Cass Elliot, or "Mama Cass", a folk singer from the 1960s, portrays a kind of easy, natural beauty. Her effortless, elegant way of dressing should be an inspiration to us all. An original "flower child" or "bohemian", Cass's life met a tragic end due to a heart attack at age 32, but I always loved listening to her sing on The Mamas and the Papas records with my parents when I was little. She's proof that you don't have to be a size 0 to experience the joy of dressing up, or to look amazing in clothes.
Yayoi Kusama, a Japanese installation artist who creates large scale, environmental works is known as much for her art as she is for her eccentric and colorful fashion choices. She continues to live, by choice, in an asylum in Japan as she has since 1977, making her a very unlikely style icon. Her style, it would seem, is an extension of her artwork, which is often characterized by bold color and repetitive, obsessive patterns.
Edith Bouvier Beale, a former model and socialite, was the first cousin to a very well-known style icon, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. However, unlike Jackie, Edith, or "Little Edie" as she came to be known, lived largely in obscurity, isolation, and poverty with her mother in an aging home in East Hampton, New York, as depicted in the Maysels' 1975 documentary, "Grey Gardens." Despite having next to nothing, she was also plagued with alopecia. Yet her creative, inventive and unusual way of dressing have made her somewhat of a cult style icon. She always manages to look elegant, refined, and poised.
Frida Kahlo was a self-taught Mexican painter who led a tumultuous life. A horrific bus accident as a teenager left her almost paralyzed and with health complications that spanned her entire life. Despite being confined to a hospital bed for long periods of time, she managed to paint a stunning body of work, keep a beautiful house filled with artifacts and artwork, and to meticulously costume and dress herself with the utmost care. Her regal headdresses, scarves, wraps, and beautiful long, bold jewelry, traditional dresses and trademark "bold brows", have come to be associated with her persona as much as her stunning self-portraits. Also, Kahlo interestingly dressed androgynously long before it was considered "cool" (this was the 1900-20s!).
|Frida Kahlo (far left) wearing a man's suit for a family photograph.|
Grace Jones is a Jamaican-born singer, fashion model and actress who rose to stardom in the 1970s-80s with her gender-bending, cross-dressing style. Jones is a true original, mixing minimalism, androgyny, and high-end, editorial glamour, but always with her own twist. It's a bold, daring and original look that seems to have influenced and inspired a lot of the pop stars and celebs of today (Lady Gaga, Amber Rose, and Santigold come to mind...)
I find all of these women inspiring because of their unconventional lives and their style choices. They overcame great personal barriers and challenges. They defied conventions and notions of traditional beauty while looking fabulous and strong. They elevated their personal style to an art form. I often wonder if these two ideas go hand-in-hand, that personal struggle or not fitting in, while difficult, creates a space for unbridled self-expression when one overcomes life's obstacles? Staying true to yourself and embracing what may be different about the way you look is a way to have an edge in life, to stand out from the crowd...
It's often these people we remember: the ones who were truly creative and dared to experiment with what they wore, rather than those safe cover models who were stylish by society's standards as well as "conventionally" beautiful.
Thanks for reading...who inspires you? x