Fashion Opinion

Your Comprehensive Guide to Timeless Queer Fashion Icons

Queer fashion icons sport unconventional, idiosyncratic and sometimes bizarre costumes, a mix of childlike playfulness and unbridled intelligence.

Delving into the world of fashion and style is always a thrill, especially when exploring this world through people you can call your own. The queer community has forever been a safe space for expressing one’s self through the concepts of fashion, style, and clothing. We have, therefore, many a queer icon whose style throughout the years has been consistently influential.

However, before we dive into the mystic waters of tones, tastes and trends, and swim among the schools of idols, icons and celebrities, we must first ask ourselves what it means to be fashionable and also what it means to be timeless? And how have these two ideas come together in perfect harmony over the years to birth some of the most ireverent queer fashion icons of all time. 

Well, to be timeless, one simply ought not be governed or restricted by the concept of time, nor the themes of love, solitude, joy or nature; but rather to remain quintessentially themself and in doing so, claim an essence of all. To be timeless, one is often described as having no end or no beginning; Madonna quote unintentional, though accidentally relevant. To be timeless is to be ageless or eternal and to maintain some reverence over the years. Most importantly to be timeless, one must be just as great now as they were then. 

And well, to be fashionable, one simply has to have confidence. Conduct yourself with an air of assurance and certainty and you can pull off pretty much anything… though a little charisma doesn’t go a miss either.

Let’s take a look at some of the most iconic queer icons and their timeless fashion shall we?

David Bowie

Photograph: Terry O’Neill at Hulton Archive 1974

The gender-defying rock god that is David Bowie truly paved the way for modern androgyny. Not only merging the lines between the ideas of masculine and feminine, but also the ideas of what is fashion and what is art, Bowie’s style was reverent, provocative, and truly never the same.

His impact on not only the fashion scene but the queer community at large was undeniable as his bold get-ups, tight jumpsuits, and dramatic makeup all worked together to give him an almost otherworldly quality.

With his iconic silhouettes and unwavering confidence he was a pioneer of modern fashion and the poster child for expressing oneself through style.

Prince

Photograph: Jeff Katz/The Prince Estate

It’s not often that an artist has such an impact that people associate them with a specific colour. Through his music, his acting and his personality, Prince was and will remain to be undeniably so iconic; an idea which only continued throughout his fashion sense.

Over the years Prince turned out some phenomenal looks. From clean cut, simplistic suits, to extreme ruffles on white open shirts and always with bold prints and loud colours. Never afraid to shy away from accessories his ensembles skated the line between masculine and feminine so effortlessly and were always beautifully tailored.

Managing to combine all of his style inspirations so seamlessly, Prince truly paved the way for modern fashion. Whether that be taking from different time periods, (with dramatic Edwardian frills paired with brightly coloured lycra), or different genders (with thigh-high heeled boots and high-waisted trousers), Prince brought everything together into his own time period and identity, arguably portraying a somewhat futuristic image. This is undoubtedly why his style is still so relevant today. If one isn’t synonymous with a specific time, it ultimately fits them all.

Prince knew that with a great fashion sense comes great power and he truly commanded an upper echelon of groove.

Marlene Dietrich

Photograph: Getty Images

Oh, Marlene. One of Hollywood’s first queer fashion icons and powerhouses when it comes to fashion. Often choosing to dress only in men’s clothing (having been quoted saying that if it were up to her, she would wear men’s jeans all the time), she truly paved the way for modern ambiguity when it comes to gender in fashion. 

Her classic black and white suit is not only the epitome of timelessness but also encapsulates androgyny with a quintessential queerness. Adding a little spice with her trademark top hat and harsh eyebrows, her cigarette wasn’t the only thing that was smoking.

Freddie Mercury

George Wilkes/Hulton Archive – Getty

With the 80s being the birthplace of classic rock, Freddie Mercury undoubtedly served up some bold and badass outfits. From strong prints, vivid colours and tight suits of all textures, Freddie’s wild ensembles had an experimental air about them and pedalled fashion forward into a new age.

