The “New” Best Dressed List for 2016

The notion of ‘Best Dressed’ is elusive and highly subjective. It means different things to different people, (it certainly means different things to me at different times).  And while everyone has an off day (well, almost everyone), the following people have been consistent within their own individual styles. Long gone are the days of “Social Swans” like Babe Paley, about whom it was once said, “She never had an un chic day”. This reminds me of a famous quote made by Truman Capote decades ago. When he was taking about his good friend and Best Dressed Hall of Famer, who was known for her faultless taste and consistently impeccable, elegant style, he deadpanned, “Babe Paley has only one fault. She is perfect. Otherwise she’s perfect”. Not only is perfection unattainable, it’s an outmoded notion. A little bit of imperfection is quite desirable.

I purposely steer clear of those who made my past lists (and if I do use them, it’s not in the same way) because they would invariably be on my lists every year; so I suppose you can consider them to be my Hall of Famers. I also prefer to vary my categories from year-to-year. See our past 2015 New Best Dressed List 2014 New Best Dressed List and 2013 New Best Dress List.

I would never be so presumptuous, as to title this “Best Dressed in the World” because I am certain there are people as, if not more worthy of the honor (than those mentioned), but I have to rely on those who are in my radar. And speaking about lists, I’ve sometimes been tempted to do a Most Beautiful List (a la People Magazine). But I realized that for me, beauty (which is both inside and out), is not just about possessing certain God given assets (which certainly doesn’t hurt), as much as it is about the entire package: your soul, your essence, your humanity, and how you present yourself to the world. So you could say that my Best Dressed List is also my Most Beautiful List. I could not agree more with Iris Apfel, who said it’s far more important to possess great personal style, than physical beauty. After all, beauty fades, but style is forever.

In completely random order (click images for full size views):

Best Dressed Athlete: Maria Sharapova

What sets her apart: Considered to be one of tennis’s best competitors and most consistent champions, Maria was recently suspended from playing tennis for two years by the International Tennis Federation after admitting to testing positive for meldonium. She is appealing. But regardless of whether or not this beautiful Russian born 29 year old plays her beloved sport professionally, one thing is for sure – she’s certainly got her fashion  “A” game’ going. Standing at a statuesque 6’2”, she is a renowned clothes horse. She loves fashion, has a strong fashion sense, and has a commanding presence on and particularly off the court. She not only routinely sits front row at fashion shows in New York, Paris, and Milan, but attends many of the world’s most high profile events.

Best Dressed CEO: Emily Weiss

What sets her apart: The 31 year old entrepreneur is Founder and CEO of Into the Gloss, a global website dedicated to all things beauty, and Glossier, a line of beauty products. Her goal from the beginning, 2010, has been to re define and democratize beauty and empower women to take charge of their beauty routines. While she herself has personally test drived thousands of products in the process, she is now in an admittedly minimal and pared down phase vis a vis her own beauty regime and with regards to her working style which is casual yet very pulled together and confident. She refers to it as, “minimal but with a masculine energy” and said she “prizes comfort and ease above all”.

Best Dressed Fashion Director: Ken Downing

What sets him apart: The Fashion Director and Executive Vice President of Neiman Marcus is an advocate for uncomplicated, accessible designs. He firmly believes that “complication is the curse of fashion and the curse of style”. He not only talks the talk but walks the walk. He describes his own style as “Rocker Schoolboy” and keeps things uncomplicated with a wardrobe of streamlined pieces (narrow-tailored suits, narrow pants, skinny ties, skinny jeans, and Chelsea boots) which enable him to embrace and accentuate his lean frame (he says he’s 6’3” 160 pounds “on a good day”).

Best Dressed Fashion Designer (woman): Gabriela Hearst

What sets her apart: Born into one of Uruguay’s oldest ranching families, this former model is married to a grandson of William Randolph Hearst. A front row fixture at couture shows, Gabriela used her own elegant, low keyed, understated, luxurious style as the inspiration for her eponymous fashion line which she launched last year. She drew on her idyllic upbringing in Uruguay and her metropolitan life in New York to create the sort of beautifully made, timeless classics that are destined to form the basis of a chic, modern, on the go woman’s wardrobe. She has already produced a covetable ‘IT’ bag with a waitlist (the Nina), and recently collaborated with Tod’s on limited edition shoe for a good cause. The classic slip on sneaker and men’s brogue hybrid has a Morse code trim that reads “love”. It will retail for $645 and proceeds will benefit Save the Children.

