1980-2020

GWYNETH HILL

1980s

Madonna 

The fashion legend Madonna was born in 1958, acquiring her name from her mother who would pass 5 years later from breast cancer. This loss greatly impacted Madonna as she grew up and she later stated, “For example, mothers teach you manners. And I absolutely did not learn any of those rules and regulations" (A&E Television Networks) , which allowed her to express her identity without regulation. The popstars family was extremely religious growing up, always surrounded by priests and nuns coming in and out of the home. Her home, adorned with crucifixes and the Virgin Mary, would later lead to some of the artist's most iconic accessories. After bouncing from band to band Madonna submerged as a solo artist releasing the hit, “Everybody”, in 1981. Madonna's rise to fame was riddled with controversies that would allow her to be a mainstream landmark in fashion. For example in 1989 Madonnas, “Like A Prayer”, displayed the artist burning crosses and a confused intertwinment of race relations and sexual innuedos. Or her VMAs performance of “Like A Virgin” in 1984 where she writhed on the floor in a wedding dress. Controversy after controversy only uplifted Madonna's success which may speak to who is and isn't allowed to voice what freedoms they have through explicit voice and implicit choices of clothing. Nevertheless her fans mimicked her flashy-religious jewelry, headbands and rubber bracelets because she turned cheap objects into fashion. Madonna will forever be ingrained as an iconic step in fashion history because of her inherited position in society and her contagious expression.

madonna
 

1990s

Lil’ Kim 

Three time platinum winner, Lil’ Kim, was born Kimberly Denise Jones in 1974. After a tumultuous childhood, the star met her soon to be boyfriend and collaborator in the hip-hop group, Junior M.A.F.I.A., Notorious B.I.G. In Junior M.A.F.I.A. Lil’ Kim expressed her voice both in lyricism and her appearance. With colorful wigs, glossy lips, and bold outfits she crafted her well-known, lascivious, “sex-godess” (Kwarteng) appearance. The artist often came under fire for her controversial and “race-bending” ensembles. Often criticized in her childhood by white girls with blonde hair and blue eyes, many quickly asked if her looks were a means of conformity. However the artist played with the tools of fashion to counteract all things she was told she could not be. She experimented with beauty because she was and wanted to be, “attention-seeking, forceful, sexual, and bold in a world telling her to be more "ladylike” (Kwarteng). Kim considered hair and makeup as tools for liberation, rather than allowing cultural restraints to define how she portrayed herself. They served as a vehicle for self-expression, inventiveness, and command. Her demand for sexual agency allowed other women to feel comfortable accepting themselves fully. Lil’ Kim has given birth to a new generation of female artists who today would probably still be underplaying their appearances to justify their music if Kim had not taken the risks she took in music and apparel. Women in art can be both a marvel to see and hear (The Blonde Mifit). Lil’ Kim will forever be remembered as a muse and sensation.

lil kim
 

2000s

Jennifer Lopez            

Jennifer Lopez was born in the Bronx, New York in 1969. Her first appearance was on the television series Living Color as a “fly girl”. However her big break into mainstream U.S. consciousness was her role as Selena Quintillana-Perez in Selena. Throughout a myriad of films throughout the 2000s and hit songs like, “Jenny from the Block”, “Get Right”, and “All I Have” she expressed her confidence through her experimental style and people began to notice. Jennifer Lopez wore this iconic green Versace dress to the Grammy Awards in the 2000s. Following Lopezs’ appearance there was a surge in Google searches eventually leading to the creation of Google's Image Search. Everyone wanted a peak at Jennifer's magnetism and vibrant outfits, whether it was something as magnificent as a Versace dress or low-rise jeans with a bandana modeled after Aaliyah Haughton. Jennifer Lopez epitomized the early 2000s with Juicy Couture tracksuits, bedazzled tees and notorious relationship with Ben Affleck. For all her achievements as both an influence in fashion and pop culture she has become the CFDAs 2019 Fashion Icon. Steven Kolb, the President and CEO of CFDA said, “Jennifer Lopez’s style is bold, uninhibited, and always memorable” (Marc Karimzadeh). She thanks her prestigious award to those she modeled herself by,  “Growing up there in the ’80s gave me my first fashion influences. As a girl I didn’t have a lot of clothes, but I would cut up my sweatshirts and jeans and make miniskirts out of them, and I’d try to be like my idols — Madonna, Cyndi Lauper. I was also influenced by the people in my neighborhood and the explosion of hip-hop at that time” (Marc Karimzadeh).

jennifer lopez
 

2010s

Michelle Obama 

People often liken First Lady Michelle Obama to Jackie Kennedy because of their abilities to unify glamor with diplomatic wear, however Ms. Obama rehauled the wardrobe of the First Lady by making it attainable to the public. Michelle Obama was a lawyer and writer before assuming the office with her husband and two daughters. As a person who not only presided in office during one of the worst economic times, but as someone from Chicago's South Side she understood the importance of wearing clothes that Americans could see themselves in. While she did wear the occasional designer dress, as Leon Talley a fashion editor at Vogue Magazine says, “Michelle Obama embraced everyone. She embraced black designers, Asian designers, European designers ... She was very democratic in her choice of clothes” (Associated Press). But what caught the attention of everyday people was her ability to blend designers like Thom Browne, J. Crew and Kate Spade. The financial impact of Obama's dress selections in her first year as first lady was investigated by David Yermack, a professor of corporate finance at New York University. He noticed an immediate increase in the stock prices of businesses whose clothing she wore, in publicly traded companies. The Obamas as a couple understood that they were under constant scrutiny as trailblazers in office and resisted through their image. Although seeming superficial, Michelle Obama understood the First Lady had a uniform that needed to be restructured just as the Obamas reframed what the White House could look like. Her clothing reflected the country that her husband aspired to lead (Vanessa Friedman). 

michelle obama