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Madonna's Legacy: How This Rule Breaker Became A Fashion Legend

It's Queen Mother's birthday

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The legend that is Madonna is celebrating her birthday today, and to celebrate along with her, we’re looking back at how she became a fashion icon. Obviously Madonna is one of the musical GOATs, but equally impressive was her ability to reinvent herself fashion wise with each album era. Every single Madonna album had its own signature look that separated it from the previous era and the future ones, and just like with the music, it was unique and very fun. Buckle up folks, this is about to be a fun one.

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The Beginning

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Madonna was first introduced to the world in July 1983 with her self-titled debut album Madonna. Having previously signed a singles deal with Warner Bros., Madonna was already a name that was garnering some traction in the music industry with her singles “Everybody” and “Burning Up.”

During this time, the club queen was rocking a grunge look complete with a short boyish cut, chokers, ripped fishnets and anything punk rock. In an early 1980s world where most of the female entertainers were wearing long voluminous curls and glammed up outfits, Madonna stood out.

By the time 1984 rolled around, the young star was one of the talks of Tinseltown, and with that success came the preparation for her next album Like A Virgin. Many expected Madonna to release her sophomore effort with a similar sound and look as her first, but they would soon learn to expect the unexpected.

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The Like A Virgin era featured a now 25-year-old Madonna mostly in a wedding dress to sing a relatively semi-sexual song about feeling like a…well you know. As you can imagine, the theme of this song didn’t go well with quite a few folks. The video pissed a few people off. The performances pissed even more people off. And guess what? Madonna didn’t care. And that’s why we love her.

1986 would see the release of her third album True Blue, and the return of her short hair. Pulling from the 1950s and 60s, True Blue was a departure from the bold daring looks we saw with her first two albums, instead bringing forth a relatively conversative Madonna with long elegant dresses that screamed “good girl” (or at least trying to be). That’s pretty much the look we would see her with until 1989 when she unleashed her fourth project Like A Prayer.

Released in March 1989, the late end of the 1980s would mark Madonna dying her blonde locks brunette (though she would eventually return to blonde), and once again rocking a more toned down look. That, however, didn’t stop the controversy from rolling in with the actual video “Like A Prayer,” which prompted protests from family and Christian groups. That damn Madonna. Always causing trouble.

The 1990s

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And if you thought she caused trouble in the 1980s, then there was even more havoc caused in the 90s. Erotica was Madonna at her boldest. Her most taboo. Her most daring. Bondage and S&M clothing was the primary theme of this era (along with a specialty coffee table book that was actually the antithesis of what’s normally expected from coffee table books), and boy did Madonna shake that table. PG13 and 1990s censorship be damned. 

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Bedtime Stories was the next 1990s release from Madonna, and it has a case for being her most unique. First of all, we saw her with cornrows which was definitely a different look. Marilyn Monroe tributes were also present with the bleach blonde pin curls and extravagant makeup, along with Victorian era outfits and hairstyles, luxurious lingerie, and, once again, bondage. 

In the four year time span between Bedtime Stories and her next album Ray of Light, Madonna would go through many significant personal changes including becoming a mother. What emerged was a sexy, confident, 40-year-old Madonna that was…calm. A Madonna that was very clearly enjoying the joys of being a first-time mother. A Madonna that wore minimal makeup at times, but still dove into the world of couture with videos like “Nothing Really Matters.” Ray of Light is also considered by many to be her best and most impactful album.

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The 2000s

All hail the Y2K era. And Madonna. The 2000 release of Music was the beginning of M’s western country cowgirl phase, with plenty of rodeo style denim outfits, along with cowboy boots and hats. 

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Sidenote: What was with the early 2000s usage of excessive denim, belts, and cowboy hats? 

Anyways, American Life was her second studio of the 2000s, and just like 1984, she was back in wedding dresses in iconic fashion kissing Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera at the 2003 VMA awards (which caused an unbelievable ruckus that you had to be there in real time to witness), and pissing people off again while at it.

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And if you thought you had seen it all from Madonna, she was once again back in peak form with 2005’s Confessional of a Dance Floor, which was all about going back to 1970s discotheques that she used to get down on before becoming a world famous superstar. There were a lot of leotards, glitter, and number one chart toppers with this era, which saw Madonna topping the charts in a whopping forty countries at the age of 47. 

The Hard Candy era wasn’t to be played with either. Mama was serving some epic looks.

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2010s to Present

A quick look at Madonna’s Instagram will all but show you that she is still very much the same Madonna. 

A rule breaker. Age-defier. Drippy, swaggy, saucy fashionista that is still as daring as she was in her 20s, and doesn’t give a damn about what anybody things.

Like she said in 2013, “Bitch She’s Madonna,” and like Beyonce said this past week on “Break My Soul (The Queens Remix),” she’s Queen Mother.

Happiest of birthdays Queen Mother. 

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