Atypical Fashion Icons

Janet Gao
3 min readMar 8, 2022
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Feeling like a lot of the popular faces of fashions are more or less the same right now? Indeed, the individuals at the forefront of the fashion industry are notoriously homogenous. Perhaps the first women that come to mind when thinking of style icons from the past are Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor. While these women are all brilliant, the ‘out of the box’ style icons cannot be forgotten. There are certain stars whose remarkable styling choices have broken through the mold to represent those who fall outside the provincial standards of beauty, becoming unconventional fashion icons. To name a few:

Young Thug- There’s no denial that Young Thug is in a fashion lane of his own. Whether he is rocking edgy sunglasses, donning the latest kicks, or posing in a tutu and silk robe, Young Thug never fails to push boundaries with his personal style. Certainly, on his latest hip hop album cover, he is pictured in a floor-long ruffled blue dress, a stark contrast from the stereotypical masculinity of the standard hip-hop album cover. He also starred alongside mainstream fashion giants like Kendall Jenner and Justin Bieber in the #MyCalvins campaign, staying true to his noteworthy gender-bending style by sporting women’s clothes in the ads. As a proponent of fearless self-expression, Thug once said, “In my world, you can be a gangsta with a dress or you can be a gangsta with baggy pants.”

Helena Bonham Carter- With her bird’s nest hair, mismatched shoes, and gothic dresses, Helena Bonham Carter’s dress flair divides critics. While some admire her eccentric style, her penchant for Union Jack-garters and lopsided outfits on the red carpet has earned her a place on more than several ‘worst dressed’ lists. However, she has never once apologized for what she chooses to wear. In her own words, ‘Sometimes I get it wrong. But fashion is all about having fun.’

Tilda Swinton- Gazing into cameras with ice blue eyes and frost-blonde hair, Tilda Swinton can make almost every outfit look chic. It is no wonder that Chanel desires to put her in ads and film directors give her roles with elaborate costumes (e.g. her roles in Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel and Moonrise Kingdom.) Often described as a chameleon, her ability to swing between glitzy, androgynous, and utterly otherworldly is captivating. She is stunning and alien-esque, and not like any verified descriptive word. It makes her somewhat of a wild card in most of her acting roles because of who she can embody; she is bewildering, but ultimately irreplaceable.

Frida Kahlo- When thinking of Frida Kahlo, one thinks of art or feminism. Lesser thought of is Frida as an inspiration in the world of fashion. As a half-indigenous woman, what made Frida an immortal albeit atypical fashion icon is not only her work, but also her personality and her life. Frida championed a cause against the convictions and homogeneity of the system. She flaunted her bold eyebrows and mustache because she wanted to create a positive image of beauty, an inadvertent pioneer of branding. In contrast to the vulnerability she expressed through her artwork, her personal style blended a touch of daring with flourishing self-esteem. According to Frida, fashion was the art of being, not simply a feature of outer appearance. For her, it was fine for women to be striking, strong, and ambitious, not just beautiful. Full of color and life, her wardrobe was a palette of cobalt blue, punchy pink, and fiery orange. Her unique ensemble often included elements of her cultural heritage including pre-Columbian jewelry and Tehuantepec dresses, as well as an abundance of ornate jewelry, hair accessories, and popping patterns. Kahlo also continues to inspire editorial fashion shoots and designers around the world, including the likes of John Galliano, Dolce & Gabbana, Christian Lacroix, and Moschino.

The people highlighted are simply several faces of many who have shattered convention and are fixing fashion’s diversity problem. Rather than being dismissed as an anomaly, emphasizing their unique characteristics and unusual style brings forward a culture of acceptance; it forces people to question the status quo. With all the Jenners in the world, it is the Kahlos and the Carters and the Young Thugs who push the envelope to evolve fashion. They are the ones breaking barriers and entering new ground, expanding the frontiers of what a fashion icon can be.