19 Feminist Icons Who Push Boundaries with Their Politics and Their Style

Maggie Griswold
STYLECASTER | Feminist Fashion Icons
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The entire month of March is Women’s History Month and March 8 is International Women’s Day, giving us plenty of excuses to celebrate some of our favorite inspirational women. Frankly, I rarely need an excuse to talk about women who are succeeding in every way possible, but “Friday” doesn’t sound quite as important as “International Women’s Day,” so I’ll stick with the fancy title for now. There are so many feminist fashion icons who have become trailblazers in every industry, and definitely not enough time in the world to praise them all. So, we’ve picked 19 incredible women—and believe us, it was extraordinarily difficult to choose from the thousands upon thousands of amazing women out there—who represent both style and progress.

From political leaders like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Shirley Chisholm, to Hollywood stars like Shonda Rhimes and Zendaya, as well as musical trailblazers like Lizzo and Janelle Monae, these women have become sartorial royalty while working to make their respective industries better work environments. These women are more than tastemakers and fashion designers’ muses—they’ve changed the landscape for women’s rights and human rights and refused to stop pushing the boundaries for women in politics, music and media. This International Women’s Day (and every day), we applaud them and aspire to be more like them.

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1. Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is an associate justice of the Supreme Court and a true feminist icon. (If you haven’t seen the Oscar nominated documentary about her, get on it right freakin’ now.) Plus, her accessory game is something to talk about. RBG always dresses up her robes with statement necklaces, decorative collars—some of which she wears when she knows she’s going to dissent in court—or lace gloves.

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2. Janelle Monae

American singer and songwriter Janelle Monae is nothing less than a queen. Not only is her music and style impeccable, but she’s rapidly become a voice for the LGBTQ+ community. “Being a queer black woman in America—someone who has been in relationships with both men and women—I consider myself to be a free-ass motherfucker.”

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3. Shirley Chisholm

Shirley Chisholm was the first black woman elected to the United States Congress and represented New York from 1969 to 1983. She was known for her unapologetically colorful, bold suits and may even have started the power suit trend among American female politicians.

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4. Tess Holliday

Tess Holliday is an American plus-size model who consistently works to bring body inclusivity into the fashion industry. She even started the #effyourbeautystandards movement on Instagram. Holliday’s style is, of course, incredible. She is a model after all.

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5. Hillary Clinton

Former Secretary of State and First Lady of the United States Hillary Clinton has been queen of power pantsuits since the ’90s. She has showcased just about every color we can imagine, and we never get sick of these monochromatic looks. 

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6. Debra Haaland

Debra Haaland was one of the first Native American women to be elected to the U.S. Congress (along with Sharice Davids) in 2018. She even wore a traditional Pueblo dress, necklace and boots to her swearing-in ceremony. Talk about a sartorial and political power move.

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7. Issa Rae

Star (and creator) of the hilarious HBO show Insecure, Issa Rae is killing it in all areas. In 2015, she was listed as one of Essence magazine’s “Game Changers,” where, in her interview, talked about her desire for more people of color working in production behind the scenes in television. On top of all that, her style is pretty incredible as well. Heart eyes all day.

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8. Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt is the longest-serving former first lady of the United States and was known for her outspokenness. She was the first first lady to hold regular press conferences and was regarded as “one of the most esteemed women in the world,” and her sense of style was nothing less than elegant. 

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9. Sharice Davids

Sharice Davids, along with Debra Haaland, was one of the first Native American women to be elected to the U.S. Congress. She’s also Kansas’ first openly gay Congressperson. Davids joined politics after years of studying mixed martial arts—and even becoming professional in 2013. She usually boasts a low-key professional style and minimal makeup while she works to better this country.

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10. Ellen Page

Ellen Page has become one of the most outspoken members of the LGBTQ+ community in the media. The actress considers herself a pro-choice feminist, and continuously keeps her style low-key, wearing classic suits that are effortlessly chic.

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11. Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama changed the platform for first lady fashion standards during her two terms as first lady of the United States. She pushed boundaries by regularly displaying her upper arms and wearing slightly shorter dresses and instantly grew a fan base that was extremely interested in what she was wearing. Her brands ranged from J.Crew to Gucci, and she even snagged a couple Vogue covers. 

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12. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

At age 29, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress in 2018. She’s become well known for her social media presence and red lipstick—not letting a seat in Congress diminish her own personal style

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13. Lizzo

American singer Lizzo has been pushing boundaries in the fashion industry since she arrived on the scene. The singer consistently works to bring plus-size bodies into the media, in order to help normalize them. She recently graced the cover of Allure, and we know she’s not stopping any time soon.

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14. Shonda Rhimes

Shonda Rhimes, executive producer of Grey’s AnatomyHow to Get Away With Murder and Scandal, is nothing less than an icon. In 2007, she was named one of TIME magazine’s “100 People Who Help Shape the World.” Rhimes recently entered into a deal with Netflix, where she’ll continue to be a complete boss—and a stylish one at that.

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15. Zendaya

American actress and singer Zendaya has quickly become one of the most stylish members of young Hollywood. She recently became the spokesmodel for Lancome beauty, and continuously shocks us with her impeccable street style.

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16. Oprah

Oh, Oprah,—where do we begin? She’s a trailblazer and has embraced daring wardrobe choices. From her early days with cowboy belts and high-waisted denim, to today with colorful power suits and show-stopping red carpet looks, Oprah is an icon in all respects.

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17. Jameela Jamil

Jameela Jamil has recently become known as an extremely vocal advocate for body positivity. Having struggled with pressure to adhere to certain beauty standards as well as an eating disorder, the actress has had enough of body shaming in the media. So, she started the “I Weigh” movement, which aims to get women talking about their amazing qualities and lives instead of negatively focusing on their bodies.

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18. Ava DuVernay

American director, producer and screenwriter, Ava DuVernay does it all. In February 2018, it was announced that DuVernay, along with producer Eric Garcetti, had launched the Evolve Entertainment Fund, which aims to provide opportunities for those in under-served communities to pursue careers in entertainment.

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19. Carol Moseley Braun

Carol Moseley Braun was the first woman of color elected to the U.S. Senate in the early ’90s and worked to advance women’s rights, civil rights, gun control, and more. She was also noted for challenging the rule that women were not allowed to wear pants on the Senate floor.

 

A version of this story was originally published in March 2018.

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