Artists, stylists, costume designers and photographers: they’re the people behind the scenes who construct the glamorous images we see in fashion and style. From the iconic Annie Leibovitz to the innovative Patricia Field to the conceptual Cindy Sherman, some of our greatest visionaries have been women.
#1. Lillian Bassman
Famous for her dreamlike black and white images during the 40s and 50s, Lillian Bassman was a rarity in the male-dominated fashion photography field. Her unique aesthetic earned her the title of art director of Harper’s BAZAAR‘s erstwhile mini magazine, Junior BAZAAR. Bassman used tissues and gauzes to create a dark, romantic quality that hadn’t been seen in fashion imagery before.
#2. Edith Head
Costume designer Edith Head has won a record eight Academy Awards: more than any other woman alive. She defined new eras of elegance and grace on film, dressing everyone from Elizabeth Taylor to Audrey Hepburn. She collaborated with big-name designers such as Hubert de Givenchy to create fashion icons. Without her, the Holly Golightly we know from Breakfast at Tiffany’s would not have existed. From the ’20s through the ’80s, Head worked on more than 1,000 films.
#3. Marina Abramovic
The performance artist opened the entire genre to the idea of pushing its boundaries. During the ’70s, Marina Abramović stated that any female artist with a relationship to fashion disgusted her. She wore a simple uniform of all-black or all-white trousers and shirts, or nothing at all. But after Abramović finished a piece titled The Great Wall Walk, she decided to embrace fashion: in performances and public appearances, she favors Givenchy looks straight off the runway. She has become somewhat of an artistic muse to Ricardo Tisci, frequently wearing his custom creations to events and performing at his recent NYC show.
#5. Cindy Sherman
Cindy Sherman has proved that there is room for fashion in the fine arts. “Sometimes I feel I just accept invitations to events just to have excuses to wear the stuff I’ve bought,” she once told Harper’s BAZAAR. One of the first artists to start working with high fashion in the ’80s, she has dressed herself as a clown, an old lady, and a politician, while wearing pieces by everyone from Marni to Marc Jacobs.
#6. Annie Leibovitz
Known for her stunning portraiture, Annie Leibovitz has brought the fashion world alive with her photography. Working in an especially male-dominated field, Leibovitz began her career in the 80s shooting rock and roll stars for Rolling Stone—where she snapped the iconic image of a naked John Lennon embracing Yoko Ono. Her work has now been published everywhere from Harper’s BAZAAR UK to Vogue and Vanity Fair.
#7. Ellen von Unwerth
Working as a model for nearly a decade before launching her career as photographer in the ’80s, Ellen von Unwerth’s work has rethought the way women pose. She’s shot editorials for Vogue Italia and advertisements for giant brands like Guess, encouraging ladies to move and express themselves rather than standing still. Her trademark is completely her own—slightly erotic with a woman’s sensibility. Countless photographers in the industry have since tried to copy von Unwerth’s chic and candid style.
#8. Grace Coddington
From model to editor, Grace Coddington changed fashion. For over 19 years, Coddington worked as photo editor at British Vogue, creating over-the-top editorials. When she joined the American edition of Vogue in 1988, she brought the same mentality and whimsy to the magazine, setting a new standard for extravagant photography in fashion publications. She’s been celebrated as an icon in The September Issue film and by way of her memoir, Grace.
#9. Brana Wolf
Since the ’90s, the superstar stylist has worked on editorials for Vogue Italia and Harper’s BAZAAR, while styling ad campaigns for everyone from Calvin Klein to Valentino. She has her own vision: glamour meets the unexpected, with a slight hint of minimalism. She’s styled women in front of pizza parlors, models lifting weights, and fashion in contrast with the latest architecture.
#10. Inez van Lamsweerde
Functioning as one half of the legendary Inez and Vinoodh duo, Inez has created artful fashion photography for over 25 years. She’s been commissioned to shoot fashion advertisements for many high-end fashion houses (Miu Miu, Balenciaga, Chanel, Christian Dior, Chloe, Moschino et al.) Inez’s hyper-awareness of her subjects and experimentation with the surreal have established her voice in the image of fashion.
#11. Patricia Field
Her namesake boutique, formerly located in New York City’s West Village, was a hotbed of cool. But it was the birth of the fashion icon Carrie Bradshaw of Sex in the City,whom she styled from 1998 to 2004, that secured her legacy. Patricia Field injected narrative into a television character through styling like never before, and brought high-end fashion to the masses by dressing Carrie in Manolo Blahnik, Oscar de la Renta and Prada. She also designed costumes for The Devil Wears Prada and Ugly Betty.
#12. Lori Goldstein
As the first-ever agency-signed stylist, Lori Goldstein has worked with entertainers such as Michael Jackson, Madonna, Diana Ross and Sophia Loren. She has also worked extensively in fashion editorial, styling pages of Harper’s BAZAAR, W, Vogue Italia and i-D. Each time she styles an editorial, she brings her signature mix of high-low fashion, clashing prints, or the totally unexpected in a thoroughly modern way. As her motto goes, “Everything goes with anything.”
#13. Rachel Zoe
She ushered in a new era of the celebrity stylist with her reality television show, The Rachel Zoe Project in 2008. Though she’s worked in the industry for nearly two decades, Zoe also brought the concept of boho chic and high-end vintage to a new audience in fashion through styling Nicole Richie and popularizing vintage shopping on her TV show.
#14. Janie Bryant
With Mad Men, costume designer Janie Bryant upped the ante on the connection between television and fashion, inspiring an obsession with 1950s style. Her influence is widespread, and runway fashion (Prada, Michael Kors and more) seemed to follow the ebb and flow of the styles on the show. A big part of her job was research—she once told BAZAAR, “I would go and look at Sears and JC Penney and Montgomery Ward to see more everyday references. And then, I also watched a lot of vintage films, classic movies from the period as well.”