Words of Wisdom: Fashion Quotes from Famous Trendsetters
by Hilary Braaksma
Fashion may be fleeting, but style is an enduring characteristic embodied by people of all time periods and lifestyles. We’ve rounded up some of the most iconic fashion quotes and style advice from designers, photographers, journalists, celebrities, and all-around trendsetters. Let our collection of timeless fashion quotes and words of wisdom from famous style icons inspire you.
“A woman is never sexier than when she is comfortable in her own clothes.” – Vera Wang
American fashion designer Vera Wang is pretty much an expert on sexy, so we’re going to take this advice to heart. A girl who’s happy and comfortable in a pair of sneakers will always look better than a girl trying desperately not to topple over in a pair of sky-high heels.
“Happy girls are the prettiest girls.” – Audrey Hepburn
If you don’t want to take style advice from English actress and humanitarian Audrey Hepburn, there’s no point in looking for advice at all. Of all the fashion quotes or beauty mantras in the world, this rings the truest. Everything looks better with a smile.
“As far as I’m concerned, leopard is a neutral.” – Jenna Lyons
Jenna Lyons, creative director and president of J. Crew, has my vote of confidence when it comes to classic, all-American style. If the lady says leopard is a neutral, leopard is a neutral. Zebra print? That’s another story.
“A woman is closest to being naked when she is well-dressed.” – Coco Chanel
The iconic French fashion designer hit the nail on the head with this statement: It’s not that you should be wearing less; you should just be dressing better. Being well dressed means having the luxury and comfort of feeling naked while fully clothed, and Chanel tailored her designs to do just that.
“When a woman says, ‘I have nothing to wear!’ what she really means is, ‘There’s nothing here for who I’m supposed to be today.” – Caitlin Moran
Next time you’re flipping through a closet full of clothes and feeling hopeless, remember the words of English broadcaster and columnist Caitlin Moran. Stop wondering why you don’t feel passionate about the hundreds of garments you already own, and just be thankful that you wear so many hats that your wardrobe can’t keep up.
“Today everybody can look chic in inexpensive clothes (the rich buy them too)…. You can be the chicest thing in the world in a T-shirt and jeans. It’s up to you.” –Karl Lagerfeld
Karl Lagerfeld is a German-born fashion designer, probably most famous for his role as creative director for the fashion houses Chanel and Fendi. Although his designs are upscale, Lagerfeld insists money isn’t the secret to style. Choose well-made, flattering clothing within your budget, and wear it with confidence.
Full quote: “Never use the word ‘cheap.’ Today everybody can look chic in inexpensive clothes (the rich buy them too). There is good clothing design on every level today. You can be the chicest thing in the world in a T-shirt and jeans. It’s up to you.”
“Fashion is the armor to survive everyday life.” – Bill Cunningham
American fashion photographer Bill Cunningham is such an inspiration. Who doesn’t love feeling like a warrior? More than protecting us from the elements, fashion protects our ego, hides our flaws, and helps us love our bodies.
“I like being a woman, even in a man’s world. After all, men can’t wear dresses, but we can wear the pants.” – Whitney Houston
Singer Whitney Houston knew a little-acknowledged truth about gender stereotypes: Even in a world that seems dominated by males, females have access to an androgynous style that men just don’t have. May your life and your work be as flexible and powerful as your mix of menswear and mini skirts.
“Whoever said that money can’t buy happiness simply didn’t know where to go shopping.” – Bo Derek
If retail therapy is good enough for iconic American actress Bo Derek, it’s good enough for us! A new handbag will never dump you, insult you, or make a mess for you to clean up: It will just love you unconditionally. Note, we said “unconditionally,” not “unconditioned.” Please invest in the proper leather care.
“If you can’t be better than your competition, just dress better.” – Anna Wintour
English-born American Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour probably knows a thing or two about competition. You can’t choose the talents, the looks, or the opportunities you’re born with, but you can choose what to wear.
“Trendy is the last stage before tacky.” – Karl Lagerfeld
Karl Lagerfeld is a wealth of wisdom on style, and this fashion quote is no exception. Don’t be afraid to try new things, but please, please remember that trends are so fleeting. If you need this put into perspective, consider this: No matter how many times Kim Kardashian is invited to the Met Gala now, those pictures of her in Juicy Couture velour track suits exist on the Internet forever. Honestly, it probably haunts her more than the whole Ray J. thing.
“Style is primarily a matter of instinct.” – Bill Blass
If you remember only one thing, let it be the words of American fashion designer Bill Blass. Style is something that can’t be faked, and only you know what works for you. Trust your instinct. Rarely has true personal style come from taking somebody else’s advice.
“I always find beauty in things that are odd and imperfect—they are much more interesting.” – Marc Jacobs
Marc Jacobs is a gorgeous man with beautiful designs, so it’s refreshing to know even he can find inspiration in something less than perfect. Perfection is boring, anyway—your quirks and “problem areas” are part of what define you. Embracing your imperfections is the first step to cultivating flawless style.
