See the 20 Most Influential Celebrity Style Moments That Shaped American Fashion

As American style takes center stage at the 2021 Met Gala, revisit iconic looks from Cher, Aaliyah and more noteworthy fashion icons, who continue to shape current trends.

By Cydney Contreras Sep 11, 2021 12:00 PMTags

Remember that moment in The Devil Wears Prada, when Miranda Priestly reminds Andy that her sweater isn't just any old blue, it's actually cerulean? Well, this is one of those moments. 

Currently, tiny sunglasses and low-rise jeans are making their comeback, with fashionistas like Bella Hadid and Hailey Bieber sporting this trend. And though it may seem like these styles just happen to be returning by coincidence, that's not the case at all.

In fact, over the years, artists like Aaliyah, Cher and even Gwen Stefani popularized the same accessories and looks that are reemerging in the fashion world around us. 

Of course, celebrities continue to put their own spin on classic looks. Case in point: Rihanna pairing Adam Selman's Swarovski crystal dress with a durag for the 2014 CFDA Awards. She went on to wear a similar accessory on the cover of British Vogue, a moment that designer Cheyenne Kimora described as "empowering." She remarked, "It shows other Black people that it's okay to show their Blackness and it's okay to make it fashion."

Met Gala: Best Dressed Stars

So, as we prepare for the Sept. 13 Met Gala, it's only fitting to take a look back at the American celebrities who contributed to the ball's theme "In America: A Lexicon of Fashion.

To see the fashion icons who inspired past, present and future trends, continue scrolling. You won't regret it.

James Dean

Rebel Without a Cause set the tone for punk fashion and more trends to come, with James' leather jacket, white T-shirt and jeans becoming a staple for any person's closet, regardless of gender. And when James wasn't working, he sported similarly chic looks, like a Breton-striped sweater and a classic pair of Ray Ban Wayfarer's. 

Jackie Kennedy

When John F. Kennedy was elected President of the United States, he and his wife brought a youthful energy to the White House in more ways than one. Jackie particularly revitalized the closets, filling the racks with Chanel suits and monochromatic looks. Her shelves were then stocked with classic pearl jewelry and tasteful hats, including ones of the pillbox style.

Audrey Hepburn

The 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany's is to thank for modernizing the little black dress. Audrey's appearance in pearls and the high-neck dress continues to influence fashion, most recently in Beyoncé's ad campaign for Tiffany & Co.

Marilyn Monroe

The Some Like It Hot actress is the definition of the phrase "Blonde Bombshell." Her plunging necklines and white dress from Seven Year Itch is a pervasive part of American culture, and the actress is to thank for making it fashionable to embrace one's sexuality and femininity.

Diana Ross

On any given day, the singer would go from wearing timeless, elegant looks before switching to a slinky, purple jumpsuit. She brought a playful element to every ensemble, a trait that she's passed on to her daughter, Tracee Ellis Ross.


If we could turn back time, we'd want to go back to the late '70s when Cher was wearing feathers, sequins and barely-there dresses. Bella HadidDua Lipa and Cher herself keep this bold and beautiful energy alive with their lively looks.

Elton John

He may be a Brit, but the "Rocketman" singer has left an indelible mark on American fashion with his bedazzled ensembles and eccentric accessories. Plus, his Los Angeles Dodgers outfit is arguably one of the best fashion moments in baseball history.

Farrah Fawcett

The late great Charlie's Angels actress made feathered hair, flared jeans and a flowing blouse the ultimate '70s look. It could even be argued that she was one of the first female celebrities to make athleisure a part of her wardrobe, establishing Nike and other sporting brands as part of the fashion world.


When it comes to Prince, the quote "women want him and men want to be him" is never more accurate. The "Purple Rain" singer made ruffles, sparkles and color an essential part of every outfit he wore, creating a dramatic and edgy flair that went hand-in-hand with his music. It's safe to say that his gender-bending style has influenced the likes of Harry StylesTroye Sivan and Adam Lambert.


It's hard to imagine what the fashion world would look like if Madonna hadn't worn the Jean Paul Gaultier cone bra. 

Grace Jones

Before Lady Gaga and Cardi B, there was Grace Jones, who put the extra in extravagant. The pop star would wear monochrome outfits, extraterrestrial-looking coats and all sorts of fascinators wherever she went, including the ultra-popular Studio 54. Grace made it hip to stand out in a crowd, paving the way for the fashion greats that would come after her.

Selena Quintanilla

The Chicano singer left an indelible mark on the fashion world when she stepped out in bedazzled bustiers and high-waisted jeans. Selena saw the beauty in her figure, culture and strength, and personally created ensembles that would be embraced by her Latinx and American followers. It's no wonder Kim Kardashian dressed as the Queen of Tejano for Halloween in 2017.

Mark Wahlberg

Marky Mark was plastered across the walls of teenagers after appearing in nothing but his undies for Calvin Klein in 1992. Those iconic advertisements have since been replicated ad nauseam, with Justin Bieber doing his own take on the black-and-white photos in 2020.

Brooke Shields

In a 1980 commercial for Calvin Klein jeans, the model famously stated, "You wanna know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing." This moment cemented her status as the ultimate girl-next-door, making her looks comprised of preppy sweaters, button-ups and figure-accentuating jeans a guide for every American girl and boy.


The late R&B singer was ahead of the curve with her streetwear style and daring accessories. Aaliyah wore the same bandanas, slim sunglasses and low-rise pants that are currently en mode.

Gwen Stefani

There is No Doubt that this pop star epitomized '90s punk style with her baggy low-rise jeans and bikini tops. Gwen never shied from mixing patterns or clothing items, like her fishnet stocking and bikini top here.

Lady Gaga

People weren't running to the butcher to reinvent this look from the singer. However, Gaga's decision to wear such a controversial ensemble has motivated other artists to reimagine what red carpet fashion looks like. 

Paris Hilton

The heiress has had many iconic fashion moments over the years, but no look was more influential than her velour tracksuits from Juicy Couture and other brands. 


Since launching her career with "Pon de Replay," this pop star turned Fenty fashion mogul has defied labels. She's effortlessly worn durags with couture dresses from high-fashion designers, stepped out in streetwear and is the queen of making a sweatshirt look expensive. 

Billy Porter

The Pose actor was not the first star to wear genderless ensembles, and he's working to ensure he's not the last. Over the years, Billy has consistently stepped out in revolutionary looks that serve as a reminder that it's good to break the rules and form new ones.

Don't miss E!'s Live From E!: 2024 Met Gala red carpet Monday, May 6, starting at 6 p.m. for every must-see moment from fashion's biggest night. And tune in to E! News Tuesday, May 7, at 11 p.m. for a full recap of every jaw-dropping look and all the behind-the-scenes moments.