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  • Writer's pictureFashion and Retail Association

Female Fashion Icons Through the Decades

Updated: Mar 21, 2022

By: Lilly Katherine Kays

In honor of Women’s History Month, I will be honoring female, fashion and style icons through the decades. Fashion has evolved through different eras, thanks to the transformative women who inspired new trends and challenged style norms. Each of the women listed below have utilized their style and dress as a way of expression and communicating their roles in society. As Rachel Zoe once said, “Style is saying who you are without having to speak.”

1970 - Cher

Cher, also known as the Goddess of Pop, utilized her ambitious and captivating style to show people that women can and should be the center of attention. For many decades prior and even still today, women have been vying for recognition in a male-dominated society. Cher helped pave the way for women, promoting the value and the importance of female autonomy to women in the 60’s. Her most famous looks include bright colors and sparkles, portraying the message that women are meant to shine and radiate passion.

1980 - Dolly Parton

If there is anything Dolly Parton has taught us, it’s that your clothes and hair can be as big as your personality. Her style gives off the vibe “more is more” and I think it sends the message that women have every right to be authentically themselves. We don't have to understate our accomplishments or our personalities to make other people feel more comfortable. We have every right to be as extra as we want, and if that bothers someone or intimidates them, then we can simply tell them to go find less. Being yourself is an advantage. Miss Dolly said it herself, “I look like a woman but I think like a man. I’ve done business with men who think I’m as silly as I look. By the time they realize I’m not, I’ve got the money and gone.” Use your style to your advantage.

1990 - Jennifer Lopez

JLO in the 1990s, had a special style trick which was simplicity is key. At parties and events you can see JLO wearing mini dresses or sleek longer gowns. She even rocked a camisole with a cowboy hat and made it look good. 1990’s JLO showed all of us that there is elegance in the basics. As she said, "Beauty is only skin deep. I think what's really important is finding a balance of mind, body and spirit." True glamor comes from within, and if you want to magnify it, just throw on a sleek mini dress (or if you're me, your favorite cowboy hat) and head out the door.

2000 - Britney Spears

You can’t mention the 2000’s without mentioning Britney. She was a trailblazer for the track suits, bright prints, and fringe. She was constantly shamed for her style in the 2000’s, but now there is a whole revival centered around her, known as Y2K fashion. AND- thousands of people dress up as Britney for Halloween. Talk about major fan behavior… Britney is the epitome of an empowered woman who should be celebrated every single day. She advocated and never gave up on herself, freeing herself from conservatorship. She has taught us all how important it is to have autonomy over your own life and how you cannot rely on other people to fight your battles. Britney and her style have been the victim of gossip, jokes, and criticism. However, she just reminds us that there will always be haters. If a fit makes you happy, wear it. I guarantee those that are criticizing your looks are just jealous and will copy your style in due time.

2010 - Rihanna

Rihanna transformed the fashion industry with her street style. I don’t know many who can make a basketball jersey look good, but she mastered it. When she first debuted her red hair, I cannot describe the effect this had on me. Eleven-year-old me was absolutely convinced I needed red hair. I think this was because I associated her red hair with her fiery personality. I wanted- and still do- to be exactly like Rihanna. Her fits screams effortless but also elegant. Since Rihanna became popular, she has had a consistent influence on street style. Even now, she is paving the way for maternity street style as her and A$AP Rocky are expecting a baby this summer. I have no doubt this is about to be the best dressed child the world has ever seen.

2020 - Hailey Baldwin Bieber

Mrs. Bieber is the supreme it girl. If I owned a dictionary, I could open it up to the phrase it girl and Hailey Bieber would be listed as the definition. Her slicked backed buns, monochromatic looks, and oversized blazers have already shaped 2020s fashion. Tutorials on how to dress like her are all over Tik Tok and Instagram. BUT- nothing will ever top Hailey’s wedding dress, made by the one and only Virgil Abloh. My favorite thing about Hailey is that her style is transformative. She described it herself saying, “For me, I like to be a little bit tomboy but still look like a lady, Pretty tough. Or really, really, really pretty.” Hailey shows us we can combine different styles and create our own. Nothing in fashion is finite. We can and should embrace our creativity to find a look that fits us perfectly.

Fashion and style has changed through the decades, but the lessons these fashion icons teach us still remain relevant. Always wear what makes you feel like the best version of yourself and don’t get caught up too much in dressing like everyone else. You do you boo and celebrate yourself this month and every single day after that. You deserve it.

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