to be a leading lady in Hollywood for over 60 years. Due to her wide audience of fans, it is no surprise that she became highly influential in the fashion world both on and off-screen. In a time when androgynous dressing was considered avant-garde, she was one of the first women to wear pants on screen. In addition, she also sported other traditionally masculine clothing articles such as blazers, loafers, and collared shirts. By breaking away from feminine fashion, she helped pioneer menswear-inspired women’s looks. Throughout her career, her diverse sense of style ranged from evening gowns to stylish pantsuits and sportswear.
No list of American fashion icons is complete without Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn Monroe’s acting talent, enchanting personality, and curvaceous silhouette propelled her to mega-stardom in the mid-19th century when all eyes were on her and her bombshell style. Her seductive style featured hip-hugging shorts, a bold red lip, high-waisted bikinis, plunging necklines, and of course, her iconic white, flowing halter dress.
After rising to stardom as the lead singer of the Supremes, Diana Ross started gaining recognition for her incredible sense of style as well as her pipes. Known as the ultimate diva, Diana often wore disco-inspired looks that featured shiny, embellished, flowing gowns. In addition to her glamorous clothing choices, Diana Ross caught a lot of attention for her head-turning hairstyles. They ranged from glossy shoulder-length bobs and bold afros to inventive beehives and long, dramatic looks.
Sophisticated, elegant, empowering, and feminine are just a few of the words to describe Grace Kelly’s iconic fashion style. This American actress and eventual Princess of Monaco helped pioneer classic prep fashion in the early 50s. Embodying the image of a perfect princess, she was known for always being well-dressed in sophisticated and proper looks. Her wardrobe consisted of silk scarves, pearls, and perfectly-tailored feminine dresses which served as staples in many of her polished looks. While she isn’t known for pioneering any shocking or breakout trends, her timeless, minimalistic style refined the fashion world none the less. Many remember her fashion sense as embodying the epitome of class.
Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis
Known as the first lady of style, people remember Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis for her classy, preppy style which featured camel trench coats, printed dresses, and larger than life sunglasses. Commonly referred to as Jackie O, she was and continues to be regarded as an international style icon. Her all-American chic style helped reshape the way the fashion world viewed conservative dress in an effortless and glamorous way. Her timeless style remains in vogue to this day.
Edie Sedgwick was a model, socialite, actress, and fashion icon that caught the attention of the fashion world as well as Andy Warhol who cast her in several films throughout the 1960s. Known as “The Girl of the Year” in 1965, she had a wide influence on the fashion world. Her style often adhered to the 60s mod fashion movement and emphasized night-out dressing. Some of her bold looks featured leotards paired with tights and a pair of heels—a look that many considered highly original and intriguing during its time. One of her most iconic looks was the blonde pixie haircut, bold brow, chandelier earrings, and Brenton striped shirt. A look that continues to reemerge today.
Madonna’s sense of style has undergone many changes throughout her career, flawlessly embodying several different trends with ease. Transitioning from her edgy, tomboy look in the 80s, Madonna made waves in the fashion world for her revolutionary costume couture looks. The popstar’s onstage fashion choices swiftly influenced both the fashion and music world, as her provocative styles raised the bar for attention-grabbing performers.
Josephine Baker was never afraid to break boundaries and push the limits with her bold and glamorous sense of style. Serving as a muse for the Art Deco movement, she often sported slicked-back hairstyles, and her clothing choices featured geometric shapes and sleek lines. One of the most noteworthy aspects of her style was her choice of accessories. Josephine donned copious amounts of jewelry—from ropes of pearls to oversized cocktail rings. Despite wearing large amounts of statement jewelry at a time, she always managed to appear glamorous and never gaudy.
Debbie Harry is a punk rock fashion maven, actress, and the lead singer of the new wave band Blondie. As her songs topped the charts throughout the 70s and 80s, people weren’t just talking about her incredible voice and musical talent; they were also taking note of her effortlessly influential style choices. Her edgy style largely consisted of graphic tees, leather jackets, and other punk rock fashion staples to compose a just-rolled-out-of-bed rocker look. Many of her pieces had a DIY feel to them, often featuring torn and slashed vintage garments. Her fearless fashion choices largely defined the New York look and went on to influence many fashionistas after her—including the heroin chic fashion trend sported by supermodel Kate Moss.
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