The fight for women’s equality began as early as the 19th century. One of the first movements was the National Woman Suffrage which highlights the right for women to vote. This lead to the start of several more brave ladies stepping front. And eventually voicing out and paving the way for women all over the world. In the early 1900’s we saw some powerful activists—First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt who took it upon her to go beyond her duty and voice women‘s issues, Maya Angelou an award-winning African-American novelist and activist to Amelia Earhart the first a female aviator to fly alone across the Atlantic Ocean. Ever since, women continue to inspire over the years, pioneering for causes in all important areas.
With the power to change the world, these fine women influenced the fashion game with their iconic styles as well. When you look up to someone, you invariably tend to be inspired by their way of doing things; including their way of dressing. As a result, ladies all over the world began to emulate the sartorial sense of these powerful women. Their outfits are linked to their personality and become a definition of what they represent.
Countless numbers of fierce females have made their mark regardless of the scale of their contribution. Hence, to pick out only a few was a very difficult task. After much contemplation, I have selected 3 historic women and 3 contemporaries who have had impacts on feminism. And to celebrate them, we have outlined their unique fashion style which makes them stand out even more.
A Mexican artist that created waves in the art world, Frida Kahlo is renowned for her thought-provoking pieces. She made history by being the first-ever Mexican artist to have her self-portrait, The Frame, featured in the Louvre.
Many have mimicked the unusual fashion sense of Kahlo—the unibrow, pink lips, floral ornamented braids and colourful blouses. After going through several health issues, her creativity was expressed via her fashion. To honour her culture, she took onto dressing in Tehuana dresses. The layers of material in the skirt assisted in concealing her limp, while the boxy blouse allowed space for her back brace. Moreover, she was fond of accessorising. She used this to express her political agenda by mixing modern jewellery with heritage pieces.
We also saw Frida style the rebozo scarf, a symbol for Mexican freedom. She would often wear it as part of her braids or around the shoulders, taking away the attention from her body. Frida’s vibrant dressing style made a mark in history and caught the attention of many. Her iconography is a trademark, which till date has a huge impact in the fashion world.
India’s very very own—Indira Gandhi was raised in a political family and became the third Prime Minister of India. She served for over 20 years during the turmoil in the country. Doing so at that time was a rare example of women rising to power.
Ignoring the typical monochromatic colours that American political figures sported, our Prime Minister enjoyed wearing subdued colours and materials that represented India and its style. She was often pictured in traditional saris with elaborate patterns and borders crafted from rich fabrics. Her blouses were conservative, with 3/4th sleeves, modest neckline and a high back. Dressing in sturdy materials and particularly in khadi was worn by her to send a message of power along with the importance of being self-reliant. This was because she wanted to promote the weaving of khadi fabric within the country.
When travelling around the world, Indira Gandhi went for a more modern twist by styling trench coats along with her saris. She was always elegant while at the same time embracing her heritage. As a minimalist, she went for very simple or zero accessories even though she could afford it all. However, a Janata wristwatch on her hand and rudraksha beads necklace was her signature. Perfectly pressed and neatly draped, The Iron Lady of India has a very understated yet sophisticated style that was an expression of the role she played.
One doesn’t need an introduction to the beautiful Princess Diana. Once married to Prince Charles, Diana caused turmoil in the British media by being more than just an ordinary princess. Her dedication to helping the underprivileged, and voicing the voiceless made her have a special place in all our hearts.
Princess Diana changed the fashion game by being ahead of her time. She was functional in her style when required, and sexy in an LBD when the occasion called for it. Even though she flawlessly adapted to the royal dressing, she made some changes that made a huge impact. For instance, the decision to not wear white gloves for official visits and sporting white sneakers with casual attire. During the ’90s her style took off further and we saw her dazzle in elegant designer gowns, and at the same time look smart in trendy casual attire. Princess Diana was not afraid to experiment with different prints and styles which was unusual from royalty at that time. Many of her outfits became signature looks such as the off-the-shoulder revenge dress and Virgin Atlantic sweatshirt in the ’90s.
Elegant, poise, and the true definition of a princess for every girl, Princess Diana was truly a fashion icon that made heads turn in every outfit she wore.
Learn power dressing from former PepsiCo CEO, Indra Nooyi. Ranked in the top 100 most powerful women in the world, she is the perfect example of how hard work leads to success.
Authentic in her style, Indra has highlighted the importance of dressing well in her interviews. Her idealogy is that of how design matters for a product, similarly in a person your overall appearance is important as well. She prefers classic structured outfits such as blazers with a pencil skirt, solid colours and minimal accessories. Furthermore, to add a pop of colour, Nooyi is seen draping a simple scarf around her neck, which is also an ode to her country, India. An allegory of her character, she looks powerful in her signature bob haircut and chic tailored suits.
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I am honored to join the walls of the @smithsoniannpg this year alongside a group of individuals whose ingenuity and tenacity have inspired movements, shaped communities, and built new ways to approach the future. Thank you to the ever talented Jon R. Friedman for painting this portrait. #myNPG
We all have grown up watching The Oprah Winfrey Show. She is the first African-American television host, who then went on to become one of the biggest names in the industry. Oprah has an entire empire that works on aiding women growth along with a leadership academy for girls.
Being around for several years, we have seen Oprah’s sartorial style evolve. Over time she has managed to find the right look to highlight her assets and look fabulous for her many public appearances. Natural or jewel tone colours which compliment her skin shade seem to be a preferred choice. Moreover, to draw focus on her upper half, her outfits have a variety of necklines such as v-necks and wide-necks that flatter her cleavage. We often see Oprah dressed by her favourite designer Vivienne Westwood in well-fitted tailored dresses and waist details such as belts, bows or the peplum style which is more flattering to her body.
The legendary TV host’s fashion sense is an inspiration for curvy women who struggle with their body image and self-esteem.
Amal Clooney is more than just heartthrob George Clooney‘s wife. She is a notable international human rights lawyer and founder of the Clooney Foundation for Justice, which raises awareness for abuse and advocates human rights worldwide.
Amal Clooney might have the unfair advantage of long, slim legs and a gorgeous face to pull of any look. A blend of playful and sophisticated style persona, we see her in a range of outfit varying from denim, jumpsuits to couture dresses. Her choices are more subtle, with not much preference given to loud colours or bold prints. The hues we see on Amal are often solid and are either natural colours or from a darker palette such as navy and burgundy. Additionally, the fitting of her outfits on her slim silhouette is always immaculate, and her choice of accessories, footwear and bags are classy and refined. Conclusively, we can agree that her style quotient is always up to the mark, executing each look with elegance and grace.
Which empowering women’s style do you look up to? Let us know in the comments below.
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