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Classic Style Icons

Updated on August 17, 2014

The most famous costume of all time, Marilyn Monroe's "Seven Year Itch" (1955) dress

Love the look!

The term "style icon" is thrown around a lot however few stars have made an impact that has lasted through the decades. The stars on my list of style icons of the 20th century all have a unique style that fits their persona perfectly. The way they wore their clothes and how they carried themselves in them are in a way more iconic that any one specific piece of clothing. Some of these stars have outifts that are quite recognizable however still not as recognizable as the stars themselves.

Greta Garbo (Publicity photo for "As You Desire Me" 1932)
Greta Garbo (Publicity photo for "As You Desire Me" 1932)

Timeless Style

Each star on my list had their own individual style. Their styles could not be pulled off quite as well by anyone else for they wore the clothes, the clothes did not wear them.

Here are my picks of the 20th century's female style icons:

  • Greta Garbo
  • Marilyn Monroe
  • Lauren Bacall
  • Audrey Hepburn
  • Grace Kelly
  • Jean Harlow
  • Sharon Tate

Greta Garbo

With her sultry and strong on-screen persona Greta Garbo was one of the top Hollywood stars of the 1920s and early to mid 1930s. In 1999 the American Film Institute placed her at 5th place on the list of the greatest female stars of all time.

Greta Garbo didn't like to go out in public for publicity or events very often and this added to the mysterious persona she had built for herself. When Garbo did come out in public she would wear simple, classic looking pieces that fit her persona and looks to a tee. She often wore things that to the early 20th centuries' society were ruled as men's wear. She wore pants and long draped tops that were not made for a women's figure. Lounge pants were often worn by Garbo which was completely new to the public for women were supposed to wear dresses and full skirts during those days. Garbo often wore black garments and if she did accessorize it would often time be in the form of a sophisticated hat.

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe is without a doubt one of the best known names of the 20th century. She is known for her blonde bombshell persona but her fashion choices have also been talked about quite frequently. Everyone knows the famous scene that was filmed of Marilyn's white dress bellowing up from a gust of air on a subway gate. The scene is so famous that most girl's who wear any halter dress, especially a white one automatically act as if they are Marilyn Monroe.

Marilyn's fashion choices and personal style has cemented her as a style icon for a variety of reasons. She was the first A-list Hollywood star to dress "sexy" without being distasteful.

Marilyn Monroe at the 1952 Miss American Pageant to which she was the Grand Marshall. Her scandalously low neckline to the event was the subject of much discussion.
Marilyn Monroe at the 1952 Miss American Pageant to which she was the Grand Marshall. Her scandalously low neckline to the event was the subject of much discussion.

Lauren Bacall & Marilyn Monroe (1953)

Lauren Bacall

Lauren Bacall started out as a model gracing the face of Harper's Bazaar at 19 years old. She soon began he first picture "To Have and Have Not" (1944) co-starring Humphrey Bogart. The film landed the young actress with a husky voice and stunning looks both new found fame and a husband. Lauren Bacall married Humphrey Bogart and the two became the biggest couple in Hollywood. The couple remained together for 12 years, until Bogart's death in 1957.

Bacall's style was often much less feminine than many other female of the 1940s and 1950s. She often wore shirts with the outer layer hanging open rather than buttoned up and high-waisted pants. She was one of the first female stars to commonly wear a jumpsuit/pantsuit, and layered loose fitting blouses.

Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn is known for her simplistic, natural beauty and true elegance. Her most famous role as Holly Golightly in 1961's "Breakfast At Tiffany's" included costumes that in essence matched Audrey's personal style. She also starred in very recognizable films like "Roman Holiday", "Sabrina", "Charade", and "My Fair Lady".

Audrey Hepburn had a simple yet elegant style which had almost of effortless look to it. She often times wore simple black outfits and flats rather than heels. Many would argue that Hepburn made flats popular in the late 1950s and 1960s. Chic and simplistic would best describe her style that has since become so iconic.

Audrey Hepburn
Audrey Hepburn | Source
Emma Ferrer photographed by Michael Avedon for Harper's Bazaar, August 2014.
Emma Ferrer photographed by Michael Avedon for Harper's Bazaar, August 2014. | Source

Following in Audrey's footsteps!

Audrey Hepburn's granddaughter Emma Ferrer, daughter of Audrey's son Sean Ferrer is gracing the cover of Harper's Bazaar. Emma Ferrer is 20 years old and you can clearly see the family resemblance. She seems to be following in her grandmother's footsteps and remaking several of Audrey's looks such as the one's from "Funny Face". It's so refreshing to see someone from her family carrying on with her sense of style.

Grace Kelly (early 1950s)
Grace Kelly (early 1950s) | Source

Grace Kelly

Grace Kelly, the beauty, turned movie star, turned Princess of Monaco is often put at the top of the list of style icons. She is often sighted as one of the most tasteful and elegant women of all time. She had a sense of fragility and elegance about her that surpassed all others. During her Hollywood years she starred in such films as "Rear Window", "High Society", and "Dial M For Murder". Grace would often times wear a simple solid colored dress, a circle skirt, or tailored pants. The simplicity of the pieces she wore and how she carried herself in them cemented her spot as a style icon.

Jean Harlow in a publicity photo, 1930s.
Jean Harlow in a publicity photo, 1930s.

Jean Harlow

Jean Harlow was the original blonde bombshell. Her white blonde pin curled hair. She starred in numerous films in the 1930s until her death in 1937. She teamed up with Clark Gable for several films and also starred in films such as "Dinner At Eight", "Libeled Lady", and "Hell's Angels". Her style was something that audiences of the 1930s had not seen before. Jean was the first Hollywood star to be forwardly sexy and to use her body to her advantage. She did not like to wear undergarments, especially bras. You can see that she didn't wear a bra in many photos of her in long dresses. Jean's style consisted of long, floor length silky dresses, extremely glamorous pieces, and exposed cleavage.

Sharon Tate on the beach, 1960s.
Sharon Tate on the beach, 1960s.
Sharon Tate, 1960s.
Sharon Tate, 1960s.

Sharon Tate

Sharon Tate was a rising starlet in the 1960s. She starred in such films as "Valley of The Dolls", "The Wrecking Crew", & "Eye of the Devil". Sharon's style was very mod and completely the times. She often wore outfits that showed off her amazing figure. A lot of Sharon's outfits were short dresses that were loose fitting and showed off her legs..even Sharon's wedding dress for her wedding to Roman Polanski was a short, loose fitted dress. The Malibu Barbie doll was modeled after her after she starred in the film "Don't Make Waves". Unfortunately her career and life was cut short when she was murdered at 8.5 months pregnant in her home along with 4 others in 1969. Sharon's life may have ended at 26 years old however she 1960s style is still something many strive for today.


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