All-TIME 100 fashion icons

Posted on May 09 2012 , at 05:33 pm
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Gianni Versace

From models and muses to designers and photographers, the world of style has no shortage of superstars. TIME picked the 100 most influential fashion icons since 1923, the beginning of TIME magazine.

Designer and brands

Azzedine Alaïa

While other designers clamor for the affection of fashion editors and store buyers, Azzedine Alaïa makes the industry come to him. The Tunisian-born designer doesn’t advertise in magazines, is uninterested in social media and has no problem telling Anna Wintour, the revered editor of Vogue, that she has no taste or lasting influence. In more than 50 years in the fashion industry, Alaïa has worked with Christian Dior, Guy Laroche, Thierry Mugler and even Miuccia Prada. But it’s his smaller, eponymous label, started in the late 1970s — along with his refusal to sacrifice aesthetic for fame — that’s made him one of the greatest designers in history. A master at flattering the female figure, Alaïa created formfitting designs that earned him the nickname ‘King of Cling’ during the height of his fame in the 1980s. In 1995 his name was immortalized in pop culture when Cher, the lead character of the film Clueless, resisted bowing down to a gun-pointing robber because she was wearing Alaïa — ‘a totally important designer.’ And indeed he was — and is nearly 20 years later.

Giorgio Armani

One of Italy’s most successful fashion moguls got his start in the trenches of the industry, working as a window dresser for a department store. Giorgio Armani launched his eponymous company in 1975 and rocketed to mass acclaim when Richard Gere modeled his suits on the silver screen as the suave and sophisticated American Gigolo. In the 1980s, Armani introduced his best-known design element, the soft shoulder, on his famed suits, adding an air of comfort and modernism to the overly rigid jacket. Armani is a household name today, and his sculpted and sparkly gowns make regular appearances on the red carpet. The designer recently partnered with pop star Lady Gaga to create the elaborate costumes she wore on tour. But his influence extends beyond clothes. The Armani moniker is seen not only on tags and inserts; hotels, perfume and watches also bear his name.

Cristobal Balenciaga

The son of a fisherman and a seamstress, Cristóbal Balenciaga began working for a tailor when he was 12. A local noblewoman noted his talent and sent him to train in Madrid, where he learned to cut, drape and fit his own patterns — skills that would wow fellow designers for the rest of his life. Balenciaga set up his couture shop in 1937, and in the 1950s he dramatically reinvented the female silhouette by broadening the shoulders and removing the waist, as seen in his enduring creations like the tunic dress, chemise dress, baby-doll dress and balloon skirt. His influence lives on not just in his own fashion house (now run by Nicolas Ghesquière) but also in his former students and apprentices. Oscar de la Renta, Emanuel Ungaro and Hubert de Givenchy are among his mentees.

Manolo Blahnik

Madonna told a biographer that Manolo Blahnik’s shoes were ‘better than sex.’ Sexy in this case means very high heels, and the pop star is not the only one to fall while wearing the towering shoes. Blahnik, who originally wanted to become a theater-set designer, opened a shoe shop in London in the early 1970s, and his heels took off with the era’s celebrities. In 1974 he became the first man to appear on the cover of British Vogue.

Sara Blakely

Sara Blakely has helped shape the modern woman — literally. As founder and creator of Spanx, Blakely reinvented how women dress while simultaneously redefining an industry. Her line of stretchy undergarments, shapewear and hosiery compresses and smooths figures of all sizes no matter how clingy the clothes worn over them. Blakely was working as a saleswoman during the day and doing stand-up comedy at night when she dreamed up Spanx in 2000. In a moment of frustration over a pair of white pants, Blakely took scissors, lopped the feet off some pantyhose and put them on underneath.

Pierre Cardin

A dreamer, as many young men are, Pierre Cardin tossed aside all limitations in his designs, favoring a whimsical approach to fashion. The Italian-born Frenchman is lauded for his 20th century pieces that looked as though they were from the 25th century. As Cardin rose to fame in the age of the space race, his creations took on an air of futurism. His so-called bubble dresses had all the fixings of science fiction, combining earthly elegance with out-of-this-world colors and avant garde design.

Jacques Cartier

Jacques Cartier was just one cog in the watch gears of his famous jewelry-making family. His grandfather established the business in 1847, his father helped it grow, and his two brothers helped carry the family name throughout Paris, London, New York and beyond. The Cartier family introduced the men’s wristwatch, became royal jewelers to many monarchs and pioneered Art Deco designs. The brand got a famous shout-out from Marilyn Monroe when she sang ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ in 1953.

Hussein Chalayan

Nothing is ever quite as it seems in a Hussein Chalayan collection. Creations ranging from the table that transformed into a skirt to a dress that literally changes shape mark the Cyprus-born, British-raised Chalayan as a visionary who focuses on how the human body interacts with science, technology and nature. The dichotomy in Chalayan’s aesthetic is that his conceptual pieces are counterbalanced by sleek, architectural designs that are surprisingly wearable.

