5 Contemporary Fashion Icons Who Loved Wearing Silk

Did you know that silk has been worn by the glamorous, the extravagant and the aristocratic since the fourth century BC? An elegant facet of human culture for over 6,000 years, silk has an astonishing and ancient story, which you can discover in Jigsaw’s history of fashion timeline.

Worn by empresses, emperors, conquerors, kings and queens, silk was first discovered in China. Before long, this gorgeous, sleek material became prized across Asia and Europe, travelling along the Silk Road to dazzle new cultures who marvelled at its soft, pearlescent sheen and sumptuous texture. 

In more recent centuries, silk has steadily become more accessible outside of aristocratic circles. Today you will find silk garments on couture runways, incorporated into streetwear and worn in the boardroom (as well as the bedroom). Nowhere is silk more celebrated and visible, however, than on the red carpet and the fashion catwalk. This article will shine the spotlight on five contemporary fashion icons who embraced silk in beautifully diverse ways.

1. Indira Devi

The silk chiffon saree (or sari) is now an Indian style staple. The popularity of this sumptuously feminine garment is credited to nineteenth-century Indian socialite Indira Devi. This beloved aristocrat shot to fame when she broke an arranged engagement to pursue a love match with the son of the Maharani of Cooch Behar, who would soon become the Maharaja in his own right. At a time when love matches were rare in India, their love story was much talked about and earned Indira an astonishing degree of fame for the era. 

Beyond her love ‘scandal’, Indira’s manners and grace soon earned her the respect and adoration of the Indian public. So too did her courage and strength when her husband died tragically before his time, leaving her as the leader of Cooch Behar, a role she rose to with great intelligence and determination. Indira was further adored for her fashion sense, which inspired Indian women’s fashion for decades to come. The silk chiffon sarees, which she popularised, are still a fashion statement in modern India.

2. Audrey Hepburn

The inimitably, effortlessly chic Audrey Hepburn once remarked, “When I wear a silk scarf I never feel so definitely a woman, a beautiful woman.”

Perhaps her most iconic scarf look, Hepburn’s knotted silk neckerchief (as worn in Roman Holiday) is an enduringly elegant look still emulated to this day. Audrey was so enamoured with silk scarfs that she even wore one when she married Andrea Dotti in 1969. Her wedding look featured a silk scarf, tied over her head and knotted under her chin. 

3. Frida Kahlo

Adored yet troubled artist Frida Kahlo was famed for both her powerful self-portraits and her magnificent wardrobe. The painter’s clothing has been exhibited in museums and galleries all over the world in its own right, quite apart from her art. 

A riot of colour, texture and references to the cultures that surrounded her, Kahlo’s wardrobe was full of silk garments, including a red leather boot designed to fit her prosthetic leg, which featured ferocious silk applique creatures. Also found amongst her sartorial collection were voluminous, ruffled silk skirts in bright magenta alongside pretty silk-covered boots.

4. Grace Kelly

So enamoured with silk was the iconic Grace Kelly that the movie star once used a silk Hermes scarf to accessorise her broken arm, using it as a fashion trailblazing sling. (For those in the know, the print featured on this famous scarf was named Deo Juvante Monaco and the design was issued between 1957-1958.) 

Grace Kelly’s appetite for silk did not end at scarves. Some of her most memorable fashion moments featured silk, including the wedding dress she wore to wed Prince Rainier of Monaco, which was made from 25 yards of silk taffeta and took 30 seamstresses six weeks to construct.

5. Scarlett Johansson

Scarlett Johansson is a more contemporary star who also loves (and looks mesmerising in) silk. While Johansson frequently experiments with her fashion (often choosing more androgynous and masculine ensembles), she also embraces powerfully feminine looks, many of which feature structured silk. 

Her recent silk show-stopping moments include her appearance at the 2020 SAG Awards in a plunging, custom-made Armani Privé gown sewn from iridescent teal silk, and her 2020 Academy Awards gown, which was made from sleek pewter-coloured silk, featuring an exposed corset and beaded, draped fringe (created by Oscar de la Renta).

Which silk fashion icon do you most admire? Whether you adore the black dress and silk neckties of Audrey Hepburn, the playful glamour of Grace Kelly or the red carpet high fashion of Ms Johansson, there is a silk style icon out there for every fashion sensibility. Why not weave a little silk elegance into your wardrobe today?

Anabel Cooper

Anabel is a graduate of King’s College London and upon graduating, she set out on a journey to inspire and empower women through her words. Besides working as a digital marketing expert, Anabel is a freelance copywriter.