Best Dressed Fashion Designer (male): Tom Ford

What sets him apart: With his movie star good looks and sex appeal, he has the power to seduce both men and women. Dressed down, casual Friday has no place in this fashion designer’s vocabulary. Always impeccably turned out, Tom exudes formal correctness whether he’s in an airport catching an international flight, walking down the runway after a show, or attending a formal black tie event. By the way, he looks so good and so natural wearing a tuxedo, one would think he was born wearing one.

Best Dressed on the Red Carpet: Rooney Mara

What sets her apart: Let’s face it; “Red Carpet Style” is an oxymoron. In the end, most actresses wear whatever gown is provided by their stylists and they do not have a signature look. This is not the case with regards to Academy Award nominee Rooney Mara. She is a rare breed in that she has a specific point of view, and while her look may have evolved, it has not really changed since she first burst on the scene in 2011 when she starred as Lisbeth Salander in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”. At 5’3 she is a commanding presence and has that rare ability to look both fragile and strong. She gravitates to a color palette of white, ivory, beige, black (an occasional red) by designers such as Givenchy, Lanvin, Chanel, Balenciaga, Proenza Schouler. Complimenting this is her stunning beauty: that flawless luminescent, pale complexion; her jet black hair, which is always sleek and severely slicked back (bangs and braids are optional); and a defined lip. Thankfully, you will never see her being asked whose (borrowed) jewelry she’s wearing because she doesn’t wear any. She wisely steers clear of all things extraneous and eschews accessories but for perhaps, a small ring.

Best Dressed Bride: Giovanna Battaglia

What sets her apart: Gio, as she is known, is one of the most consistently stylish women on the planet and has already been included on my Best Dressed List (2013). While I don’t use the same names twice, I make an exception if it’s in a different category and this year, she is my Best Dressed Bride. The fabulously chic Italian born former model, fashion editor, stylist and Contributing editor to W Magazine (she pens a column Gio’s Journal), tied the knot with Swedish realtor Oscar Engelbert on Saturday, June 11 in Capri, with a jet set crowd in attendance. Is there any question that she would be a fabulously dressed bride, or that her entire storybook wedding would be anything less than picture perfect? For her rehearsal dinner on Thursday evening, she wore an Azzedine Alaia white dress with a feathered skirt and for her gorgeous seaside ceremony, she wore an amazingly over the top custom made Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen wedding dress with an embellished corset and dramatic train.

Best Dressed Funny Girls:

Amy Schumer

What sets her apart: She is irreverent, outrageous and hysterical. And while she may joke about her weight and her unapologetically un fashion model like frame, there is nothing funny about the way she dresses when she is out at high profile events. She wisely keeps it simple, straightforward, and unfussy; she eschews busy prints; and sticks primarily to black, white, and red.

Melissa McCarthy

What sets her apart: It’s not easy being oversized, particularly if you’re a woman in Hollywood. But Melissa McCarthy, the actress, comedian, producer and clothing designer, has shown that you don’t have to be rail thin to enjoy wearing beautiful clothes. Regardless of what she wears for her public appearances, from two piece blouse and skirt ensembles to draped jersey dresses, she looks chic, fashionable, and comfortable in her own skin.

Best Dressed News Personality: Megyn Kelly

What sets her apart: To say that this journalist, former attorney, news pundit, political commentator on the Fox News Channel, host of The Kelly File, and author, has had quite the year, is an understatement. Her profile has risen considerably given her very public dispute with Donald Trump which helped launched her into primetime (they have since made up, as seen in her recent interview with the presumptive Republican candidate on her special, Megyn Kelly Presents). Ms. Kelly’s profile has risen considerably following her Vanity Fair cover this past January (which was accompanied with an in depth profile); her game changing, short haircut didn’t hurt either. It added a bit of edge to her minimal, streamlined, and figure hugging wardrobe and was a great way to show off her cheekbones and signature oversized hoops. And it perfectly complimented her “take no prisoners”, kick ass approach and style. Or as she succinctly described it, “I went from having “fuck me” hair to “fuck you” hair”.