Coco Chanel

Coco Chanel revolutionized women’s fashion in the early 20th century when she introduced a looser, more comfortable silhouette that freed women from the corsets and frills that had dominated the apparel industry. Born into poverty in Saumur, France, Chanel worked as a cabaret singer before opening a hat shop in 1910 with financial backing from a lover. She soon turned her attention to clothing and became the first designer to create with jersey — a cheap fabric used in men’s underwear at the time — and bring a menswear aesthetic to women’s clothing.

Christian Dior

Christian Dior launched his fashion line in a private Parisian home in 1947. His fashions in his first showcase that year were showered with worldwide attention. His New Look line, a term forced on it by the media, shed the regimented designs of World War II. Assuming the role of a fashion dictator, he called the shots in the 1950s, banishing knees, tightening waists and padding hips. But understanding the fickleness of the fashion world, Dior within years ordered that knees be shown and waists let out. His death in 1957 nearly led to the downfall of the entire company.

Dolce & Gabbana

The Dolce & Gabbana brand was created out of love. Italian designers Domenico Dolce (born in Sicily in 1958) and Stefano Gabbana (born in Milan in 1962) launched the luxury label in 1982 when they were design assistants in Milan. After struggling to get their unique stylings noticed in the world of couture fashion, the pair enjoyed their first taste of success in 1985 when they debuted at the New Talent show during Milan Fashion Week. At about the same time, the duo sparked a romantic relationship that would last for 19 years.

Tom Ford

It may be difficult to remember a day when Gucci wasn’t synonymous with luxury, but prior to Ford’s arrival as a fresh-faced unknown in 1990, the famed Italian fashion house teetered on the edge of bankruptcy. The Texas-born designer, however, quickly moved up the ranks to become Gucci’s creative director in 1994, using provocative and sexually explicit ad campaigns to reinvigorate the aging brand, turning it into the multibillion-dollar powerhouse it is today.

Hubert de Givenchy

Hubert de Givenchy was a master of fabric and a proponent of simplicity, characterizing a time when elegance reigned on the red carpets and runways. Hailing from Beauvais, France, he brought his aristocratic heritage to Paris when he started his couture house in the 1950s. The Frenchman’s first collection presented the Bettina blouse, made from raw cotton shirting that had previously not been used in finished designs. Hollywood soon took notice of Givenchy’s sense of easy refinement. He is perhaps best known for designing for Audrey Hepburn, both personally and in her professional life, in films like Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Charade. He also launched his own perfume, L’interdit, with Hepburn as its celebrity face.

John Galliano

After graduating from the famed Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London (other notable alumni include Stella McCartney, Gareth Pugh and the late Alexander McQueen), John Galliano launched his eponymous label in 1984. Financial troubles prevented the brilliant but rebellious talent from taking off, and by 1995, he began designing for Givenchy, becoming the first British designer to head a French couture house.

Jean Paul Gaultier

Aside from a stint at the wheel of French house Hermès from 2004 to 2010, the self-taught French designer has earned himself a reputation as one the fashion world’s enfants terribles — most famously with the conical bra he designed for Madonna in the early ’90s. Many suggest that Gaultier’s genius stems from a relentless juxtaposition of forms: metal and leather paired with chiffon, men homoerotically bound in corsets (among other things), strong women depravedly strapped into S&M-inspired cuts of leather (like the revealing NSFW number donned by pinup girl Dita Von Teese in his fall-winter 2011 collection).

Jacques Heim and Louis Réard

The story goes something like this: In 1946, Jacques Heim, a French designer from Cannes, designed a revealing two-piece swimsuit dubbed the atome (French for atom). To promote his new product, he hired a skywriter to fly overhead with the following message: ‘Atome — the world’s smallest bathing suit.‘ But three short weeks later, Louis Réard — an automobile manufacturer and Heim’s rival designer — submitted a, well, more minimalist swimsuit to market. He called it the bikini, named after the Bikini Atolls in the Pacific Ocean. Not only did it expose its wearer’s navel (a risqué first), but Réard’s tiny 30 square inches of fabric redefined the outer limits of conventional modesty.

Rudi Gernreich

Rudi Gernreich appeared on the cover of the Dec. 1, 1967, issue of TIME under the banner headline “The Miniskirt Is Here to Stay.” Stay it has, along with many of Gernreich’s other era-defining fashions from the 1960s and ’70s. (He also helped define the era in other ways; he was a founder of the Mattachine Society, an early gay-rights organization.) Some of his creations still shock — like the monokini, a topless and unisex bathing suit he introduced in 1964 — but others have become commonplace: the thong, for example.

Hermès

Hermès isn’t just the world’s most sought-after leather goods brand. It’s also a family. Founded in 1837 as a harness workshop by horse-loving Thierry Hermès, it began selling leather saddles to the world’s elite riders and moved into accessories and women’s clothing at the turn of the century.

