getting dressed

25 Famous Women on Style As Identity

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At the halfway point of Fashion Month, we’ve seen an abundance of style during the shows in New York, Los Angeles, London, and now Milan. Collections ranged from sheer brilliance to utter bombs; political statements were made; and street-style stars sprinkled bursts of color (and covetable trends) into the mix.

Below, Diana Vreeland, Solange Knowles, Patti Smith, Jenna Lyons, and more famous women share why getting dressed is about who you are.

Diana Vreeland

“You gotta have style. It helps you get down the stairs. It helps you get up in the morning. It’s a way of life. Without it, you’re nobody. I’m not talking about lots of clothes.” — Harper’s Bazaar

Lynn Yaeger

“I had a very strong idea of how I wanted to look, always. When I was about 8, I didn’t look good in pants — I still don’t wear pants — so I told all the kids in the neighborhood we weren’t wearing pants anymore, we were only wearing dresses. I still dress like a [child] in a way. Sometimes I’ll see a little 2-year-old on the street in a giant tutu and a funny sweater and polka-dot socks, and I’ll go, ‘There’s my look.’” — Business of Fashion, June 2013

Janelle Monáe

“Both of my parents worked in uniforms: My mom was a janitor and my dad a trashman. When I was living in Atlanta, I felt homesick and wanted to do something with my style in homage to them. So I established a uniform for myself — a black-and-white tuxedo.” — O, the Oprah Magazine, August 2013

Donatella Versace

“My style is not that big. I wear heels, tight pants, and I wear diamonds.” — Vogue Festival, April 2013

Patti Smith

“My style says ‘Look at me, don’t look at me.’ It’s, ‘I don’t care what you think.’” – the New York Times, March 2010

Solange Knowles

“I’ve been clear I just want to express myself. I’m really appreciative for the love and respect [from the fashion community], but I just want to do the fun shit. I’m a lot more interested in style than fashion — style is what makes us who we are … I’m inspired by my mother from the ’70s and ’80s — she looked like a walking American Apparel ad. She definitely set the bar in terms of style. I’m also inspired by Björk, Erykah Badu, and Diana Ross. I gravitate to the people who have stood the test of time; that’s why so many of my style icons are older. If you can conquer that many decades and that many trends and still look timeless and beautiful — that’s where I’d like to be.” — Time Out, March 2012

Isabella Rossellini

“Elegance is an expression not only of one’s taste but how you want to live your life. When I see high heels, I think: ‘That person is a fashion victim.’ I think that comes from Mama.” — T magazine, August 2015

Isabel Marant

“I’m like every woman, so I try to work on how to look slimmer or how to look taller but not be overdressed. I think most of the time when you dress in the morning, you go toward something that’s very pretty, but at the end you say, ‘Ah, no, I’m having a hard day, I need to have something easy that I’m not afraid to break.’ It’s a balance of fashion and a way of life.” — Fashionista, September 2012

Diane Keaton

“I’ve admired that [menswear] look early on from the streets of New York in the 1970s. Women wearing pants and ties. A lot of people were doing that. It was Ralph Lauren in the early days. He was one of the first to do a pantsuit for women and give her a tie. It’s not a new look. Katharine Hepburn and Marlene Dietrich both wore their suits and tuxes.” — Houston Chronicle, February 2014

Jane Birkin

“I think it’s probably true to say that if you dress up in boys’ clothes that are a few sizes too big for you, you can make your own style without much effort. You can probably be as pretty as any boy, and somehow it has a sort of vagueness about it … You’re in quite good camouflage.” — Vanity Fair, February 2016

Jenna Lyons

“My personal style signifiers are my black glasses by Moscot; a weathered gold Rolex made the year I was born, which I bought through a vintage dealer called Michael Ashton; and a bespoke gold ring. My father wore a family crest ring when I was growing up and I always thought it was the coolest thing.” — Financial Times, March 2016

Stevie Nicks

“I didn’t want to look like anyone else — like Janis Joplin or Grace Slick. That’s why I never went to any of the big designers. I drew a stick figure of what I dreamed up and gave it to my costume designer, Margi Kent, who I still work with. It was a handkerchief dress with a jacket, long, droopy chiffon sleeves, and velvet platform boots. I didn’t want to wear high heels. That’s when it started … I found a top hat at a thrift store in Buffalo, New York, on our first tour, and I loved it. Now I have several. It really became part of my look.” — Harper’s Bazaar, April 2011

Carine Roitfeld

“When I like something I repeat buy it because I know I’m going to wear it a lot. So, high heels, skirts, it’s almost like a uniform — and some tight sweaters and tights, because I love tights. And what is very important for me — maybe it’s my French taste — is to start the day with lingerie. It’s the first piece of fashion I’m going to wear. So it’s going to drive the choice of my clothes. Believe it or not, it is the truth.” — Buro 24/7, July 2015

