In our line of work, we come across plenty of fabulous dressers, but making it onto this top ten list takes more than a closetful of the latest Balmains and Louboutins. The people we’ve chosen have one thing in common: They’ve affected the way other women dress. You may love them or hate them, but you can’t ignore them—not in these getups.
In her closet: Jason Wu, Narciso Rodriguez, Zero + Maria Cornejo, J.Crew, Rodarte, Talbots, Azzedine Alaïa
Iconic outfit: Chartreuse-yellow Isabel Toledo dress and coat on Inauguration Day, 2009
Key accessory: Lanvin sneakers
Thing you can’t imitate: The photo ops
Let’s get the cheesy cliches out of the way at the beginning: Michelle Obama, our commander-in-chic, has proudly exercised her right to bare arms. There now! Touted as the savior of Seventh Avenue before her husband was even sworn in, the First Lady has in fact crafted a look that’s totally non-hyperbolic: She’s an everywoman with smart high-low taste, a good figure, and, on occasion, the need to dress for a black-tie event with the world’s most powerful rulers in attendance. Her efforts have landed her on Vanity Fair’s International Best-Dressed List for four years running, an unheard-of achievement for someone who isn’t married to a minor European nobleman.
In her closet: Vintage
Iconic look: Dashing to the store in skinny jeans, a tank, and a shrunken jacket, and looking like 9 million bucks (her annual income, according to Forbes)
Key accessory: Indie rocker boyfriend
Thing you can’t imitate: The attitude
Wellies, denim cutoffs, men’s blazers, skinny jeans, ballet flats, skull scarves, fringy boots, fur chubbies, motorcycle boots, shrunken vests…basically, everything you’ve had or wanted to have in your closet over the past ten years first appeared on the back, foot, neck, or arm of the unsinkable supermodel. And if you want a piece of the Brit’s look, you’d better hurry to Topshop, where Moss’ signature line—an unapologetic rehashing of her greatest hits—will have its last full collection this fall.
In their closets: The Row, Givenchy, Rick Owens, Balenciaga, Giambattista Valli
Iconic look: “Dumpster chic”
Key accessory: Then: venti Starbucks cup. Now: soon-to-debut bag from The Row
Things you can’t imitate: Hair, bank balance
Both lauded and lambasted mid-decade for draping their waifish frames with oversize layers to stalk through the NYU campus, Mary-Kate and Ashley graduated to become major trend igniters (not to mention the respected designers of their own lines, The Row and Elizabeth and James). Last spring, we wondered if the “anti-fashion” the twins had suddenly taken to wearing was a harbinger of things to come. One look at the pared-down Fall collections—from Dries to Celine—and, well, we think we have our answer.
Sarah Jessica Parker
In her closet: Oscar de la Renta, Halston Heritage, Chanel, Alexander McQueen
Iconic look: Philip Treacy butterfly spectator hat and acid green Alexander McQueen dress at the Sex and the City 2 premiere in London, 2010
Key accessory: “Manolos!”
Thing you can’t imitate: The ability to give a designer a major fashion credit in your movie
Two words: Carrie Bradshaw. With stylist Patricia Field hovering off-screen, SJP’s alter ego made Mr. Blahnik a household name and popularized off-beat accessories from flower pins to nameplate necklaces—not to mention legitimizing spending as a form of empowerment, therapy, and, above all, fun. Whatever you think of the aftereffects—and it is now officially impossible to traverse certain areas of New York City without stumbling into hordes of the over-accessorized—Parker’s affection for fashion seems beguilingly sincere, as her decision to lay it on the line as creative director at Halston Heritage shows.
In her closet: Her Opening Ceremony line, Valentino, Proenza Schouler, Chloé
Iconic look: One-shoulder, polka-dot Isaac Mizrahi gown at the Emmys, 2009
Key accessory: Bare legs
Thing you can’t imitate: Actual acting ability
She’s appeared on not just her pal Tara Subkoff’s Imitation of Christ runways, but also on the catwalk at Dolce & Gabbana; labels from Chloé to Uniqlo have used her in their ad campaigns; she’s a favorite of designers like Stefano Pilati and the Proenza Schouler boys; and she has her very own collection for Opening Ceremony. But the ultimate proof of Sevigny’s icon status? Even the austere sister-wife style of her Big Love character has been influential. How else to explain the side braid at Alexander Wang and Miu Miu’s Spring shows?