Marc Jacobs

These days Marc Jacobs’ chiseled abs are plastered across advertisements and storefronts for his eponymous fashion line, but that wasn’t always the case. It’s hard to imagine, but Jacobs used to be a chubby, long-haired designer who preferred to lurk behind the scenes. In 1992, Jacobs was fired from his position of the head of women’s wear at Perry Ellis for crafting a grunge collection out of very expensive silk shirts and cashmere.

Rei Kawakubo

Ever since she founded Comme des Garçons in 1973 — a few years after she began using the label unofficially — Rei Kawakubo has been pushing fashion forward. The Japanese designer, who is rarely photographed or interviewed, is known for avant-garde looks and a heavy use of black. Her creative sense is often discussed as a cerebral one, but she has said that the truth is the opposite, that she designs with her heart rather than her brain.

Calvin Klein

American designer Calvin Klein started his company in 1968, when Marc Jacobs was a tender 5 years old. His minimalistic, clean lines epitomized the style of the ’90s, and today, his brand is one of the most recognized in the world, while his ads have become the stuff of pop-culture legend. (See: boxer briefs just peeping out of Marky Mark’s jeans, Kate Moss and the Androgynous Bunch.)

René Lacoste

Lacoste’s namesake company looks beyond the trends of the moment to focus on classic sportswear that never goes out of style. This strong singular concept was the brainchild of René Lacoste, a French tennis player in the 1920s who was nicknamed “the Crocodile.” In a time when woven tennis whites were the norm, Lacoste created his own uniform of short-sleeved cotton polo shirts with the now famous crocodile monogram.

Karl Lagerfeld

For much of his early career, Karl Lagerfeld was a fashion mercenary. After placing second to Yves Saint Laurent in a dress-design competition at age 17, he freelanced for the world’s top fashion houses, including Krizia, Valentino, Chloe, Repetto, Curiel and Fendi. In 1983 he took on his greatest assignment: restoring the House of Chanel to its former glory 12 years after Coco’s death. Initially he did so by treating it with irreverence, adding chains and strips of leather to Chanel’s classic suit, and later by delivering dazzling and over-the-top couture.

Jeanne Lanvin

Jeanne Lanvin found her greatest inspiration at home. Several years after opening her first boutique in Paris, the French couturiere began designing pleated dresses with intricate trim for her daughter Marguerite. Soon Paris’ wealthiest women wanted the clothes for their own children, transforming Lanvin into a household name. Her signature robe de style — better known as the flapper dress — was marked by a full skirt, a tight bodice and intricate beading and became the definitive look of the 1920s.

Ralph Lauren

Fashion trends come and go, but there’s one classic American brand that withstands the test of time: Ralph Lauren. Smartly designed and based on the idyllic image of sporty, upper-class East Coast youth, Ralph Lauren’s label has thrived as one of the world’s most successful fashion empires for more than 40 years. Born as Ralph Lifshitz into a middle-class Jewish family in the Bronx in 1939 (he changed his name in the ’50s), Lauren grew up enamored with the American dream.

Christian Louboutin

Christian Louboutin is inextricable from two words: red soles. The Parisian shoemaker has been sheathing his soles in scarlet for almost 20 years, a signature that makes his footwear instantly identifiable (and one he’s gone to court to protect). Some shoes are staples he reinvents, like Very Privé, a heel with a hidden platform, an open toe and a svelte spike. But Louboutin is also known for experimental whimsy.

Alexander McQueen

As a teenage apprentice on Savile Row — the home of British bespoke tailoring — Alexander McQueen cut suits for the likes of Prince Charles and Mikhail Gorbachev. That classical training helped him craft impeccably tailored looks for the runway, including razor-sharp suits and pencil skirts. He pushed convention at every turn, from his tenure as creative director at Givenchy to his eponymous collection.

Issey Miyake

Issey Miyake, the designer whose 1978 book was titled East Meets West, brought together Japanese influences and European fashion. Miyake, a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, came to Paris in the late 1960s. Although he worried he wouldn’t fit into the world of haute couture, he capitalized on a time of great change to make that world fit him.

Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen

Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen have managed to leverage child stardom into a legitimate career in fashion. Despite having no formal design education, the 25-year-old twins now preside over a veritable fashion empire and have transformed into style icons themselves.

Jean Patou

Though best known for his landmark woman’s fragrance, Joy (which in 1929 was marketed as the “most costly perfume in the world”), Jean Patou’s far-reaching influence can be found in everything from the cardigan to women’s sportswear (like the tennis skirt) to his famous cubist sweaters.

Miuccia Prada

The Prada company, founded by Mario Prada, began life in 1913 as a luxury leather purveyor. The business’s expansion into the powerhouse we know today didn’t begin until Mario’s granddaughter Miuccia Prada took the wheel in 1978.

