30 Black Fashion Icons Who Will Inspire Your Style Game
When we think of fashion icons, we think of women who stand out as trendsetters of their generation. Over the course of a century, we’ve seen some incredible African American women do just that. Not only did they break down racial barriers in areas like music, film and modeling, but they also paved the way for some of our most influential fashion styles today. In honor of Black History Month, we wanted to celebrate 30 stylish African American women who redefined the fashion world.
1. Diana Ross: Like her empowering music and gravity-defying ‘fro, Diana Ross has a style that commands attention. This legendary diva is best known for her sequined ensembles she rocked as head of the Supremes. (Photo via Evening Standard/Getty)
2. Eartha Kitt: Orson Welles referred to the singer-actress as “the most exciting woman in the world,” and her style certainly reflected that. She embodied the Catwoman role that made her famous with her sultry dresses and animal print outfits. (Photo via Keystone/Getty)
3. Josephine Baker: This Jazz Age icon dazzled whether she was draped in diamonds and furs or performing in a bold mini skirt made of bananas. (Photo via General Photographic/Getty )
4. Grace Jones: Grace Jones paved the way for androgynous style as we know it today. Her ’80s style flat top and fierce outfits were an inspiration to artists like Keith Haring and Jean Paul Goude. (Photo via Keystone Features/Getty)
5. Donna Summer: A five-time Grammy winner, Donna Summer was known as the unofficial queen of disco in the ’70s. She oozed sensuality with her high slits, plush furs and sexy sequined numbers. (Photo via Keystone/Getty)
6. Dorothy Dandridge: Known for her signature off-the-shoulder dresses and vivid red lipsticks, Dorothy Dandridge was Old Hollywood personified. Her elegance and natural beauty shone on and off the screen. (Photo via Evening Standard/Getty)
7. Lena Horne: Whether it was her activism or style, Lena Horne always made a statement. She knew exactly how to accentuate her mile-long legs and hourglass figure with body-skimming dresses. (Photo via Hulton Archive/Getty)
8. Naomi Sims: The legendary supermodel helped break down social barriers by becoming the first African American woman to be featured on the cover of Ladies Home Journal in the late ’60s, helping to usher in the “Black is Beautiful” movement. Her incredible successes never tempered her classic, effortlessly chic style. (Photo via LIFE)
9. Diahann Carroll: Award-winning actress Diahann Carroll had such a captivating personality that translated on and off the screen. She became enviable for her refined, feminine style, with her figure-hugging dresses and classic pantsuits. (Photo via NBC Television/Getty)
10. Pam Grier: She was the first African American actress to headline an action film, playing a strong and confident women in Coffy. Pam epitomized ’70s fashion with her high-waisted pants, plunging necklines and platform shoes. (Photo via Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios)
11. Ophelia DeVore: Ophelia not only redefined beauty standards, but she also changed the way women of color were seen in the modeling industry. She always looked stylish, whether she was wearing a swimsuit or a business suit. (Photo via Ophelia DeVore)
12. Iman: This Somali-born model made her debut in Vogue, and ever since then she has inspired the world. Her timeless style won her a Fashion Icon Award in 2010. (Photo via Ishimuro/Vogue)
13. Beverly Johnson: Before Iman strutted down the runway, there was Beverly Johnson, the first black model to ever appear in Vogue. Everything she wore exuded sophistication and glamour. (Photo via Francesco Scavullo /Vogue)
14. Dame Shirley Bassey: With a career spanning over 60 years, the Welsh singer Dame Shirley Bassey has cultivated a style that is as varied as her music. She would perform in gowns covered in gems, and the next day look effortless in a printed silk crop top. (Photo via Getty/John Pratt)
15. Pat Cleveland: A famous ’60s fashion model, Pat Cleveland was associated with big names like Karl Lagerfeld and Oscar de la Renta. She was featured in countless editorials, from Vogue to GQ. Her style was a mix of fashion-forward elegance. (Photo via Irving Penn /Vogue)
