Style is all about individuality—about creating a look that is unique to you. Style icons mastered this art, curating original looks and ignoring those who criticized them. These men and women in entertainment, design, and modeling spent their lives creating legacies by going against the grain.
We’ve collected 17 inspiring fashion tips from style icons like Coco Chanel and David Bowie that remind us how important it is to design your own style and take fashion risks, no matter what anyone else thinks.
Sarah Jessica Parker
Sarah Jessica Parker is known for her fearless, over-the-top fashion choices. Whether she’s walking around the city or going to a gala, she isn’t afraid to wear what she wants, regardless of what everyone thinks. This has landed her on a couple worst dressed lists, but hasn’t made her give up her belief that you should dress in what you love, no matter what anyone else thinks.
Grace Kelly’s timeless style was centered around classic pieces like pearls. She’s known for her feminine dresses, tailored pants, and Hérmes bag. The Hérmes Kelly bag was named after her when the company realized it was one of her wardrobe staples. In 1955, Kelly left Hollywood, but she didn’t leave the public eye. She married Prince Rainier III and became the Princess of Monaco where she continued to be a portrait of elegance.
Bowie was not one to blend in. He mastered the androgynous look before it was cool and fearlessly experimented with bold colors and styles. Bowie’s drastic stylistic shifts over the decades show that you can successfully re-invent your look as many times as you want, as long as you have confidence.
Madonna was known for her provocative attire. Her iconic corsets and bras created by Jean Paul Gaultier, the French haute couture, popularized the trend of underwear as outerwear. One of her most iconic outfits was the pink cone bra worn during her Blonde Ambition tour. Madonna has remained relevant by continuing to update and experiment with her look.
Photo by chrisweger | CC BY-SA
Chanel’s simple, elegant style made her aesthetic timeless. However, during her time she pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable. She popularized the little black dress, a garment that was previously primarily worn at funerals. She also created the iconic Chanel suit, which was inspired by menswear and had a looser silhouette than other popular garments, providing women with functional, fashionable attire as they became more involved outside of the household.
We all know Pharrell for his hat, but you may not know that he was awarded the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s (CFDA) Fashion Icon Award in 2015. You also may not know that he has partnered with brands like Adidas to design collections, and that he co-owns G-Star Raw and helped them launch their stability-focused line. He doesn’t just curate his style, he actually helps create it.
Hepburn gave a new meaning to feminine beauty. Unlike curvy stars before her, she had a slimmer body that she accentuated with simple silhouettes. She often wore plain, monochromatic pieces coupled with ballet flats. This was a change from the shapely skirts and heels of the time. Hepburn also was one of the first to embrace full eyebrows with natural arches.
Moss is known for her edgy yet casual style. Her thin figure and angular face popularized a new type of model in the 1990s. She highlighted her look with fierce black-on-black outfits, which incorporated textures to add variation. Whatever she wore, she wore it with confidence.
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Twiggy was known for her pixie cut, defined eyelashes, and dramatic makeup. Her youthful, experimental style consisted of bold colors, bright patterns, knee-high boots, and short hemlines. She played a huge role in the Mod fashion movement of the 1960s. During that time, post-war London was thriving and young people wanted to stand out with their clothing. Twiggy was at the forefront of this movement, popularizing miniskirts and shift dresses.
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David Beckham is known for his impressive soccer career, but since retirement he’s ventured into modeling and clothing design. Part of his style icon status may be attributed to his wife Victoria Beckham who owns a fashion label, but regardless David’s style is impressive. He knows how to rock a suit and a tee and jeans, and look put together in each.
Marilyn Monroe’s fiery attitude and self confidence were a huge part of her charm. In a time where things were more conservative, she wasn’t afraid to flaunt her curves or show off with fiery red lipstick. Monroe was also known for her love of heels—she even wore a pair of black heels when she played in a Hollywood baseball game!
For Wang, fashion is all about communication. It tells people who you are. His wardrobe consists mostly of black pieces, which help him project his casual-cool vibe. Likewise, his label draws inspiration from streetwear and sports, creating a uniquely contemporary look that’s edgy, yet laid-back.
Photo by Ed Kavishe, Fashion Wire Press | CC BY-SA
Nicks is known for her carefree style. She developed and popularized the bohemian look with many outfits made from lace, chiffon, and velvet. Her iconic knee-high platform boots and flowy shawls played up her small figure and contributed to her impressive stage presence. She continued to own this boho style even after its popularity faded.
Photo by Eva Rinaldi | CC BY-SA
Trends may be of the moment, but style is something that stays with you forever. All these style icons had very different looks, but they wore their clothes with confidence and weren’t afraid to break the rules. Take note from them, and find a way to own your style, whether that’s by paying attention to details like Karl Lagerfeld or making bold choices like Sarah Jessica Parker.