Elle named the Top 25 Fashion Icons in the music industry. They're not all about the music and the high notes, darling.
Undoubtedly one of the greatest style icons of the 1980s, Scottish Eurythmics frontwoman Annie Lennox brought her vampy flair to menswear—or was it the other way around?—with plaid men’s suits, studded leather jackets, and a pop of neon eye shadow.
Beyoncé often steps onto the red carpet in dresses by Cavalli, Armani, or her other favorite designer, her mother, Tina Knowles. But we’ve got to hand it to the girl: She’s still full of surprises. In 2008, she made waves at the MTV Europe Awards when she ditched her usual finery for an edgy, avant-garde dress by Gareth Pugh.
She and her fellow Supremes were instant fashion icons in the ’60s with their thick eyeliner and perfectly fluffed bobs. And after she embarked on her solo career, Ross continued to define Motown glamor with sparkling dresses, lavish gowns, and a diva-size devotion to fashion. During her stint as host of the American Music Awards in 1986 and 1987, she changed her outfit at every commercial break.
Legend has it that in 1967, then-Vogue editor Diana Vreeland discovered Cher backstage at a party for Jacqueline Kennedy. By Cher’s account, Vreeland marched over to her, planted her palm on Cher’s head, and said, “My dear, you have a pointed head! You’re absolutely beautiful!” This was Cher’s baptism into the fashion world. While she and Sonny Bono spearheaded hippie fashion with bell-bottoms, bandanas, and Cherokee-inspired tunics, it was famed photographer Richard Avedon who soon transformed her into the glam icon we know today, later immortalizing her in a beaded and feathered nude gown for the cover ofTime magazine in 1975.
She may have been Jenny from the Block, but now she’s the block’s answer to Grace Kelly. J.Lo’s come to embody Hollywood glamor so ideally that she might as well be the official ambassador of the red carpet. From her plunging Versace décolleté to her love affair with Cavalli, she pulls out all the stops.
She’s had as many different style overhauls as Liza’s had husbands. First there was the thrift-store wardrobe she wore in 1985’sDesperately Seeking Susan. Then there was Jean Paul Gaultier’s gold bustier on the ’90s Blonde Ambition tour, which led to years of wearing underwear as outerwear. The new century welcomed a newly polished and demure Madonna, who looked more content drinking Earl Grey in the countryside than writhing around like a virgin. That phase was followed by Hung Up’s disco dancer, who ditched the tweed for a purple leotard, and then Hard Candy’s tough and tumble glamazon. What the Material Girl’s next transformation will be, we have no idea, but we can’t wait to see.
After Cher retired her wigs, and before Lady Gaga put on her bedazzled Hannibal Lector mask, there was Kylie Minogue. Her concerts have always been spectacles—full of drag-inspired showgirl costumes and an ever-rotating phalanx of helmeted, leather-clad man. Yet on the red carpet, she’s consistently glamorous and feminine.
Björk’s style is as surreal and eclectic as her music. With the feather headdresses, Fruit Loop–color ponchos, and the infamous swan dress, she’s more magical pixie than person. And that’s the way we like her!
CHERIE CURRIE AND JOAN JETT
Years before Madonna donned her now-famous cone bra on her Blond Ambition tour, the Runaways star Cherie Currie was rocking out onstage in head-to-toe lingerie—garter belts and all!—while her bandmate Joan Jett was decked out in black, from her dyed mop top and raccoon eyes down to her leather boots. But it’s the bright red jumpsuit Jett wore onstage during the Runaways’ 1977 tour of Japan that’s still burned in our retinas.
Throughout the ’90s, Courtney Love was known for her ripped stockings, torn baby-doll dresses, and skintight velvet minis—a look she once described to Vanity Fair as the "Kinder-whore look." But after her big screen debut in 1997’s The People vs. Larry Flynt, she went from grunge to glam with the help of stylist Arianne Phillips, stepping onto the Oscar red carpet in a white silk Versace gown. Later that year, she appeared in Versace again—this time, in their 1998 campaign.
Debbie Harry’s cool rock-chick look was often poached, but imitators were always one step behind—Blondie’s frontwoman didn’t stick to one outfit for long; at one show she’d wear an oversize man’s tee with leggings, and at another a strapless, figure-hugging jumpsuit. She could go from mod to punk to glamor all before breakfast, never missing a beat—or losing her edge.
