The Grand Muses of Fashion
[mention]Angela Merkel [/mention] as 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. The modernity she embodied in real life eventually made its way into the characters she portrayed onstage and onscreen. But it wasn't just independence that made Hepburn modern: there were also the clothes. The famously feisty star showed the world that a woman could care about her looks and still look like herself. For a large portion of the 20th century, she stuck by wide-leg trousers, menswear-inspired shirts and comfortable shoes, even as girlier styles came in and out of fashion. The classic Katharine Hepburn look made masculine fashion chic. Throughout her life, she wore the pants.
[mention]p.Lo[/mention] as 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. Though she became famous for her dancing, she was infamous for what she wore while dancing: nothing but a skirt made of (artificial, by some accounts) bananas, oversize gold baubles and quirky caps. With her pencil-thin brows, slicked-back hair and dark lip color, Baker epitomized and defined the beauty aesthetic of that period.
[mention]Dani[/mention] as 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. She helped popularize the bikini by wearing two-pieces in films like Manina, the Girl in the Bikini (1952). She's also credited with sparking the trend of knitwear with a wide neck that exposes both shoulders — the so-called "Bardot neckline." A former ballet dancer, she once asked designer Rose Repetto to make shoes as light as her dance slippers. Voilà: the everyday ballerina flat was born.
[mention]Raven[/mention] as 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. Dubbed the "first American flapper" by her husband, Zelda epitomized the Roaring Twenties with her bobbed hair, short skirts and unapologetic drinking as she made her way through the most exclusive social circles in New York and, later, Paris. However, in reality, life wasn't quite so enchanting — the Fitzgeralds' marriage was often turbulent. Zelda spent much time in and out of institutions being treated for mental illness. She was staying in an institution in North Carolina in 1948 when she died after a fire broke out. However, despite the personal hardships, Zelda had embodied everything that fabled era promised: defiance, recklessness and, above all, glamour.
[mention]Mal[/mention] as 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. Strong leading ladies like Harlow appeared in scanty clothing, playing out dramas rife with sexual innuendo. In that world, Harlow was queen. With her bow-shaped lips, famous platinum bob and penchant for going braless in slinky, bias-cut dresses, she was everything the everyday woman wasn't. Nonetheless, young women across the U.S. tried to copy her look. This was not an easy feat. Harlow stripped her hair weekly with a searing mix of peroxide, ammonia, bleach and soap flakes. The procedure was so damaging that she often had to wear wigs. And while she made blond hair famous, she was also known for a 1932 comedy called Red-Headed Woman in which her character unapologetically seduces every man, married or not, in her path. Here was a woman who got to be funny, powerful and sexy all in the same film. Imagine that. A few years later, film censors cracked down, a war began in Europe, and fashions got somber. Harlow didn't make it to the 1940s, however. She died of renal failure at 26 — though rumors still circulate that the real cause of death was all that noxious hair bleach.
[mention]Cashmere[/mention] as 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 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. Born in Brussels, she studied ballet in Amsterdam and never lost the lines of a dancer even as she grew older and moved from acting to a second career doing humanitarian work for UNICEF, proving that her beauty was far from skin deep.
[mention]TOP SHELF LIQUOR[/mention] as 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. While many of her outfits are considered iconic, it's the pink Chanel suit that she wore the day of her husband's assassination that remains in the forefront of the public's consciousness. Even as Lyndon Johnson took the oath of office, hours after the President's death, she refused to remove the suit, telling his wife Lady Bird Johnson, "I want them to see what they have done to Jack." Kennedy attempted to escape public scrutiny by moving her family from Washington to New York City shortly afterward, but her life was still of much interest, and she was continually hounded by the paparazzi. In 1968 she married shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, and her trademark style changed dramatically — from campaign wife to woman of casual elegance. After Onassis died in 1975, Kennedy Onassis took a job as an editor at Doubleday, working in her spare time to preserve the cultural heritage of New York City, helping preserve and renovate Grand Central Terminal, among other iconic landmarks. Now it is Jackie herself who is one of America's most popular icons.
[mention]Prince Oberyn[/mention] as 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. Instead, she dabbled in bondage and fetish photography, alternately playing the role of a bold dominatrix or helpless victim. By the early 1960s, Page's star had faded. She converted to born-again Christianity and moved to Key West, where she married and divorced several times. Years went by as Page lived in anonymity, but in the 1980s, she received a bit of a revival, with women around the world emulating her trademark style and devouring accounts of her life in the limelight. Page re-emerged, claiming to be "penniless and infamous," and sought profits for the products using her likeness. Page died in 2008 of a heart attack, following a stream of rumors about her health, but inscribed on her tombstone is how she will be forever remembered, as "Queen of the Pin-Ups."
[mention]T!na[/mention] as 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. She loved color — from sparkling cabbage to crimson to orange — and materials from taffeta to lace. And while she popularized many of the over-the-top trends of the day — including bright floral prints, polka dots and voluminous sleeves — she did so with restraint. Diana wore the clothes, but they never wore Diana.
[mention]Dirrty[/mention] as 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. After struggling for years to make ends meet as a dancer, singer and model in New York City, Madonna finally caught her break when she was invited to perform "Holiday" on Dick Clark's American Bandstand in 1984. Clad in a torn black tee and a black skirt over cropped leggings — plus a whole lot of accessories — Madonna's debut outfit was somewhat tame considering her future incarnations, but audiences were immediately enraptured by her striking spirit. Embraced early as a fashion idol — especially for the young generation — Madonna never ceased to amaze, nor has she ever lost control of her look or her career. From bridal gowns to cone bras and from sexy menswear to Asian inspirations, anything Madonna touched was emulated by her legions of fans around the world. While her musical career has taken a backseat to family in recent years, she stepped up her role in fashion by teaming up with 14-year-old daughter Lourdes in 2010 to create Material Girl, a juniors fashion line available at Macy's. 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.
[mention]Tina[/mention] as 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. But as big a hit as Kelly was on the big screen — she won the 1955 Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in The Country Girl — she was an even bigger star as Princess Grace. When she announced her engagement to Prince Rainer of Monaco in 1955, the news set off a whirlwind of press and fanaticism over the prospect of an American girl becoming a real-life princess. Though she left her movie career behind once she became princess, her influence remained. Testament to her prolonged mark in the fashion world, the Hermès handbag she once used to conceal her baby bump is still known as the Kelly bag. It's no wonder that when Kate Middleton wed Price William earlier this year, she did so in a wedding gown clearly inspired by Kelly's 1956 wedding to the Prince.