Fran Lebowitz

“What people don’t know is: Clothes don’t really fit you unless they’re made for you. Especially when you wear men’s clothes, like I do. American women think that clothes fit them if they can fit into them. But that’s not at all what fit means.” — Elle, March 2015

Iris Apfel

“I think most people don’t know who they really are. They feel secure if they look like other people or if it’s the look that everybody says is in … People agonize about the way they look! It’s unbelievable! They don’t know what to wear or how to do it, and they’re very unhappy. But you can’t learn style. Style, I think, is in your DNA. You can learn how to be more fashionable, you can learn how to be better dressed, but I don’t think you can learn style. I think that’s something inherent. You have to know who you are first and then proceed from there — and that’s a lot of work! Most people don’t want to do it. And if they don’t want to do it, and they feel stressed by doing it, I always say it’s better to be happy than well-dressed.” — The Talks, February 2016

Nina García

“Know your body and know what works for you. Then you can become almost like an architect. You create a plan with key pieces, like an A-line skirt and button-down shirt. You build on that uniform or base. So every day you can go to your closet and easily say, ‘This is the shape of skirt that works for me and what I will wear.’ Then the rest becomes about accessorizing and playing. Throw on a nice wrap or wear a beautiful belt. But you need that base — those shapes that work for your body. I always tell women to start by knowing what base works. From that base add things to accessorize that are fun. The bag, the shoes, the belt, the scarf. But it’s always the same base.” — Parade, September 2015

Salma Hayek

“Find your own style. Don’t spend your savings trying to be someone else. You’re not more important, smarter, or prettier because you wear a designer dress. I only wear the expensive clothes because I get them free and I’m too lazy to go out and look for my own. I, a rich girl from Mexico, came here with designer clothes. And one day when I was starving in an apartment in Los Angeles, I looked at my Chanel blouses and said, ‘If only I could pay the rent with one of these.’” — O, The Oprah Magazine, September 2003

Miuccia Prada

“Fashion never opened itself to the ‘ugly.’ I started it, and I have been criticized a lot for this. But that has been the success of Prada … My true point of view in fashion is to go against the clichés of beauty and sexy.” — W Magazine, December 2015

Daphne Guinness

“Money can buy you artistry but it can’t buy you taste or personal style and it can’t buy imagination. When I was a teenager I had very little access to actual cash; I had no understanding of my family’s money. We didn’t have these visual props and references, so I had to improvise, to use my imagination. I used to make stuff out of rubbish bags and cut up old leather jackets from charity shops. And there was real joy in that.” — The Talks, June 2016

Erykah Badu

“I make no distinction between what I wear on the street and the stage; it’s all just my style. I don’t work with a stylist, and I never plan what I’m going to wear, it’s always an of-the-moment thing … I’ve always enjoyed dressing my head, whether it’s head wraps, hats, or wigs, I’m not sure why. I think that’s just where my mojo lives.” — Vogue, July 2015

Leandra Medine

“[Incorporating bold pieces] comes down to confidence, which is also about honesty. So don’t integrate anything into your wardrobe that’s going to make you feel hugely uncomfortable when you leave home. Get the comfort thing down first — baby steps. If you love a huge, shoulder-padded jacket, but you know you can’t leave home with it because it’s just going to make you feel uncomfortable, try putting tissues inside one of your shirts first. Ease yourself into the pool.” — Marie Claire, September 2015

Chloë Sevigny

“I think to be a true style icon, you just have to dress yourself. There are so many actresses floating around who have people picking out their outfits for them; that’s hard for me to wrap my head around or celebrate. To be a true icon, you have to have style emanating from you. And you have to have figured it out on your own and have a point of view, a perspective, and be able to translate it in some personal way.” — Interview, April 2015

Alexa Chung

“Stick to the classics, and you can’t ever go wrong. I see old ladies on the street who have fabulous style and realize it’s because they are probably wearing really classic items that they’ve had for years and years. I think if you find something that suits you, you should just stick to it.” — Time Out London

Miroslava Duma

“[My personal style is] experimental. Today I might be wearing Levi’s jean shorts with an H&M white T-shirt and leather motorcycle jacket, tomorrow I’ll be wearing a beautiful dress by Chanel, then it might be some crazy neon colors or floral prints. I’m working with fashion every single day and I’m experimenting with it. There’s a Russian saying that I live by: ‘The one who doesn’t try anything doesn’t make mistakes.’ So I like to take risks.” — Harper’s Bazaar, October 2012

Rei Kawakubo

“When you’re just comfortable with what you’re wearing, you don’t have new thoughts. I want people to feel something and think about who they are. You can’t become truly free if you no longer think about clothes. You need to occasionally wear something strong, and that can feel strange. It makes you aware of your existence and can reaffirm your relationship with society. I think people feel a minute current running through them as they come into contact with something made by someone exploring the limits. When you put on clothes that are fighting against something, you can feel your courage grow. Clothing can set you free.” — Interview, October 2015

25 Famous Women on Style As Identity