Book Review: 50 Fashion Icons that Changed the World


by Kathy A. Megyeri 

Book: 50 FASHION ICONS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD, The Design Museum (Conran, 2016) 

Fashion is important because it’s used for self-expression, to make a political statement, or simply to attract attention. In this stunning collection compiled by the Design Museum in London, the world’s leading museum devoted to contemporary design in every form from architecture and fashion to graphics, it celebrates the richness and importance of all forms of creativity. Here, 50 trendsetters are profiled because they’ve used fashion to assert their position in the world and become iconic. 

Lauren Cochrane, Assistant Fashion Editor at the Guardian and writer for Vogue and the Financial Times, compiled these stunning photographs and bios of each of the fashion icons including Twiggy, Wallis Simpson, Josephine Baker, Marilyn Monroe, Twiggy, Audrey & Katherine Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Tilda Swinton, Michelle Obama, Queen Victoria, Brigitte Bardot, Diana Vreeland, Courtney Love, Madonna, Amy Winehouse, Grace Jones – who graces the book’s cover – and others. All have a flair for fashion and a sense of style that is admirable.  

And of course, Princess Diana, the Princess of Wales, is credited with bringing about hair bands, ruffled white shirts, and loafers to the masses following her engagement to Prince Charles on Feb., 1981, but her title “The People’s Princess” showed that her influence on the clothes worn by the general public extended beyond one look. Her ivory silk wedding dress that she wore to marry Prince Charles on July of 1981 with its 25-foot train and puff sleeves dominated bridal trends for a decade, and the midnight-blue gown she wore to dance with John Travolta at the White House in 1985 was sold at auction for $240,000. Even when she separated from Prince Charles in 1992, she wore an off-the-shoulder black design called “the revenge dress” to an event the night after the Prince admitted his infidelity to the media in 1994 which demonstrated that she knew the power of fashion. 

And no collection would be complete without Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue and editorial director of Conde Nast who’s known as the most powerful woman in fashion. Since 1988 and with an uncanny attention to detail, foresight and ability to make the right decision quickly, her personal formula consists of shift dresses, bright colors, strappy mules, a bob haircut and her large dark sunglasses as she sits in the front row of most fashion shows. She’s also become a full-fledged brand with her own image on ornaments, handbags, phone cases and t-shirts. In addition to showcasing these fashion mavens, this book hopes to motivate us to follow the lead of these icons, to wear something different and develop our own sense of style.