Everyone loves a fashion rebel: a woman who thinks outside of the box, who doesn’t just adhere to trends but challenges them, opening them up and contorting them to suit their own unique aesthetic. Whilst many women look to fashion to express their individual empowerment, many are often reviled for doing so, bearing the brunt of criticism and nastiness from ‘best and worst dressed’ lists and commentators. Yet, I firmly believe that people who don’t conform to sartorial expectations are infinitely more interesting than those who copy trends look for look, by adding their own inimitable stamp to their ensembles. Ever since fashion began, people have enjoyed breaking the rules and, regardless how you feel about their looks, we’ve all been enthralled with the manner in which they’ve achieved this.
At a time where we were more accustomed to seeing Hollywood starlets sporting floor-sweeping body conscious dresses (shop similar styles at maryjanefashion.com), long-sleeved gloves and fur stoles, Katharine Hepburn broke the mold with her masculine-inspired looks. Opting for sharp tailoring, crisp shirts, trousers and brogues, Hepburn was perhaps before her time in many ways, adopting effortlessly cool and androgynous styles with ease and grace. Of course, she also wore the more feminine gowns in some of her celebrated films, but in her downtime she stuck to her mannish suits, rejecting the ultra-femininity of her contemporaries, such as Ava Gardner and Rita Hayworth. Her free-thinking style echoed the emancipated and independent roles that she portrayed, becoming a refreshing antidote to the traditional and conventional female styles of the era.
Bjork is one of the best musical innovators of our time, paving a way for herself with her experimental and rustic music, choosing to unharness her raw natural voice instead of performing in a typically polished manner. Her style has undoubtedly fed into this, and she has frequently been photographed with a painted face, her hair in architectural shapes and with voluminous clothes teeming with colour and embellishments. She famously wore a dress to the 2001 Oscars, which was shaped into a swan that draped around her neck before fanning out out into a big tulle skirt. This quirky and whimsical look proves that Bjork’s art wasn’t limited to the songs she sang and the films she starred in, but spilled out into the clothes she wore and still stuns in.
Although she was very much an accepted style icon back in her 1980s heyday, Madonna has come under much criticism in recent years for her edgy and flesh-bearing looks. Regularly seen in leotards, fishnet tights, plunging dresses and corseted attire, she has become a one-woman fight against the ageism of the media and music industry. As her wardrobe of years gone-by proved (remember that infamous conical bra from Jean Paul Gaultier) she had no problem with being a provocateur with her clothing, challenging notions of sexuality and pushing societal boundaries of acceptability. She has carried many of these looks through to her fifties with good reason: because she wants to. Her clothes are an aspect of her persona that she draws great strength and power from, and she refuses to dress in a conventional more demure way just because of her age. She is setting a precedent for all women coming after her and she should be encouraged instead of shouted down.