In her closet: Haus of Gaga
Iconic look: Kermit the Frog jacket, 3-D bubble dress, Armani’s orbiting-galaxies gown, etc., etc.
Key accessory: Lobster headpiece
Thing you can’t imitate: Having Nicola Formichetti on your styling team
The girl may have taken a page from Madonna’s playbook, but, boy, did she run with it. Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen, and Katy Perry—pop’s de facto fashion risk takers—now look tame (or lame) in comparison; Beyoncé’s bondage-warrior look, meanwhile, has all of the aggression with little of the wit. Even someone like Björk took a day off once in a while. Not so Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. The born-and-bred New York City Catholic schoolgirl has quickly thrust herself into a line of sartorial envelope-pushers—Elton John, David Bowie, Prince—who turned ugly into iconic.
In her closet: Marc Jacobs, Diane von Furstenberg, vintage from Decades
Iconic look: Long caftan, giant wedges, enormous sunglasses, oversize jewelry, more oversize jewelry
Key accessory: What, just one?
Thing you can’t imitate: The exact way she says “I die”—though you’ve probably tried
At the beginning, some front-row editors liked to scoff at this L.A.-based upstart, but they were probably already jealous of her influence. Mischa Barton, Nicole Richie, and Lindsay Lohan all fell under Rachel Zoe’s haute-hippie/retro-boho spell in the mid-aughts, piling massive baubles onto their wire-thin frames and experimenting, probably more than was necessary, with lots of ironic hats. Zoe wasn’t really the behind-the-scenes type, though. Thanks to The Rachel Zoe Project, the popular Bravo series about the agony and ecstasy of dressing the rich and famous, being a stylist—a job that many E! red-carpet watchers never knew existed—is now the fashion opportunity they’re pegging their hopes on. Just don’t trip on your caftans on the way up.
In her closet: Alexander McQueen, Chanel, Rick Owens tees (for working out)
Iconic outfit: Full McQueen Spring 2010 look at François Nars’ book signing, 2009
Key accessory: A veil
Thing you can’t imitate: Walking in “heel-less” high heels
Guinness may be petite—she once made a pair of Alexander McQueen’s “lobster” shoes fit by stuffing them with newspaper—but she knows how to make a big sartorial statement. What singles the haute heiress out, though, is how deeply felt her devotion to fashion is. When Christie’s announced its intention to auction off the late Isabella Blow’s wardrobe earlier this summer, Guinness bought the lot. “It’s Issy—it’s her DNA—it should not be scattered to the four winds. I want it to remain as a monument,” she said. One thing’s for sure: We’ll be queuing up at the Museum at FIT to see an exhibition of Guinness’ own couture collection when it goes on view next year.
In her closet: Dolce & Gabbana, Armani Prive, Versace, Marchesa
Iconic outfit: Silk chiffon jungle-print Versace dress at the 2000 Grammy Awards
Key accessory: Strategically applied dabs of glue
Thing you can’t imitate: Divaliciousness
Lopez has had her ups and downs and her fair share of ho-hums on the red carpet, so her claim to icon status may rest on a single dress. That dress just happens to be the sheer, cut-down-to-there-and-slit-up-to-here palm-print Versace dress—with built-in crystal-studded undies—that she wore to a music awards show ten years ago. In other words, no contest.
In her closet: Givenchy, Tom Ford-era Gucci, Equipment
Iconic look: Bare legs; teetering heels; big fur chubby; short, short dress; all black
Key accessories: Salvador Dalí necklace; daughter Julia, a frequent front-row companion
Thing you can’t imitate: The kohl-rimmed eyes
Not only did she make over Paris Vogue in her own image after assuming the editorial reins in 2001, but her rock ‘n’ roll brand of hardware-heavy, black-on-black dressing has dominated the entire decade (or at least its street-style blogs). Meanwhile, the designers she’s trumpeted—Balmain’s Christophe Decarnin, Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci, and, most recently, Joseph Altuzarra—have become the hottest tickets around. Roitfeld and her team are celebrating their magazine’s 90th anniversary this season with a masquerade party during Paris fashion week. Hands down, it’ll be the bash of the season.