Fashion Icons by the Decade

By Sharon Mosley

March 17, 2020 6 min read

With almost 40 years of writing about the world of fashion, I have been inspired by famous women who seemed to be just naturally stylish ... Audrey Hepburn. Twiggy. Ali MacGraw. They are just a few of the fashion icons who have made memorable impressions with their individual styles and continue to summon up images that are still relevant today, even in a world which changes daily.

We can still connect with them and appreciate their enduring sartorial contributions. Since I was born in the '50s, I started with that decade. Take a look at how these chic women put themselves together and create your own unique fashion muse — you!

— The '50s. Audrey Hepburn. One of my personal favorites, her easy elegance will always be in style. She wasn't a trend follower; she was a trendsetter. Her wardrobe was simple yet chic — tailored suits, the perfect little black dress, sleek black trousers, crisp white shirts, classic turtlenecks, ballet flats and those signature oversized black sunglasses. It's still a go-to list for all of us 70 years later. Check out other unforgettable icons from the '50s, like "Some Like It Hot" star Marilyn Monroe or Elizabeth Taylor, still reimagined on dozens of magazine covers today. My mother was another one of my best fashion influences with her pillbox hats, matching handbag and shoes and sleek sheath dresses.

— The '60s. It was a youthful decade of rockers and models who went from the Space Age to the Age of Aquarius. The names of the players are still familiar today — London's androgynous Twiggy, the East Prussian-born model Veruschka, sexy actresses Brigitte Bardot and Catherine Deneuve, Jane Birkin (who inspired the famous Hermes handbag) and boho rockers like Marianne Faithfull. Their free-spirited style broke all the rules and started a style revolution that has once again influenced the zeitgeist of fashion designers who love the eccentric free spirit of it all.

— The '70s. This decade was a continuation of the rockin' 60s when disco and punk blended into the fashions of the day a la Debbie Harry, Jerry Hall and Bianca Jagger. Designers like Yves Saint Laurent, Bill Blass and Halston took care of all the "beautiful people." They left it to Calvin Klein and his jeans to turn Brooke Shields into an advertising sensation. (She was my "idol.") And then there were the more "buttoned down" years of the fashion icons like Ali MacGraw and her "Love Story" wardrobe of cozy knits and preppy plaids. I was a teenager whose uniform consisted of bell bottom jeans that dragged the floor, fringed suede vests, turtlenecks and platform shoes.

— The '80s. Fast forward into the '80s, when "Saturday Night Fever" was heating up the fashion scene and Madonna was all the rage with her outrageous club clothes that resembled lingerie more than anything else. Her lace corset tops, elbow gloves and tight skirts have once again hit the rewind button. But on the flip side in the '80s, there was the opposite reaction of designers who dressed the likes of Princess Diana and other socialites who preferred a little more discreet approach to style. "The Preppy Handbook" debuted in 1980, and the culture clash was on: country club versus nightclub. Since I was entering the "corporate" workforce, I shed the bell bottoms and entered my tailored suit and bow blouse days.

— The '90s. As a new age of "yuppies" dawned with their matching suits and silk blouses with sneakers worn to work, there was a new era of reflection and a reactionary move on the part of fashion designers who, of course, wanted to take the opposite approach to the "corporateness" of it all. These mavericks did their "grunge" thing with waiflike models who definitely provided a startling contrast to runways filled with the sleek, minimal looks of Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors and others. I had the pleasure of meeting these designers and attending their incredible runway shows.

— The last several decades have been filled with a mix of all of the above. Trends come and go as fast as the seasons change. Style icons can go to the extremes, like Michelle Obama, who mastered the mix of high and low fashion, and Rihanna, whose clothes exude edgy avant-garde chic.

The good news is that fashion designers now focus less on the latest fads and more on giving savvy consumers inundated with instant electronic buying power more choices than ever. There is indeed something for everyone — whether you're a fan of Audrey's sleek chic or Madonna's rock star flash or Ali MacGraw's elegant prepster. There may be a little bit of them all in us. But the most important style tip that really matters? Just be yourself. Create your own muse. After all, that's the only fashion icon that really matters.

Audrey Hepburn, a style icon, has inspired fashion followers for decades.
Audrey Hepburn, a style icon, has inspired fashion followers for decades.

To find out more about Sharon Mosley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at

Like it? Share it!

  • 0

In Fashion
About Sharon Mosley
Read More | RSS | Subscribe