1491652358295 - Bjork, Grace Jones, Madonna, Courtney Love, Lady Gaga: Five ground-breaking fashionistas

Bjork, Grace Jones, Madonna, Courtney Love, Lady Gaga: Five ground-breaking fashionistas

Fashion and entertainment have always had a close relationship. We feature five memorable examples from a new book celebrating 100 iconic moments in fashion.


When Icelandic songstress Björk turned up to the 2001 Academy Awards wearing a swan dress by Macedonian designer Marjan Pejoski, it ruffled more than a few red carpet feathers (particularly when the kooky singer pretended to lay eggs on the red carpet as she made her grand entrance).

Pejoski had created the dress for his 2001 Fall/Winter runway collection before Björk chose to wear it on the red carpet. He was inspired by the motion of animals and merry-go-rounds, and used the swan to capture movement and flight at once.

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It was a radical intersection of art and fashion – and while Björk’s appearance at the Oscars was described as a “miss” on the red carpet at the time, the white wrap-around frock was included in the Museum of Modern Art’s retrospective exhibition on Björk’s work in New York in 2015.

It was a fitting dress for Björk, who as an eclectic performer is known to push boundaries with her music as much as her fashion ensembles. The flighty piece is now regarded as an iconic moment in fashion, shifting from fashion disaster to epitome of kooky cool in less than 20 years. What’s more, Valentino designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli reimagined the dress as part of their couture show at Paris Fashion Week in 2014.


Grace Jones is a style icon and provocateur who came to the world’s attention as a model working in New York and Paris in the 70s for the likes of Yves Saint Laurent and Kenzo.

Jones was one of the first models to subvert classic beauty with androgyny, and became a staple at Studio 54 in the 70s.

While the 80s saw the rise of the supermodel and power dressing, Jones preferred to express her fashion voice via androgynous outfits – she was one part dominatrix and two shakes intimidating, wearing her hair cropped and her outfits tight.

Jones signed to Island Records in the mid-70s and chased a music career, becoming a major act in the disco scene of the 80s. Jones’ stage looks often included oversized shoulder pads, masculine silhouettes, a buzz cut with punk spike and tarantula-inspired fur coats.

She’s become the go-to woman for designers, photographers and artists looking for a fearless muse – everyone from Jean-Paul Goude to Azzedine Alaïa has channelled Jones’ ballsy energy. She made Halston hooded scarves cool and always wore Philip Treacy headwear.


Madonna’s iconic cone brassiere was designed by French fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier, who debuted the style in his 1983 runway collection.

The singer first wore the cone bra in her 1990 Blond Ambition tour. The infamous piece of lingerie was inspired by 50s bullet bras and 80s corsetry.

Madonna combined Catholic religious iconography with her sensual bedroom eyes and this saucy number, giving pop a major fashion moment.

The look was risqué for its time – if merely for the way Madonna got people thinking about religion and forbidden sexual desire. This is when underwear became outerwear, when cleavage and corsetry lived in harmony and Madonna was the key figure in bringing the message home.

Gaultier and Madonna forged a friendship that saw the pair continue to collaborate after the Blond Ambition tour, and one of the cone bras eventually sold at a Christie’s auction for US$52,000.


She might have once been married to Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, but Courtney Love put her own stamp on the 90s grunge scene as frontwoman of the band, Hole.

She grew up on punk, and is credited for being the woman behind the “kinderwhore” style, where girls wore ripped lace baby-doll dresses while playing guitar. The point was to encapsulate the irony of looking girly, but rocking like a badass.

The kinderwhore look became iconic in the 90s, and was synonymous with grunge – it included ripped tights, slip lingerie worn as dresses and smeared kohl eyeliner and red lipstick, as well as vintage lace baby-doll dresses and tiaras. It was in your face and put thrift shopping high on the fashion agenda. While Love is more likely to be dressed in international couture houses these days, she still dresses with an element of punk rebellion.


When Lady Gaga turned up to the 2010 MTV Music Video Awards wearing a dress made of raw meat, it made fashion history. The dress was designed by Franc Fernandez and styled by now creative director of Diesel, Nicola Formichetti.

Gaga’s mother famously asked Formichetti what her daughter would be wearing on the night and he cheekily replied, “it’s in the fridge”.

Gaga didn’t anticipate the backlash by PETA activists against the dress, but she claims it wasn’t supposed to offend vegetarians.

The political message tied to the dress stems from Gaga’s stance on the US government’s don’t-ask-don’t-tell military policy; she was urging the US not to discriminate against gay and lesbian men and women who wanted to serve in the army.

The vegan pop star said in an interview that the dress was meant to demonstrate that if we don’t stand up for the issues we believe in, then we’ll end up with as many rights as meat.

The dress was displayed in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011, which paid taxidermist Sergio Vigilato US$6000 dollars to preserve the dress.

Extract from Groundbreaking Fashion: 100 Iconic Moments by Jane Rocca and illustrated by Juliet Sulejmani. Published by Smith Street Books, RRP $35.