Mary Quant

One look at Mary Quant, with her trademark angular bob and artistically appealing creations, brings to mind the distinctive style and subculture she was instrumental in developing: 1960s mod.

Roy Raymond

Like many men, Roy Raymond felt uncomfortable shopping for underwear for his wife. So he took his business savvy — as a graduate of the Stanford Graduate School of Business in California — and created a place where he would feel comfortable shopping.

Yves Saint Laurent

Coco Chanel gave women the little black dress, and Yves Saint Laurent gave them the option of leaving it at home. In 1966 he shocked the world with Le Smoking, a tuxedo smoking jacket for women that carried a whiff of androgyny.

Jil Sander

Amid the glitzy looks of the ’70s and the chaotic punk of the ’80s, German-born Jil Sander’s designs stood out for their austerity. Her precisely cut pants and monochrome jackets — grey, beige, black and white — earned her a cult-like following among women who loved understated elegance without a lot of hassle.

Elsa Schiaparelli

Though eventually eclipsed by rival Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli reigned over the fashion world in the years between WW I and WW II.

Levi Strauss

While selling goods during the late-1800s gold rush in California, Levi Strauss happened upon a gold rush of his own. The reputation of Levi’s jeans lived on long after Strauss’s death as the image of the Wild, Wild West took its place in American lore.

Tiffany & Company founder Charles Lewis Tiffany is seen here in his Union Square store at the age of eighty-seven, with Charles T. Cook

Tiffany & Co.

Long before Marilyn Monroe sang ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ or Audrey Hepburn stared longingly into the window from a deserted Fifth Avenue, Tiffany & Co. was influencing American culture.Tiffany & Co. was already a famous institution when Tiffany began selling items in the ‘Tiffany blue’ box.

A model presents a creation for British designer Philip Treacy in Paris in 2001

Philip Treacy

Whether it’s a metallic feathered headdress designed for Prince Charles’ spouse, Camilla Parker-Bowles, or a crystal-encrusted lobster made for fashion editor Isabella Blow, Philip Treacy believes good hats stir emotions.

Garavani prepares a model for his fashion show in Los Angeles in 1988

Valentino

In the 2008 documentary Valentino: The Last Emperor, an interviewer asked Garavani Valentino, head of the Valentino empire, what women want. ‘I know what they want,‘ he said without the smallest hint of doubt. ‘They want to be beautiful.’

Gianni and Donatella on the runway after a Versace fashion show in 1996 in New York City.

Gianni Versace

Gianni Versace ran a veritable fashion empire for 20 years until he was tragically murdered at his home in Miami in the late ’90s. Born in Italy to a mother who owned a tailoring shop, the designer later based himself in Milan and debuted his own collection in 1978.

Diane von Furstenberg

Diane von Furstenberg is no doubt considered fashion royalty, but the Belgian-born designer, who produces her chic and iconic clothing line in New York City, is also a former princess.

Vuitton workers accompanied by the brand’s iconic trunks, in the courtyard of the Asnières workshops, circa 1888

Louis Vuitton

Vuitton pioneered a canvas, rectangular suitcase — lightweight, stackable and ideal for long journeys. Acclaim came quickly for Vuitton, whose designs were imitated within a decade. So the designer introduced a brand-new look for the cases, pasting his initials L.V. over a classy beige-and-chestnut coloring with a Japanese-inspired flower motif.He handed the reins to his son Georges, who helped spread the desire for luxury luggage worldwide.

Vera Wang

A former figure skater and fashion editor, Wang has become one of the best-known names in bridal wear. Name a famous female, and chances are she wore Wang to her wedding. Vera Wang evening gowns are also staples on awards-show red carpets.

Vivienne Westwood

The grand dame of British fashion has always had a knack for provocation. In the 1970s, Westwood made new wave and punk mainstream when she began selling her eccentric collection of bondage gear, massive platform shoes and slogan T-shirts on London’s King’s Road — the epicenter of posh.

MODELS

Gisele Bündchen

Discovered at 14 in São Paulo, Brazil, Bündchen was dubbed ‘the world’s most sought-after supermodel’ by the time she was 20. Six years later, she became the world’s highest-paid supermodel.
Naomi Campbell

Naomi Campbell

When you’re a fashion pioneer, you’ve earned the right to be a diva once in a while. At least that seems to be the motto of Naomi Campbell, who broke racial barriers as the first black model on the covers of French and British Vogue. She joined the clique of massively famous supermodels of the 1980s and ’90s, dominating fashion magazines and runways in an industry accused to this day of favoring white models.

Cindy Crawford

There was a time when you couldn’t walk by a newsstand without seeing Cindy Crawford’s face. From her first Vogue cover in August 1986 to 2000, Crawford’s mug graced the covers of more than 1,000 magazines. Though she was part of the original supermodel troupe — made famous by the now iconic Vogue magazine cover in January 1990 that featured her along with fellow models Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista and Tatjana Patitz — Crawford, with her distinctive beauty mark, stood out from the pack.