“The most important thing to remember is that you can wear all the greatest clothes and all the greatest shoes, but you’ve got to have a good spirit on the inside.” – Alicia Keys
Singer-songwriter Alicia Keys is as gorgeous as she is wise. This is the flip side of Karl Lagerfeld’s sentiment early on in the slideshow: You can be dressed in thousand-dollar duds, but it won’t matter if you don’t have the confidence to rock it or the personality to match.
The full quote: “The most important thing to remember is that you can wear all the greatest clothes and all the greatest shoes, but you’ve got to have a good spirit on the inside. That’s what’s really going to make you look like you’re ready to rock the world.”
“Even if I’m completely unsure, I’ll pretend I know exactly what I’m talking about and make a decision.” – Anna Wintour
Can we all let out a collective sigh of relief that even the queen of fashion does this? Actually, Anna’s advice is some of the best you can follow. The only thing worse than putting no thought into your clothing selection is letting it consume you. Don’t take anything too seriously, especially an outfit. Sometimes it’s best to wing it and pretend that was the plan all along.
“So soon as a fashion is universal, it is out-of-date.” – Marie Von Ebner-Eschenbach
Marie Von Ebner-Eschenbach was an Austrian novelist who had to share some hard truths, this being one of them. Forgo the trends and forge your own fashion path, because as soon as it’s in style, it’s already out of style.
“Girls do not dress for boys. They dress for themselves and, of course, each other. If girls dressed for boys, they’d just walk around naked at all times.” – Betsey Johnson
We would just like to thank Betsey Johnson for saying something we’ve all known since middle school: The cooler the outfit, the less attractive your love interest finds it. Gladiator sandals? Red lipstick? Harem pants? Sorry, boyfriends of the world, it’s not about you.
“Dressing well is a form of good manners.” – Tom Ford
American fashion designer Tom Ford has dished out some serious fashion advice that most people of past generations already know. Your grandma probably thinks a nicely ironed blouse is as important as a thank-you note; and guess what? she’s right. Putting thought into your outfit tells the people you spend time with that you cared enough to look presentable for them.
“You can never be overdressed or overeducated.” – Oscar Wilde
Touché, Mr. Wilde. Hopefully, people remember to take this advice hand in hand: Being well-dressed and well-read is a beautiful combination. And if you’re going to take only one half of the advice, go for overeducated. Stupidity is insufferable, no matter what it’s dressed in.
“Buy less, choose well, and do it yourself!” – Vivienne Westwood
Vivienne Westwood is an English fashion designer often credited for bringing punk style into the mainstream fashion market, so it’s no surprise she suggests a DIY attitude. There is a lot to be said for being careful about the things you spend your money on, especially when it comes to fashion. Imagine a closet full of clothes you feel great in, instead of two closets’ worth of clothes you look past every morning.
“I like my money right where I can see it: Hanging in my closet.” – Carrie Bradshaw
The iconic Sex and the City character, played by super-stylish Sarah Jessica Parker, was full of wise fashion quotes, but this is one of our favorites. Some people collect art or antiques, and some people collect clothes. If you’re in the second camp, don’t feel too guilty about your habit, unless it’s getting in the way of things you need. If you’re happy going without cable and fast food so you can buy designer bags, more power to you. In fact, we commend your tenacity.
“Vain trifles as they seem, clothes have, they say, more important offices than to merely keep us warm. They change our view of the world and the world’s view of us.” – Virgina Woolf
A woman who possessed as much depth as English writer Virginia Woolf could understand the importance of being well-dressed. More than covering our bodies, the right clothes can change the way we feel about ourselves and give other people a blueprint for how to treat us.
“You’re considered superficial and silly if you are interested in fashion….But I think you can be substantial and still be interested in frivolity.” – Sofia Coppola
Being interested in the trivialities of life doesn’t make you shallow, as American director Sofia Coppola aptly points out. Sometimes women who take pride in their appearance are dismissed as being uninteresting or, worse, incompetent. Never be ashamed of enjoying a nice dress or a new pair of shoes. Fashionistas are not one-dimensional.
“Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.” – Oscar Wilde
Irish writer and poet Oscar Wilde’s quote may come across as cheeky, but it’s an absolute, unfortunate truth. Today’s trends are not forever; honestly, they probably won’t even make it all year. The good news is that true style is timeless and can’t be bought: Flattering colors, subtle prints, and well-tailored pieces will carry you through the years.
“Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.” – Rachel Zoe
American fashion designer and personal stylist Rachel Zoe sums up why fashion truly makes such an impact on our lives. Before you’ve even said a word, the way you present yourself tells a story about who you are—so make sure it’s good.
“Style is a simple way of saying complicated things.” – Jean Cocteau
French poet Jean Cocteau obviously had a way with words; even his musings on personal style make choosing an outfit feel life-altering. And it’s true, fashion may be one of the simplest and most joyful ways of expressing your unique experiences.
“Clothes mean nothing until someone lives in them.” – Marc Jacobs
We’ve all heard someone muse about how much lovelier a dress looks on a hanger (perhaps we’ve even done it ourselves), but American fashion designer Marc Jacobs reminds us that isn’t really the point of clothing. If a dress isn’t beautiful on the human body, it’s just not serving its purpose.