Iconic Female Fashion Designers

7 years ago

My last post on the DvF wrap dress has inspired me to dig deeper on other iconic women designers, women who have cultivated a specific look, one that we have come to associate with their name. Think Coco Chanel and the little black dress. I believe that a big reason the dress has been so popular with women is that it was designed by a woman -- after all, who better to design for us than one of our own?

Women have created some of the most iconic outfits in fashion history and the stories of how they were borne out of necessity are fascinating. Most of these designers were privileged women who had the means to buy whatever they wanted but who, instead of settling on what was available to them, went out and made clothes that worked for them. Not surprisingly, their designs are simple, practical, and beloved to this day.


Lilly Pulitzer's bright cotton shift dresses are the summer uniform of American socialites -- so it's not surprising that the dress was designed in Palm Beach and that Lilly herself was a socialite who married the grandson of publisher Peter Pulitzer. What may surprise you is that she came up with the dress while working at a juice stand where she squeezed oranges (from her husband's groves, sure, but still) and got tired of walking around in stained clothes. So she asked her dressmaker to make a shift dress out of brightly printed cotton to hide the stains. Practical!


Mention Vera Wang and one thing comes to mind: Tasteful, modern and (typically) strapless wedding dresses. It will come as no surprise that Vera got into wedding gown design when she was planning her own wedding. After a career at Vogue and Ralph Lauren (as well as her background as a figure skater) the princessy poufy-sleeved Princess Diana knockoffs that had dominated wedding dress design (and I'm using the term "design" generously here) just wouldn't do. So she created a simple gown and made the wedding dress forever chic.


Donna Karan's Seven Easy Pieces collection inspired women to simplify and maximize their wardrobes by using complementary separates -- it made her a hero to busy working mothers, which is fitting because she was one of them when she came up with her first collection. She tells The Guardian:

It all started with me getting dressed. I was working; I was a mother; there was so much going on in my life that I wanted to simplify so I could get on with what really mattered. And that led to interchangeable clothing that would pack and travel and go from day to night, which I called the 'seven easy pieces', although my late husband Stephan used to call it the seven easy trunks, it grew so big!

Interchangeable clothing is a hallmark of her designs to this day.

These women created empires instead of standing in their closets complaining of having nothing to wear. Pretty inspiring, don't you think?

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