16. Carmen de Lavallade: Dance icon Carmen de Lavallade captivated audiences on stage with her innovative movements. Off stage, her graceful style and elegant outfits, created by her husband Geoffrey Holder, inspired many. (Photo via First Run Features)
17. Chaka Khan: No one pushed the boundaries of fashion more in the ’70s than legendary diva Chaka Khan. Her eclectic outfits, from fur bras to fringe suede pants, are as distinctive as her incredible voice. (Photo via Central Press/Getty)
18. Maya Angelou: Maya Angelou was known as a driving force in American society with her powerful writing and activism, not to mention her subtle, sophisticated style. (Photo via Bill Moyers)
19. Erykah Badu: Since the late ’90s, Erykah Badu has rocked a personal style that celebrates nonconformity. Her towering turbans and bohemian street style have made her a fashion icon. (Photo via Jason Merritt/Getty)
20. Billie Holiday: The sultry songstress enchanted audiences with her distinctive jazz music and unique style. From her ornate floral headpieces to the fit-and-flare dresses that accentuated her curves, Billie Holiday stood out from all those around her. (Photo via Hulton Archive/Getty)
21. Lupita Nyong’o: Her onscreen talents have won her incredible movie roles and even an Oscar, but it’s her red carpet style that has made her a fashion icon. Lupita always looks put together and isn’t afraid of standing out in bold-colored ensembles. (Photo via Larry Busacca/Getty)
22. Rihanna: When it comes to Rihanna’s style game, always expect the unexpected. Her outfits run the gamut from glamorous gowns to risqué suits. Everything she wears is sexy, trendsetting and anything but boring. (Photo via Pascal Le Segretain/Getty)
23. Kerry Washington: Kerry Washington is the definition of classic Hollywood glamour. No matter if she’s barking orders as Olivia Pope on Scandal or rocking the red carpet, her impeccable style inspires serious closet envy. (Photo via Joe Scarnici/Getty)
24. Solange: Take one look at Solange’s recent wedding photos, and you’ll see why we had to add her to this list. Her cream Stéphane Rolland jumpsuit is just the sort of unexpected but incredibly fashion-forward choice you’d expect from this stylish tastemaker. (Photo via Andrew H. Walker/Getty)
25. Nicki Minaj: From her days of multi-colored wigs and outrageous outfits to her current understated look, Nikki Minaj never fails to inspire with her ability to pull off just about anything. (Photo via Larry Busacca/Getty)
26. Gabrielle Union: Whether she’s wearing couture on the red carpet or jeans and a blazer on the street, Gabrielle Union has a style that oozes confidence and femininity. (Photo via Jason Merritt/Getty)
27. Tracee Ellis Ross: It is abundantly clear that Tracee inherited more than just her mother’s (see #1) fabulous curls. Her penchant for wearing bold silhouettes or retro pieces, like her mother’s vintage leather trousers, make Tracee’s fashion choices an inspiration to be daring. (Photo via Frazer Harrison/Getty)
28. Michelle Obama: Since she became the First Lady of the United States in 2008, Michelle Obama has advocated for better programs to end childhood obesity and teamed up with Redbook to help female veterans get jobs, all while looking impeccably chic. Her style blends bold elegance and understated garments. (Photo via Michael Loccisano/Getty)
29. TK and Cipriana Quann: These stylish sisters have a flair for mixing vintage finds and have been featured in Vogue, Allure and The Coveteur. TK, who goes by TK Wonder, is a singer/songwriter, while Cipriana is co-founder of the blog Urban Bush Babes. It’s full of beauty advice, fun interviews and sartorial inspiration from the fashionable duo. (Photo via Brad Barket/Getty)
30. Beyoncé: Of course, no style icon list is complete without adding Beyoncé to its ranks. From the outfits she posts on her Instagram to her fierce on-stage costumes and her courtside Nets game attire, Queen Bey never looks anything but ***flawless. (Photo via Elsa/Getty)
Got anyone we should add to our list? Let us know in the comments below!
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