Evangelista pictured here with designer and fellow fashion icon, Karl Lagergeld, in Paris in 1991

Linda Evangelista

There was a time when you couldn’t walk by a newsstand without seeing Cindy Crawford’s face. From her first Vogue cover in August 1986 to 2000, Crawford’s mug graced the covers of more than 1,000 magazines. Though she was part of the original supermodel troupe — made famous by the now iconic Vogue magazine cover in January 1990 that featured her along with fellow models Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista and Tatjana Patitz — Crawford, with her distinctive beauty mark, stood out from the pack.

Iman

Iman, born Iman Abdulmajid, the daughter of a diplomat, left her native Somalia as a refugee. Then, when she was a student at Nairobi University, fashion photographer Peter Beard approached her to ask if she had had her picture taken before.

Beverly Johnson

Beverly Johnson is, most famously, the first black model ever to appear on the cover of American Vogue. But she has said she was unaware at the time that she was making history. Whether or not she intended it, that August 1974 Vogue appearance was the highlight of a modeling career during which she appeared on more than 500 magazine covers.

Heidi Klum

Discovered in her native Germany when she was 18, Heidi Klum’s million-dollar smile and mile-long legs landed her on countless magazine covers, including Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue in 1998 and 2006. In 2005, to the envy of women worldwide, she appeared in the Victoria’s Secret fashion show less than two months after giving birth.

Kate Moss

When Kate Moss launched her modeling career in the late 1980s, the wafer-thin girl from London didn’t fit the mold of the superstars who came before her — tall, curvaceous and elegant women like Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista and Naomi Campbell. In a way, Moss’s childlike ‘heroin chic’ look, which was immortalized in a topless Calvin Klein advertisement when she was just 19, marked the end of the ‘supermodel era’ and the renaissance of ’90s grunge.

Jean Shrimpton

Jean Shrimpton is considered one of the world’s first supermodels and was the embodiment of swingin’ London in the 1960s. Poised and natural in front of the camera, she quickly became known as the face of the era, appearing on the cover of Vogue, Vanity Fair, and Harper’s Bazaar.

Twiggy

Twiggy, born Lesley Hornby, was but a teenager when her name became synonymous with the mod look of London in the 1960s. A gamine haircut she got at the age of 16 jump-started her career, and eventually the cut, along with her long eyelashes and skinny limbs, led the Daily Express, an English newspaper, to declare her the ‘Face of ’66.’

MUSES

Josephine Baker

A mainstay of the 1920s Paris expat scene, St. Louis–born Baker embodied the Art Deco movement that bloomed around her: elegant, elaborate and exotic. With her pet cheetah Chiquita, her dramatic profile and her proclivity for nude portraiture, it’s no wonder she was among the most admired — and best paid — entertainers in Europe.

Brigitte Bardot

In 1970, sculptor Alain Gourdon used French actress Brigitte Bardot as the model for a bust of Marianne — the symbol of France — and four years later Andy Warhol captured her in an iconic pop art portrait. But Bardot — a curvaceous blonde with a kittenish grin — wasn’t merely a muse: she was also a trendsetter.

The Beatles

It wasn’t just the music world that the Beatles took by storm in the ’60s. From mop tops and Pierre Cardin collarless jackets to neon suits and facial hair, the Fab Four left an indelible print on all things fashion. Though they started out with a generic style consisting of leather jackets and greaser hair, they quickly embraced the art of reinvention. Though the Beatles were perhaps the best band in rock-‘n’-roll history, it was their style savvy that gave them a boost toward being a bona fide worldwide cultural phenomenon.

Jane Birkin

With her straight bangs, calm stare and gapped teeth, the woman for whom the famed Hermès Birkin bag was named embodied the cool nonchalance of mod London and yeh-yeh Paris in the 1960s and ’70s. She was a languid presence in influential movies of the era, from Antonioni’s Blow-Up to Grimblat’s Slogan, on the set of which she met her most important collaborator, future husband Serge Gainsbourg.

David Bowie

David Bowie’s career can be defined by competing dualisms: aesthetics and sound, masculine and feminine, backward-drawing inspiration and forward-moving reinvention — Lady Gaga before she ever sang a note. That sort of creative friction has been in place for more than 40 years, resulting in everything from Bowie’s snaking around in spandex and makeup to his gracing red carpets in head-to-toe Thom Browne.

James Dean

Before his untimely demise at age 24, James Byron Dean reinvented what it meant to be a Hollywood antihero, most notably in the 1955 film Rebel Without a Cause. Dean was typically clad in little more than jeans, a snug white T-shirt and a well-worn leather jacket, and his antiprep ‘Live as if you’ll die today’ philosophy made him the poster child for effortless American cool.

