March is Women's History Month, a time when we celebrate the ladies who have changed the world through innovation, creativity, hard work, and determination. There are countless women who have made an impact on the world through fashion, and the same is true here in America. Our country has a particular aesthetic, a sporty optimism and dash of daring that comes across in everything we wear. Here are eight women we can thank for inspiring us to dress the way we do:
Claire McCardell Known as the creator of the "American look," she designed functional, affordable, and stylish women's sportswear within the constraints of mass-production. It was our first rejection of the formality of French couture and it essentially put American sportswear on the map.
Edith Head The most legendary costume designer in movie history, she set the pace when it came to glamour and style, dressing such legendary stars as Elizabeth Taylor, Ginger Rogers, Audrey Hepburn, Bette Davis, and Grace Kelly. Head was nominated for 35 Academy Awards and won eight times, more than any other woman in history.
Anne Klein One of the most famous pioneers of American apparel, she founded her own namesake company in the late 1960s, changing the way career women dressed for the workplace. Klein won countless awards from the industry and retailers alike.
Donna Karan A protégé of the late Anne Klein, she was promoted to co-design for the label when Klein passed away in 1974 and led the company to paramount success with her design partner, Louis Dell'Ollio. She went on to create her own line based on her "seven easy pieces" that every woman needs in her wardrobe. Known for her feminine and body-friendly designs, Karan's empire continues to influence fashion today.
Liz Claiborne Belgian born but American made, this legendary fashion powerhouse led her namesake company to incredible success in the 1980s. With a head for business as well as fashion, her company, Liz Claiborne, Inc., became the first company led by a woman to make the Fortune 500.
Gloria Vanderbilt An American heiress and artist, she became a pioneer in fashion by starting the designer jeans craze. Gloria Vanderbilt jeans had a tighter fit than others in the industry and caused a sensation when they hit shelves in the 1970s, kicking off a trend that holds true today.
Diane Von Furstenberg This Belgian-American designer is best known for the figure-friendly creation she designed and launched in the 1970s: the wrap dress. Millions of women are forever in her debt and von Furstenberg's fashion empire shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
Liz Lange A pioneer in her own right, Lange creates designer wear for pregnant women. Told by stores that women wouldn't pay for high-end maternity wear, she forged ahead and became a sensation in 1997 when her company exploded on the market. Celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Sarah Jessica Parker put the designer on the map and her success continues today.
Can a passion for fashion make someone a legend? It certainly happened for these eight women, and somewhere out there is another genius in the making. For forging a trail for others to follow, we salute these ladies and their contribution to history. They and their legacies are most certainly Character Approved.
[Images: Liz Lange, Inc., DVF, Inc., Francesco Scavullo, Liz Claiborne, Inc., Getty Images, BusinessWeek, American Film Archives, Fashion Archives]
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