The Devil Wears Prada may have suggested that the fashion world churns out clones of polished, well coiffed fashionistas, but in truth the industry thrives on eccentrics. The Voguette and the University of Chicago student are not as different from each other as one may think: Neither is a stranger to the quirky, and both have come to embrace the unconventional. Hammer pants may not be en vogue anytime soon, but there’s always something to be said for individual flair. If you can’t keep up with the latest trends, it’s probably for the better. Make like the fashion radicals below and don a personal statement—of the uncommon kind—because you are at the U of C, after all.
The late Isabella Blow (who worked at the U.S. and British Vogue, Tatler, and The Sunday Times) was known for sporting outrageous hats at every occasion. Blow’s signature caps were not for the faint of dress—the more outrageous and quirky the headpiece, the more likely she was to own it. Wearing her whimsical adornments, she appeared ever-ready for tea with the Mad Hatter. With veiled antlers, a jewel-encrusted lobster, sky-high plumes, feather dollar signs, orbiting circles, and her own last name rising from a headpiece, Blow’s hats had eccentricity covered on all bases. The hats became so much a part of Blow that one could recognize her caricature by the winged victory on her crown. Even from miles away, you’d know when Izzy was coming.
For André Leon Talley, it’s about show, not chapeaus. In no small way is he an overstated dresser. The 6-foot-7 Talley is far from a shrinking violet when it comes to clothing, as exemplified by the black coat he wore to the 2007 Oscars that had gold letters spelling out “The New American Dream” on the back. Talley, the U.S. Vogue’s editor-at-large, can be spotted on the town in everything from dapper pinstripe suits to luxuriant fur coats that rival his own size. Don’t expect him to shy away from accessories, either. A fur scarf and some version of a man-purse, often of the clutch variety, are among Talley’s favorite accoutrements. His outrageous outfits are done up in a style that is, indeed, one of a kind. In ways of fashion, Talley is truly fearless and truly fabulous.
Outrageous in her own right, the Dutch model Iekeliene Stange has garnered recognition for her style both on and off the runway. While she is able to morph into any role a designer or photographer should require, she is never without her own chic humor when she dresses for herself. Often sporting large plastic lensless glasses, vintage dresses, and strands of beads, Stange has created a look that is very much her own. Wearing one of her distinctive outfits, the Harajuku inspiration shines through Stange’s fashion choices, including a multicolored patchwork jacket over a vest and screen print tee, skinny jeans, Chuck Taylors, blue knit cap, and trademark glasses. With her flair for the unconventional, it’s no great surprise that the quirky anti-fashion fashion designer, Marc Jacobs, has featured Stange in many of his shows.
Before Jacobs had even entered kindergarten, designer Betsey Johnson was already tickling the industry pink. Johnson has been fashion’s irreverent daughter since she came on the scene in the ’60s. She has a penchant for mixing patterns and doesn’t shy away from wearing her own wacky creations. Her look is a mix of styles yielding off-beat, fanciful designs. In one outfit, she wore a gold skirt with a matching gold “Guys B.J.” (Betsey Johnson!) tank, topped with her tie-dye version of a technicolor dream coat. Not only does Johnson seem to be marching to the beat of her own drum, but she’s doing it with leopard print heels on.
The ever-intriguing Karl Lagerfeld is another designer whose everyday look is as striking as his creations. Lagerfeld is the current iron fist at Chanel. In actuality, it’s more like a leather, silver, and diamond-studded fist. In addition to sunglasses which may just be epoxied to his face, the German-born designer has a thing for fingerless gloves and gobs of rings. His look is tongue-in-chic. His adornments could be seen as extravagant, but worn with his adopted, flippant French air, Lagerfeld makes even the most garish of accessories look utterly cool. The gloves, rings, and sunglasses are probably not the most convenient for studio work, but who said fashion had to be practical? And why would Lagerfeld believe them?
The truth of the matter is that the industry needs outlandish, oddball, even downright perplexing fashions. Without the crazy hats of Blow, Stange’s geek-chic glasses, and Lagerfeld’s smart fingerless gloves, where would the intrigue be? And while it seems there will always be “it” bags, hot colors, and the must-have shoes, may they ever live alongside the bizarrely indulgent. Pencil skirts are all well and good, but we’ll take ours with panniers and bustles, thank you.