15 Apr THE DISSOLUTION OF THE FASHION ICON
Moments in fashion have, are, and will continue to be controversial, thrilling, offensive, breathtaking; or, in other words, ‘iconic’. Fashion is considered iconic when it inspires, even when its inspirational reach is small. So long as a moment in fashion holds meaning for one of the 7 billion people on this planet, it has done its job; become more than just pieces of fabric thrown together.
However, I have come to find that the concept of the traditional ‘fashion icon’ that dominated the creative realm of westerm popular culture for decades no longer exists as it once did. When I think of renowned fashion icons people like Audrey Hepburn, Prince, Diana Ross, or Princess Dianna come to mind. These celebrities came to be known not only for their trade, but also for their impeccable sense of style. Today, however, it is not so easy to list the definitive style icons of the 2020s. This is not because the concept of style inspiration has gone away. Rather, as fashion has evolved and diversified along with society, so has our concept of who to look to for inspiration.
When I look at my parent’s wedding photos from the ’80s, there is a touch of Princess Diana’s puffed sleeves in the dresses and her short spunky hair amongst the laughing guests. Of course, my parents knew about the royal wedding that had captivated the world only a few years before their own, but emulating Dianna was by no means their intended goal. Dianna represented a melding of grace and compassion, bridging the gap between royalty and the rest of the world. She made an institution stuck in formality and tradition accessible to millions of people, all the while showcasing her distinct and personalized sense of style. The public was captivated with her, the paparazzi began to operate on a larger scale to feed this captivation, and from those wedding sleeves, casual gym gear, to iconic revenge dress; Dianna’s style was both boldly boundary pushing and accessible. People cared about her, they could relate to her, and they aspired to dress like her. Popular culture was on the rise bringing identity, hope, and an escape from the dregs of everyday life. Dianna’s fashion was, and is iconic because it symbolized all of this, and looking back on my parents’ 80’s photo albums, ‘the People’s Princess’ is everywhere.
Scrolling through Vogue articles and fashion blogs, Dianna is at the top of every list; one of the icons of the 80’s. However, bestowing the title of ‘definitive fashion icon’ upon Diana is a rather limited way of understanding history, identity, and fashion. Dianna was born into privilege, a straight cis white woman, and so forcing what she represented onto the many people who could not see themselves in her was and is problematic. Just as our role models are diverse, our fashion icons should be too. Hence, it is better to look at these so-called icons, Dianna, Prince, and even Marie Antoinette, as displaying iconic moments in fashion holding meaning to some, but not definitively and certainly not to all.
Today things are different. All fashion has the potential to be iconic so long as it resonates with somebody and tells a story that inspires them, so why limit it to a list? Inspiration has always been diverse, and the media is finally starting to catch up to the societal truth; we are all different and equally valuable. From Instagram to the subway, Harry Styles to RuPaul, sources of inspiration are everywhere; and this has made the face of fashion and style more eclectic and diverse than ever before. Take the clips of Street Style in China dominating our TikTok For You Page. Whether it strikes a chord with your sense of style or not, it is being put out there for the world to be seen, to be made iconic to someone.
I find inspiration in characters bridging from the elderly man in corduroy who I pass on the street to Euphoria’s unapologetically bold Maddy Perez. Thanks to the progress and evolution in our society, we no longer have to look to a defined list of fashion icons for inspiration. By disregarding boundaries, tradition, or confined to lists, fashion is both shaping and being shaped by our society. There is no longer a distinct list of iconic individuals who define this fashion era; icons may be fading, but inspiration is everywhere.
HEADER IMAGE SOURCE: https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2020/nov/04/she-was-gangsta-with-her-clothes-how-princess-diana-became-2020s-biggest-style-icon