Farrah Fawcett

Whenever designers dabble in 1970s retro, they inevitably name-check Farrah Fawcett — the actress who helped define style in the latter half of the decade. When she made her debut as athletic private investigator Jill Munroe on the TV series Charlie’s Angels in 1976, she brought with her the first must-have celebrity hairstyle — a mass of big blond hair, feathered and layered with curls. The pin-up of Fawcett wearing a red bathing suit, with her head cocked back, has reportedly been purchased more than 12 million times, making it the best-selling poster of all time.

Zelda Fitzgerald

The empress of the Jazz Age, Zelda Fitzgerald inspired fashion in much the same way she inspired her husband F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writing: firmly and fiercely. The two married in 1920, and soon after Scott achieved literary success with This Side of Paradise. Feisty, talented and a prodigious social butterfly, Zelda quickly made a name for herself as his charismatic muse.

Jean Harlow

Before Marilyn, there was Harlow. Famous for languid, satin evening gowns that she wore with a knowing wink and not much else, her nickname was the Laughing Vamp. She became a star in precode Hollywood, which lasted until 1934, when studios began enforcing the morally restrictive Motion Picture Code. Those precode films were far more suggestive than movies would be for decades afterward.

Audrey Hepburn

If there isn’t a photo of Hepburn under the dictionary definition of gamine, there should be. The waifish actress charmed the audiences of movies like Roman Holiday, Sabrina and Breakfast at If there isn’t a photo of Hepburn under the dictionary definition of gamine, there should be. The waifish actress charmed the audiences of movies like Roman Holiday, Sabrina and Breakfast at Tiffany’s with her subtle portrayals of women in transformation, but it was her lithe frame and sprite-like carriage that earned her the devotion of couturiers like Hubert de Givenchy, who designed clothing she wore onscreen and off.

Katharine Hepburn

The multiple-Academy-Award-winning actress Katharine Hepburn was raised by progressive parents in Connecticut — her mother was a suffragette — and they gave her more than her signature New England mode of speech. Their tomboyish daughter, who got her start on the stage while in college at Bryn Mawr, was always an independent thinker.

Michael Jackson

The glittering glove. The Thriller-era leather jacket. Those spit-shined penny loafers that gave him the otherworldly ability to glide across the stage.
Yes, it’s no coincidence that we associate the different chapters of the King of Pop’s career with the clothes he wore. But what’s perhaps most impressive of all when it comes to Jackson’s aesthetic is that it never once felt contrived. His wardrobe — though flamboyant — was never some grandiose political statement or performance-art afterthought.

Grace Kelly

With her porcelain beauty and self-awareness, Grace Kelly could make even the simplest of fashions look effortlessly glamorous. She epitomized ’50s style, from the carefully coiffed hair, shirtwaist dresses and fitted sweaters to the tailored jackets, full skirts and satin evening gowns. Those fashions, combined with her poise and confidence, brought forth a timeless style that continues to influence the likes of Hermès, Tommy Hilfiger and Mad Men’s costume designer Janie Bryant.

Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga is just as notorious for her outrageous style as she is for her pop hits. After all, Gaga, born Stefani Germanotta, has sported outfits made from plastic bubbles, Kermit the Frog dolls, and raw meat. And companies are catching on — Gaga has partnered with brands like Giorgio Armani on tour outfits, as well as Polaroid, and even pens a fashion column for V Magazine.

Madonna

There are performers, and then there are superstars. When Madonna (born Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone in 1958) burst onto the music scene in the 1980s, she was not only openly welcomed into that exclusive latter set but essentially redefined what it meant to be famous in America. Now a new generation of girls who didn’t get a chance to fawn over the Queen of Pop’s every outfit can still mirror her style, if not her dance moves.
President Barak Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, wearing a Jason Wu gown, enter the Neighborhood Ball for their first official dance on January 20, 2009

Michelle Obama

She’s hardly the first First Lady to be recognized for her sartorial sense, but Michelle Obama is unparalleled in her influence on American fashion, from her arm-baring dresses and colorful cardigans to her mix of high-end and mass-retail designers. From the beginning of her tenure as First Lady, Obama has been a champion of young designers, famously choosing a one-shoulder white dress by then little known designer Jason Wu for her Inaugural Ball.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was never just the wife of a President. As First Lady, she represented the style and sophistication of 1960s America. From her chic, perfectly tailored suits and dresses to delicate details like elbow-length gloves and three-strand pearl necklaces, she was credited with not only making politics fashionable but also inspiring women around the world to adopt her classic Jackie look.

Bettie Page

In the 1950s, Bettie Page was a naughty treasure, hidden from the public eye. Today she’s known in some circles as a style goddess, worshipped for her sex appeal, lack of inhibition and ease in front of the camera. Her jet-black hair, thick bangs and innocent blue eyes defined the the bad-girl look of the era. As a pin-up model, Page was the favored subject of photographers such as Jan Caldwell, Bunny Yeager and Irving Klaw, and even became one of Playboy’sfirst Playmates in January 1955. Page had always hoped to become an actress, but she never made it to the big screen.