Freddie combined creative art pieces which pushed the boundaries of gender through an inherent queerness, with a hyper masculine stage presence and classic jeans and tank top combo. Arguably, the most timeless aspect of Freddie was his charisma, which he undoubtedly channelled into his fashion. 

Stevie Nicks

Getty Images

With a penchant for floaty silhouettes, tassels, shawls and flares, Stevie Nicks epitomises free spirited and whimsical style. Often referred to as the queen of the witches, there has always been something ethereal and magical about Stevie. She holds a fantastical sense of the supernatural, which is itself, a timeless concept. Combining such mythical ideas with fashion by means of free flowing fringes, psychedelic prints and bell sleeves gives Stevie an unmistakable image; which has been and will continue to be recreated by many over the years.

She also incorporates a lot of denim into her outfits which is arguably the most timeless fabric there is… and let’s not forget about the top hat.

Grace Jones

Grace Before Jones: Camera, Disco, Studio 

The idea of power is arguably one of the most timeless concepts there is and power in fashion is something the iconic Grace Jones knows a lot about. With sharp lines and bold silhouettes, Grace is loud and fierce. Her striking appearances show both intelligence and vision as she often merges the boundaries between art and fashion. Grace’s often rather masculine looks manifest an ageless authority, commanding a dominance from her style, with seeming effortlessness. Her fearless androgyny and unwavering confidence work harmoniously together, as she conducts her ensembles with something so quintessentially Grace.

Liza Minelli

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Is there anything more timeless and irreverent than the theatre? With dramatic costumes and loud makeup choices, the theatre has and will continue to define amaranthine and extraordinary style. It is no wonder, therefore, that such a place birthed the legendary Liza Minelli… not to mention glitz and glamour.

With the launch of Caberet in 1972, Liza’s bold make-up and iconic black bob soon became her signature style, creating a cultural wave of copycat fashion which is still parroted today.

Elton John

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Arguably one of the most legendary queer fashion icons of all time, Sir Elton John’s career has been peppered with colourful and outlandish ensembles, both on and off stage. Throughout the years we have seen him sport absurd, eccentric and unpredictable costumes both professionally and socially. 

With large shoulder pads and tight pantsuits, Elton dominated the 80s with unapologetic confidence and power. Possibly the most timeless part of Sir Elton’s fashion sense is his ability to make sunglasses his brand. By manipulating one consistent fashionable object into his style to become so quintessentially him, Sir Elton has so brilliantly manufactured himself as a timeless icon.

Lady Gaga

Getty Images – Met Gala 2019

Being timeless doesn’t necessarily mean one has to have been around for decades. It can mean ever-changing, to be relevant you have to alter and fit with the times, constructing bold new creations and ever-evolving ideas. One shining example of a star who is consistent in altering her looks is Lady Gaga. Arguably the biggest queer icon of our generation, Gaga has taken inspiration from times gone by as well as other fashion icons such as Bowie and Elton John.

With wacky ensembles (ranging in levels of practicality) both on and off stage, Gaga has pushed boundaries not only in the fashion scene, but within society as well. Creating stirs, fighting for justices and breaking taboos with fashion are all something that Gaga has become familiar with, along with making political statements. These ideologies are consistently important and her ability to resonate with society through use of fashion is astounding.

Over the years we have seen her sport unconventional, idiosyncratic and quite frankly bizarre costumes, whose mix of childlike playfulness and striking intelligence work to pedal her visions of provocations, all whilst remaining completely unpredictable. A walking hybrid of art, fashion and society, Gaga’s impact on both the fashion scene and the queer community is indisputable.

Some other, more modern, timeless queer icons include:

Janelle Monae

Getty Images

One of the most invigorating aspects of Janelle Monáe’s style is that it’s so specifically her. Her ability to flick between stylistic genres with ease and her range of styles is exquisite. Whilst trademarking herself when she first came onto the scene with crisp black and white suits, slick hairstyles and bow ties, recent times have seen her sport more bold and innovative designs, which often serve as optical illusions.