As pop’s new guard becomes more red-carpet-ready, Elly Jackson of the British electro-pop duo La Roux stands out for taking her style cues from Annie Lennox and Grace Jones and turning away dresses and gowns in favor of fitted blazers, skinny jeans, and patent Gucci loafers. Extra points for somehow making the Bob’s Big Boy 'do sexy.
The Jamaican-born disco maven and Warhol muse alternated between revealing outfits like this black cutaway dress and angular suits whose mile-high shoulder pads defined the ’80s and paved the way for gender-bending fashion. On top of all that, her flattop haircut was “the Rachel” for a generation of hip young black men.
She’s come a long way from the bedazzled crop tops and cargo pants she sported as the pigtailed face of our favorite ’90s ska-turned-rock band No Doubt. In fact, Gwen Stefani’s become a fashion powerhouse. Her signature mash-up of modern glamour and vintage pin-up has not only made her a style icon, but it inspired her fashion line, L.A.M.B. The collection’s still going strong after five seasons and proving that sometimes pop stars don’t just flirt with fashion—they fall in love.
She may have softened her sound since the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ debut,Fever to Tell, but Karen O’s stage outfits are as loud as ever, with an always-adventurous combination of the bright, the sexy, and, well, a dash of bizarre.
LADY MISS KIER
The creative vision behind the ’90s house band Deee-lite, Kierin Magenta Kirby—or Lady Miss Kier—designed all the band’s outrageous outfits by taking the ’60s and blowing them up. Her signature catsuit and platforms caught designer Thierry Mugler’s eye, and he invited her to walk in his spring 1991 show.
As bold as she is in her brash and wildly danceable hip-hop, M.I.A.’s wardrobe explosion of neon, metallic, and bright African prints have turned into hipster staples. And last year her penchant for animal prints took a more literal turn with this sequined Jean Charles de Castelbajac catsuit.
Lady Gaga is unmistakably fashion’s newest and most fervent provocateur, and her fashion statements are too numerous and mind-boggling to count. The hair bow! The bubble dress! No pants! Too many masks to count! We could never wear her outfits to, say, work, but that won’t stop us from scrolling through the latest feast of Gaga ensembles on our lunch break.
Arguably the world’s most famous female rapper, Missy Elliott lives, breathes, and wears hip-hop. From her caps to her custom-made sneakers—and all the bling in between—she embodies the most classic elements of urban streetwear. And in 2004, she finally staked a claim in the fashion industry with a line of shoes for Adidas called Respect M.E., to which we say, “Yes, ma’am!”
She’s not just the first lady of punk, but Patti Smith can also lay claim to making boyfriend fashion popular in the ’70s. (Are you there, Annie Hall? It’s me, Patti.) When Smith was living with Robert Mapplethorpe in New York City’s Chelsea Hotel, she would borrow his shirts and blazers. The look stuck when he shot her now-iconic Horses album cover, with Smith wearing a man’s oxford shirt, with a jacket slung over her shoulder. Her style inspires her close friend Ann Demeulemeester, the Belgian designer who now calls Smith her soul mate.
From a sweet Barbadian beach girl to a front-row fashion show staple, Rihanna has made a startlingly fast ascent into pop’s fashion elite. Since then, she’s been the face of Gucci, worn Yves Saint-Laurent and Jean-Paul Gaultier, and appeared at the Grammys in white Elie Saab couture.
THE SPICE GIRLS
You may blush at the thought, but at some point, every girl cribbed from the Spice Girls’ all-you-can-eat style buffet. The Union Jack! The leopard print! And the sparkles—oh, the sparkles! No one better embodied the fun, tacky, and—okay, often regrettable—audacity of the ’90s.
If ever there was a woman who knew how to show off her legs—damn, girl!—it was Tina Turner. If she wasn’t high-kicking in a sequined flapper dress, she was strutting in a jean jacket and leather mini. Even after 50 years in the industry, the leggy Queen of Rock ’n’ Roll still doesn’t just wear a skirt—she wears it out.
The quintessential beatnik, Yoko Ono hasn’t changed much about her style since the ’60s. Except for the occasional Spy vs. Spy–esque switch from all-black to all-white ensembles, she’s kept the dark, bespectacled look that’s defined our notion of the artiste to this day. Love her or hate her, the gal’s consistent!
The lead singer of the Gossip proves that you don’t have to be reed-thin to pull off wild accessories, bold prints, and even—gasp!—horizontal stripes.