Princess Diana

When a young Diana Spencer joined the British royal family in 1981, advisers selected her garments and dictated her style. But as Diana grew more confident in her role, she cast off their dictates and forged a path decidedly her own. Reflecting her personality, she made laidback look elegant, and transformed the traditional regal look into something altogether more inviting and modern.

Andy Warhol

With Andy Warhol, art and fashion merged. The famed painter of Campbell’s soup cans, who began his career illustrating fashion magazines, would show up to black-tie events wearing yellow sunglasses, a tattered tuxedo jacket and paint-splattered pants. His Pop art influenced paper A-line ‘souper’ dresses in the ’60s, and designers have taken turns transposing his iconic works into clothes.

PHOTOGRAPHERS

Richard Avedon

The most defining photographs of Richard Avedon’s career were deceptively simple with few tricks, resulting in images broken down to just the bare emotions and spirit of the subject. A New York City native, Avedon began his career while he was in the Merchant Marines, photographing identification photos of crewmen. After two years of service, he left in 1944 to work as a photographer and study under the legendary Alexey Brodovitch, then art director of Harper’s Bazaar, at the New School for Social Research.

Charles Jourdan advertisement, Spring 1979

Guy Bourdin

Guy Bourdin made voyeurs of us all when his unique style of fashion photography — tiptoeing to the edge of pornography but ending up at art — peaked in popularity in the 1970s. Born in Paris, the photographer got his training in the military but soon began to apply his learning to a different sort of violence.

Horst P. Horst

The German photographer Horst — who was born with Horst as a first name and legally changed his full name to Horst P. Horst later in life — captured an era of European and American glamour on film. His black-and-white portraits of 20th century icons, from Coco Chanel and Rita Hayworth to Andy Warhol and Jackie Kennedy, are known for their drama, enchantment and classical inspiration.

Nick Knight

British fashion photographer Nick Knight, who got his start with documentary photographs of the English skinhead subculture, is outspoken in his belief that photography can catalyze social progress.He has been a thought leader in incorporating the Internet and video into the world of fashion photography: in 2000, he founded SHOWstudio.com, a website that broadcasts film footage of the entire creative process for art and fashion projects. (Knight directed the music video above for Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way’ in 2011.)

Annie Leibovitz

One of the most influential photographers of her generation, Annie Leibovitz has produced images as powerful as they are ubiquitous: her work appears regularly on the covers of Vogue and Vanity Fair as well as in campaigns for American Express and Louis Vuitton and in exhibitions around the world.

Steven Meisel, flanked my Madonna on the left and supermodel Naomi Campbell on the right

Steven Meisel

Legendary fashion photographer Steven Meisel has always been captivated by beauty. Growing up, a young Meisel would sketch women, using fashion magazines as inspiration and developing an attraction to models that would continue throughout his life. Living in New York City, Meisel has said that he would spot models on the streets and snap photos with an old camera he carried.

Martin Munkácsi

Fashion-photography pioneer Martin Munkácsi got his start as a reporter at a Hungarian newspaper, for which he had to take pictures of sporting events and athletes — including horses and racecars. So it shouldn’t have been a surprise that after he transitioned to fashion and celebrity photography, he still focused on capturing movement. But a surprise it was: at the time, fashion photography was about stillness and poses.

Helmut Newton

One part scandal and one part glamour, Helmut Newton’s photography coupled androgyny and conflict with classic fashion silhouettes. German-born Newton was one of the most controversial and influential photographers of the 20th century.

Irving Penn

Irving Penn notably said, ‘A good photograph is one that communicates a fact, touches the heart and leaves the viewer a changed person for having seen it. It is, in a word, effective.’ Penn, who died at 92 in 2009, changed the world of fashion and portrait photography with his minimal yet graceful style.

Herb Ritts (center) behind the scenes at a photo shoot in 1995

Herb Ritts

Known for his classic and elegant images, fashion photographer Herb Ritts was able to capture the purity of his subjects without the fuss that clouds many fashion photographs. With a methodology that resembled Greek sculpture — understated, clean and graphic — Ritts’ black-and-white images made him a favorite within the Hollywood set and the fashion industry.

Natalia Vodianova and Kate Moss sit on Testino’s lap at the a Ball in London

Mario Testino

He’s shot countless covers for Vogue and Vanity Fair, photographed everyone from Margaret Thatcher and Anna Wintour to Gwyneth Paltrow and Lady Gaga and, more recently, snapped Prince William and Catherine Middleton’s engagement photos. But even Mario Testino — now one of the world’s most well-known and respected fashion photographers — had to start somewhere.

