So, fashion icons. History apparently tells there are many and current tabloids tell us that every celebrity is a fashion icon. But then again history is biased and tabloids are full of yellow journalists who are actually failed writers without an iota of inspiration.
Let’s look back through history and time at the fashion “icons” of Hollywood and Bollywood. Sorry scratch that. Just Hollywood. No Bollywood. So before I get down to the nitty-gritty (so un-PC of me) of the iconic Hollywood I want to explain why I think
Bollywood lacks icons.
Bollywood is pretty much a replica. No actor or actress can be deemed iconic. Well dressed? Yes. Well-groomed and turned out? Yes. But iconic? No. Well okay, maybe there are two icons, and only out of the female category; Sushmita Sen and Rekha.
Rekha for her unbelievable gall to wear the sarees and make-up she wears. Dramatic. Ostentatious. Elaborate. And (as much as this kills me to say, gold (she seems to be a huge fan of that colour for some strange reason). She wears striking make-up with striking colours (black eyeliner and red lips) and always a black saree with gold jewellery; her trademark. No one dresses like her and to be frank, she is the only person who can pull that look off because the rest would look a lot scarier. Sushmita Sen is another iconic dresser. Nothing about her clothing is conventional and is usually at the epicentre of fusion but at times leaning more towards the West. The caftans, the worked jeans, the dresses with Indian flavour, the jewellery that finds the middle ground between two distinct cultures—Sush has a style of her own. It’s sleek, sometimes a little bland, but always her brand of fashion. Her make-up tends to work with modern Western trends. Although in her early days her choice of lipstick scared the living daylights out of me as did her fashion, as time has progressed, Sushmita has mastered a very casual, atmospheric look. Though, my only complaint is that she doesn’t experiment much with her make-up.
Now I know all of you are wondering why I haven’t added people like Sridevi, Madhuri, Aishwarya, Rani or Preity. The answer is simple—they are not iconic. They are generic in their own choice. Aishwarya comes out of the ordinary when she goes to Cannes but that is he stylists and not her—after all it’s the brand that is making “their statement on the red carpet”. If they didn’t look different, I couldn’t tell them apart. The sarees, the hairstyles and the make-up involve no expermintation. They just go with the flow. Preity doesn’t do generic Eastern-wear, though. She does generic Western-wear. Nothing she wears makes a statement or is iconic. Kareena Kapoor does deserve a special mention for trying to be different but sadly she always comes out looking worse. She either has too much make-up or bad use of make-up. And Kareena, sweetie, don’t display your arms. Or your midriff or your legs. Actaully, the legs and arms are something all Bollywood’s leading ladies should take note of—if you don’t have the carriage or the toning, don’t do it because you’ll end up looking overweight and bad.
This toned appearance brings me onto Hollywood where being toned is the only way (well that, or anorexic). When it comes to icons, the tabloids have it all wrong. True Hollywood icons exist mostly in the past and very few in the present (and that’s the way it is supposed to be). Audrey Hepburn was on icon. She took classic, tweaked it and made it her own. Who can forget the poised hats, the fitted classic A-line dresses, the up-dos and the gambine cut that no one until Audrey Tautou carried as well. Marilyn Monroe had her style as well. The blonde bombshell which modern contemporaries have copied and failed. The platinum blonde. Blood red lips. The exaggerated lashes. The sexy dresses. The trademark beauty spot. The flamboyant coquette. And an hour glass figure that no one could match. The woman made a man feel like a man. No wonder JFK was so enamoured. Of course, because of that she ended up dying in highly suspicious circumstances. Rita Hayworth defined Hollywood’s sex symbol in Gilda. She mastered the image, used it and found it to be not always the advantage it should have been. She was quoted to have said “Every man I have ever known has fallen in love with Gilda and awakened with me.” But unlike Monroe, Rita’s public persona wasn’t that of a coquette but of an out and out bombshell. These women made bikinis acceptable as well as open sensuality and sexuality. No one does it like they used to.
Jayne Mansfield, Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren (who made being Latin amazing), Ava Gardner (for the sensuous and glamorous evening gowns) and Katherine Hepburn (who made being androgynous very sexy, a mantle which no other celebrity has taken yet) should be noted as well. The list could go on forever but now we look into the present and the somewhat nearer past
Most modern ‘icons’ are cheap imitations of their phenomenal predecessors but there are a few in even this generation that are noteworthy.
Madonna has always been considered a fashion icon—I don’t agree. I think she has the ability to re-invent but I do not believe for one second that the iconic appearance is her own doing. I think she is smart in recognising she needs to change but the fact remains that her entire image is a fairly heinous one. Her popularity is courtesy of people repeating the same damn line again and again. However her heiress, Kylie Minogue definitely has a style of her own. She may change her hair or work with fashion but one thing remains consistent – she is the sexy girl next door. I also happen to like Kate Moss as a fashion icon (irrespective of my personal opinion of her). She made the supermodel shorter and less like an Amazon. She was heroine chic. She was hobo chic. She was grunge chic. She was scruff chic. Her look inspired the likes of Sienna Miller and the current bevy of hobo fashionistas. Liz Hurley qualifies as another fashion icon. She found a look and has stuck to it. She made thigh slight and plunging necklines a little more refined. Though it is old tested and boring, it is something everyone identified as a look Liz Hurley would wear. I think one of the biggest fashion icons of our time is Gwen Stefani. Personally I cannot stand her style. It’s too offbeat and too unconventional and unhinged but she brings it together well and what’s more she is the only who carries it well. The ridiculous leggings, the classic, the sportswear and Japanese fashions fuse to make Gwen Stefani. My favourite fashion icon has to be Salma Hayek who is completely unconventional. She is 5 ft 2 and completely Latina who has made it clear that she has no intentions of working with conventions. She is self-proclaimed overweight and wears clothes that work for her while working with fashion, keeping her roots and defining her own style. Hilary Swank is another favourite of mine—she dresses down the glamour but somehow looks absolutely striking. Not conventionally beautiful and little or no use of make-up, she manages to look fantastic most of the time. It also helps that she is actually talented unlike most of her peers.
The rest of the fashion world are glamazons and tacky knock-offs. Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Scarlett Johansson and the rising ilk are a disappointment and glorified ambulance chasers who will not, in time, be recalled as fashion icons but rather as have-beens. After all the true testament to a fashion icon is time and their legacy.
You might have noticed that there aren’t any men in this article…that would be because there aren’t many male fashion icons in either industry. From Hollywood I think Cary Grant and Clark Cable set standards with their clean cut appearances, James Dean and Marlon Brando created the original bad boys and Johnny Deppy created the standard for the unconventional mismatched appearance. Outside of that, men are generally conventional dressers. Rappers and R’n'B musicians created a fashion trend otherwise known as chavism, something that no one should acknowledge for the fear of further breeding.
So, there you have it, the fashion icons from Bollywood and Hollywood!