Janelle conducts herself with a combinatination of modern sophistication and edge whilst still having many of her styles rooted in times gone by. Each look being as immaculate as the last, Janelle Monae is unafraid to explore the ever expanding boundaries of artistic opportunity within fashion, thus creating a constant stream of ever fresh and ever evolving outfits, both creatively and professionally. 

Sarah Paulson

Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for IMDb

A familiar face to many a queer, Sarah Paulson is not only a highly talented actor but undoubtedly a modern queer icon, both on and off-screen. Her style is a combination of slick and sophisticated as well as unconventional, peculiar, and kitsch, and her ability to switch so effectively between typically ‘masculine’ and typically ‘feminine’ designs is truly a gift.

With a penchant for the playful and not being afraid to step out of her comfort zone, Sarah always brings a sense of fun to her fashion. This delightful playfulness in unison with elegance gives Sarah’s ensembles an undeniable quintessential timelessness.

Indya Moore

George Chinsee / WWD

As if being named one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People in the World this year wasn’t enough, non binary actor, Indya Moore only seeks to extend their influence to the fashion scene every time they step out for an event. With each ensemble as grandiose and intricate as the last, Indya brings an unpredictability to their style which keeps fashion critics and fans alike on their toes. 

Constantly changing, Indya Moore can only be described as a true shapeshifter, with silhouettes to die for. From clean-cut suits with nothing underneath to high fashion gowns, Indya’s style defies era with an eclectic mix of revealing and traditional numbers

Despite being one of Hollywood’s newest faces, they already carry with them a sense of grace and decorum; a polished presence with the potential to grow into a timeless queer fashion icon.

Laverne Cox

Danielle Levitt/The Observer

Laverne Cox is the definition of elegance and undoubtedly amongst the most prominent queer fashion icons. Every single one of her red carpet ensembles is not only exquisitely put together but bewitchingly divine and serves to enhance her effortless beauty by adding to her sense of timeless grace.

Combining the idea of eternality in fashion with poise, class and sophistication, Laverne’s signature style can be seen in her eye catching, colorful gowns and sleek hair, which radiate powerful feminine energy.

Laverne also often uses her fashion to make comments on political affairs. Though statements may change to fit the situation, this is definitely a concept that is inherently timeless.

Billy Porter

George Pimentel/ Getty Images

Gender? Who is She? He? They? Billy Porter defies all gender restrictions when it comes to fashion and truly is the moment. Highly talented actor Billy’s brilliance and eye for the obscure does not end with the pretence of playing other people. Whilst Billy goes by he/him pronouns, his self expression is non conformist and his masculinity pokes fun at stereotypical ideologies of what “is and isn’t” male.

His style is both whimsical and powerful, often combining long flowing skirts of lace and tulle to a strong suit jacket. Billy’s sense of timelessness in fashion is arguably derived from his liberal blend of both the typically ‘masculine’ and typically ‘feminine’. Billy is known for creating phenomenally sophisticated and detailed suit-gown hybrids which are very recognisable and so quintessentially him. 

Never one to shy away from a bold fashion moment, Billy’s labyrinthine creations and unapologetic appearances are what make him so magnificently timeless, both as one of the foremost queer fashion icons and as a personality.

Honourable mentions include:

Raveena; bisexual Indian-American singer whose range of floaty silhouettes in bright colours give her a dreamy beauty which radiates reverence.

Cate Blanchett; the modern woman who invented women wearing power suits. No but really, not only does she have an impeccable collection of such, the Aussie can also shape shift effortlessly between masculine and feminie style.

Zendaya; an actress unafraid of making bold decisions when it comes to fashion. Her duality is truly wonderful and I for one can never wait to see just what she has in store for us each time she steps out. Whether it’s a beautiful, typically feminine gown or a sharp cut suit complete with monochrome tie.

Got a favourite queer fashion icon not on this list? Let us know by getting in touch, here!

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