Ellen von Unwerth

Ellen von Unwerth started her career as the subject of photographs, but is now known for turning the tables and taking up a camera herself. After a decade-long modeling career (and a brief stint as a circus performer), the German-born von Unwerth taught herself to use a camera and, by the 1980s, had become a renowned fashion photographer.

Bruce Weber

An American fashion photographer and filmmaker most widely associated with iconic black-and-white images of heterosexual, all-American men, Weber first rose to national prominence in the late 1980s with a provocative Calvin Klein underwear campaign.An American fashion photographer and filmmaker most widely associated with iconic black-and-white images of heterosexual, all-American men, Weber first rose to national prominence in the late 1980s with a provocative Calvin Klein underwear campaign. (Weber directed the music video above for The Pet Shop Boys’ ‘I Get Along’ in 2002.)

Editors & STYLISTS

Isabella Blow

Born in London, Isabella Blow first became interested in fashion after falling in love with her mother’s pink hat. How fitting, then, that she would become famous decades later for discovering the then unknown milliner Philip Treacy. She wore his hats in most public appearances throughout the rest of her life.

Grace Coddington

Grace Coddington’s long and legendary career at Vogue began in her teenage years, when she won a modelling competition for the British edition. After a disfiguring car accident, she became an editor at the magazine, where she remained for nearly 20 years. In July 1988, she and Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour began work at the U.S. edition on the same day.

Sarah Jessica Parker with Patricia Field on the set of Sex and the City

Patricia Field

Stylists typically fly under the radar, dressing their clients or costuming actresses on set and remaining virtually unknown to the mass public. Which is why when Patricia Field made a name for herself for styling HBO’s Sex and the City from 1998 to 2004 and then again for the two follow-up movies, it was a shocker. But not as shocking as the clothes she chose for the show’s leading lady, Carrie Bradshaw.

Givhan (center) is hugged by Dana Priest after winning the Pulitzer Prize award for criticism in 2006.

Robin Givhan

Robin Givhan, a Detroit native who was a fashion critic at the Washington Post for more than a decade, made history in 2006 when she became the first person to win a Pulitzer Prize in criticism by writing about fashion. Givhan’s claim to fame comes out of a career of analyzing the intersection of appearance and actions, particularly when it comes to matters of power and race.

Edith Head

Acclaimed costume designer Edith Head earned more Academy Awards than any other woman — eight out of a remarkable 35 nominations — but that was only part of what made her a legend. For almost six decades, starting in the Golden Era of the 1920s and carrying through to the 1980s, Head defined the cinematic stylings of Hollywood, dressing everyone from Lucille Ball and Bette Davis to Olivia de Havilland, Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn.

Eleanor Lambert

Fashion is an artistic pursuit, and no one knew this better than Eleanor Lambert. As founder of the Council of Fashion Designers of America and creator of New York Fashion Week, Lambert spent the majority of her lifetime trying to convince the world that the American garment industry was just as influential as its international counterparts. After growing up in Indiana as a student of art and design, Lambert began her career as a publicist at a New York City ad agency.

Barbara ‘Babe’ Paley

Today’s socialites would wither under the gaze of their forebear, Babe Paley. The epitome of sophistication, Paley was an elegant and inspiring woman. Born into a well-connected New England family, Paley’s dominance over the society pages began in 1934, when she made her official debut, and continued throughout her life.

Carine Roitfeld

In the January 2007 edition of Vogue Paris, Carine Roitfeld featured 13 images of a model tied up with a curtain rod. The public on both sides of the Atlantic gasped, but Roitfeld merely yawned. ‘We can smoke on the cover, we can show tits,‘ she says of being a French editor.

Franca Sozzani

During her 20-year tenure as editor in chief of Vogue Italia, Franca Sozzani has transformed the magazine from a domestic trade rag into the world’s most influential fashion magazine. She uses provocative photos — like a model gagging on oil in the aftermath of the BP disaster — to overcome barriers created by working in Italian.

Liz Tilberis

Liz Tilberis’ career, which included serving as editor of two of the most influential fashion magazines in the world, came extremely close to never happening. In the 1960s, when she applied to study at the Jacob Kramer Art College in England, the first tutor to see her portfolio dismissed it. She gave an impassioned speech about her love of fashion and not only gained admittance, but married that tutor, Andrew Tilberis.

Diana Vreeland

It’s only fitting that a woman with such a dramatic flair for all things stylish should have a three-act career in fashion. Paris-born, New York City-raised Diana Vreeland had just that, beginning in 1936 when an editor at Harper’s Bazaar handpicked her to work for the magazine.

Anna Wintour

The daughter of a former London Evening Standard editor, Anna Wintour was seemingly destined for magazine fame. She had stints at New York, House & Garden and British Vogue before becoming editor in chief of American Vogue, where her near quarter-century tenure has established her as the most influential fashion editor of her generation.

Curled from Time.com


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