Whether it’s the swinging 60s or the minimalist 90s, every decade has a distinctive style, each championed by certain celebrities. Style icons help encapsulate everything that is fashionable from their time, while not necessarily being the celebrities who had the most out-there or unique style. Instead, they’re individuals who captured the feel and fashion of a specific era, set trends everyone wanted to follow, and are still today associated with the style of a particular decade.
These are some of the most stand-out icons from the 50s to today.
1950s: Audrey Hepburn
With her sleek black Givenchy dresses, strings of pearls, and big sunglasses, Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in Breakfast At Tiffany’s is still one of the most fashionable characters in film.
By its release in 1961 though, Hepburn was already a style icon in her own right, known for sleek silhouettes with nipped-in waists, strapless dresses, and love of preppy collars. It’s an aesthetic that has proved timeless and endlessly inspiring.
There’s no doubt Twiggy’s aesthetic sums up the 1960s: super slight, with a pixie crop and voluminous lashes.
Twiggy – real name Lesley Lawson – was everything you’d want from a supermodel of the time, dressed head-to-toe in mod outfits from stripy dresses to the ever-present miniskirt (at the time, designer Mary Quant reigned supreme).
1970s: Bianca Jagger
Bianca Jagger was a 70s “It” girl, known for running in the coolest fashion circles and her association with the New York club, Studio 54, which was frequented by the likes of Andy Warhol and Elton John.
Jagger was often seen in perfectly tailored Yves Saint Laurent suits, showing suiting wasn’t just for men, but she also played with sequins, feathers, and excellent hats.
Born in Nicaragua, she shot to fame after marrying Mick Jagger and was known for her glamorous, party-girl life. Arguably Jagger’s most iconic moment came in 1977 when she mounted a white horse in Studio 54 on her 34th birthday. She did so in classic style: with blown-out hair and a slinky, off-the-shoulder dress.
1980s: Diana Ross
In all honesty, Diana Ross was an enduring icon of the 60s, 70s, and 80s. As a consummate style chameleon, Ross has managed to adapt to each era, championing trends while keeping her own signature brand of glamour. Ross is arguably best known for her 80s fashion though, which was full of shoulder pads, glitter, and towering hair.
1990s: Kate Moss
The fashion of the 70s and 80s was all about maximalism, but this all changed in the 90s. Representing the anti-glamour of the decade, supermodel Kate Moss represented a more low-key, grungy kind of glamour, wearing a slew of jeans, spaghetti straps, and barely-there slip dresses.
This wasn’t an era of sparkles and sequins – instead, Moss become synonymous with the unfortunately-named ‘heroin chic’ trend: being super skinny with that ‘just got out of bed’ look.
Nowadays, we know Rihanna as a red-carpet powerhouse and as the creative director of Fenty — making her the first black woman to run a major luxury house.
Back in the 2000s, Rihanna was still a fashion icon, but in a very different way to today. Instead of forging her own path, she pretty much wore every trend of the decade. Red-carpet events appeared to be an exercise in Noughties fashion box-checking, from low-rise jeans to babydoll dresses and lots of ruched satins.
This was before Rihanna found her fashion ‘voice’, but in the Noughties, we were all copying her.
2010s: Kim Kardashian
Love her or hate her, you can’t deny the major impact Kim Kardashian has had on fashion. There are so many trends we can thank the Kardashian/Jenner clan for, spearheaded by Kim. She helped bring bicycle shorts to the fore, along with soft athleisure, skintight dresses, and an obsession with neutral tones and color-blocking.
Whatever she wears is watched by eagle-eyed fans and retailers – so much so, that Kardashian won a lawsuit against fast-fashion brand Missguided USA last year, arguing it was “notorious” for “knocking off” the designer clothes she wore.
We’re now in a new decade, which begs the question: is there space for a new style star to emerge and dominate the 2020s? Only time will tell.