When Eleanor Lambert, one of the great innovative forces in American fashion, died in 2003 at 100 years of age, she bequeathed her treasured possession, the annual International Best-Dressed list, which she founded, nurtured and kept alive for 65 years, to Vanity Fair. She felt sure that at the magazine her beloved list would find a happy home. As it has. And a luxurious one as well.
Rather than just a yearly compendium of the most beautifully dressed women and men in the world, icons and trendsetters alike, chosen through the years for their impeccable taste and fashion flair, and selected by the votes of hundreds of beady-eyed fashion experts and observers, Eleanor always considered the list a vitally important element of fashion history, which deserved to be preserved as an ongoing annal of “beautiful people,” fabulously dressed, perhaps making through their fashion sense a more beautiful world?
Obviously Vanity Fair agreed. In its April issue you will find the latest group of women and men, stylish to swoon over, who have made the list. You don’t have to agree with any or all of it. You can scoff at these so-called fashion immortals. You can laugh your head off. Or you can say, Bravo, well done, very well done.
Vanity Fair has quizzed the listees on their own particular fashion influences, their taste in jewels, perfumes and shoes, etc. — and to demonstrate that all is not flippery and frivolity, their favorite causes and charities.
Here, alphabetically set forth, are the women who can take home fashion awards that are the equivalent of the Oscars for best-in-show:
1. Alba Clemente: The raven-haired wife of artist Francesco Clemente, she is fashion’s drama queen who goes her own exotic way because “theatrical” is how she sees herself. 2. Sofia Coppola: A newish star, this brunette daughter of famed director Francis Ford Coppola has achieved fame directing in her own right. The muse of designer Marc Jacobs, Sofia, sparely and superbly stylish, is a unique. If you ever see a ruffle even near her, call the cops. 3. Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan: A dazzling beauty, her jewels befit a queen and, because of her carriage, posture and regal style, she can look good in sackcloth and ashes, never mind the couture. 4. Jemima Khan: The daughter of the late British billionaire financier Sir James Goldsmith, her look is slinky and seductive and sometimes barely there. She can almost sit on her hair. It’s so Lady Godiva-ish, Hugh Grant can probably sit on it, too. 5. Sienna Miller: A beautiful young Brit blond whose film career is on an uptick, she can’t walk down a London street or in downtown New York without being noticed. She goes for skinny jeans, scuffed suede boots and carries bags that are bigger than she is. At night all this changes. She is ravishing in her favorite vintage thingies and it doesn’t hurt that her fiancé is another beautiful British blond, Jude Law. 6. Kate Moss: Has there ever been such a supermodel as extraordinarily unique as Kate? She is more famous than many a movie star and, as the world knows, she has taken a crack at her share of them. A fashion chameleon, she can change from sunny to sultry in the blink of a camera. She is a dream in clothes and even dreamier without a stitch on. (See Vanity Fair photo). Don’t you love those two little pearly front teeth that pout out of her mouth in many a fashion shoot? Vulnerable and innocent, no? No, no, no. Gentlemen, she prefers diamonds over pearls. 7. Carine Roitfeld: Maybe not so well known in the U.S.A., she’s a very big fromage in France, where she is the editor in chief of French Vogue. She loves to smell of Saint Laurent’s Opium and swears by his shoes. Not exactly beautiful, she is maybe better than that. And if sexy counts, she can count up to 100. The legs are formidable. 8. Vanessa and Victoria Traina: The stunning sisters, daughters of best-selling American novelist Danielle Steel, their mother, who takes them to the couture collections in Paris, is their fashion icon. And the man they both love for his style is Tom Ford (who people in the know say will soon bring out his first collection on his own and later go into the wine business). Dear Tom. The girls also love Proenza Schouler and Narciso Rodriguez. Neither one of them ever considers hiding her fashion light under a bushel. Which means you can see the girls coming from a long, long away. 9. Connie Wald: This wonder woman of a certain age is a California beacon of fashion who no matter what she wears or how she puts it together is almost always the best-dressed woman in any room. The most popular of Beverly Hills-Hollywood hostesses, it seems she can do no fashion wrong. Silver hair parted in the center, a slender body, she can wear trousers and sweaters or a long Scarlett O’Hara-ish full skirted white evening dress with equal flair. She usually has a Kenneth Jay Lane jewel pinned to her shoulder or one of his bracelets shining on the wrist. Viva, Connie! 10. Oprah Winfrey: What is there to say about Oprah, one of the most famous women in the world? Fat or skinny, she is always Oprah and even if she didn’t know squat about clothes and how to wear them, she knows exactly how she is — Oprah, an inspiration to millions. The name alone is enough.
This story first appeared in the March 2, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
And here are the best-dressed men: 1. Wes Anderson, the boyish director-writer-producer. 2. Andre 3000 (Benjamin), the musician-actor. 3. George Clooney, when you can get past his eyes. 4. Anderson Cooper, the CNN anchor of your TV set and mine. 5. Lapo Elkann, the Fiat heir, the 27-year-old pride of the Agnelli family. 6. Charles Finch, the British film producer. 7. Jude Law (See Sienna Miller). 8. Bernard-Henri Lévy, the French author-philosopher. 9. Ogden Phipps, the handsome 27-year-old heir to the Phipps fortune, a banker and perhaps the biggest heartthrob in New York’s young society. (He’s taken, girls) 10. Charlie Watts, the great British musician who, at 63, is a perfect model of bespoke tailoring and who can toss a scarf around his neck with the self-possession of a man who is always sure of himself.