Best Dressed Editor-in-Chief: Emmanuelle Alt

What sets her apart: The editor in chief of French Vogue is a poster child for uniform dressing. Her consistent look is one that is anti-trend, no frills, effortless, easy, cool, and supremely French to the core (in a “comme il faut”, “je ne sais quoi kind of way”). Her tall (nearly 6 foot) and lanky frame is a perfect canvas for her wardrobe of skinny jeans (usually deconstructed in some way), crisp buttons downs, sharply tailored, strong shouldered jackets and coats (she especially loves gold buttoned pea coats). Offsetting these almost unisex, somewhat androgynous wardrobe staples are her elegant, classic, and feminine pumps, Chanel sling backs, sandals, and ankle boots (with heels ranging in height from low kitten to mid high) and that timeless Cartier tank watch. Voila!

Best Dressed Septuagenarian: Joy Venturini Bianchi

What sets her apart: The fact that this native San Franciscan, a familiar face on the society scene, will be 78 this coming October is really beside the point. She has more grace, style, and presence than most will ever have, regardless of their age. She is as much known and celebrated for her faultless taste and bold head turning, entrance making style, as for her tireless philanthropy. She has been involved with Helpers, a charity that aids the developmentally disabled, for 62 years (since she was 13 years old) and in 2008 she founded Helper’s House of Couture which was named one of 10 best fashion stores by Vogue in 2010 (the proceeds go to fund her charity). In addition, she has promised to bequeath her entire personal collection of museum worthy designs( by Alaia, Yves Saint Laurent, Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Balenciaga, Dior, Valentino, Galanos, Ralph Rucci, and Tom Ford, etc.) at the end of her life.

Best Dressed TV Show Host: Nick Cannon

What sets him apart: America’s Got Talent is the perfect vehicle for those who have (or want to believe they have talent). For host Nick Cannon, it’s the perfect way to show off his eclectic style and obvious flair for fashion which is illustrated in his customized suits, sometimes topped off with a jaunty hat, and always accessorized with statement making shoes (remember those $2 million Tom Ford diamond encrusted slippers?)

Best Dressed in the Kardashian Clan: Kendall Jenner

What sets her apart: The world first came to know the teenage daughter of Bruce Jenner and Kris Kardashian, through her appearances on the E! Reality television show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Now, at age 20, she is one of the most highly sought after models on the planet. Let’s face it, with her natural grace, beauty, height, and youth, she can wear anything (and with her money, she can afford it all), but to her credit, she has really begun to come into her own. She is an apt student and obviously understands proportion, cut, and fit, and has developed a unique personal off duty style which is at once appropriately youthful and also quite sophisticated.

Best Dressed MD: Samantha Boardman

What sets her apart: Dr. Boardman is a brilliant and accomplished practicing psychiatrist, and a busy mother of two. She is married to Aby Rosen, the high profile German born real estate tycoon who owns the Seagram Building and the Lever House among other iconic properties. He is also a noted art collector of modern and contemporary art. Major masterpieces can be found in their fabulous New York City apartment and their Southampton estate and the duo are fixtures at Art Basel where they host an annual dinner. So it’s no surprise that Dr. Boardman’s personal style is not only quite feminine and decorative, but often times, art inspired.

Best Dressed PhD: Dr. Stephanie Lake

What sets her apart: Dr. Stephanie Lake has the distinction of being only the fifth person in the world to hold a PhD in decorative arts, material culture, and design history. She is also the world’s foremost Bonnie Cashin scholar and caretaker of the Bonnie Cashin archive . She was extremely close with the late, great, iconic designer and penned a book, “Bonnie Cashin: Chic Is Where You Find It” published by Rizzoli. Her fashion style is a well-considered, thoughtful mix of Bonnie Cashin, vintage, and designer pieces, which she accessorizes with high heels, huge hats, wide belts, and her own jewelry. Oh, did I mention that in addition to everything else, she is also a jewelry designer with her own otherworldly collection ( combining elements of Hollywood Regency, mid-century, 70’s era Fleetwood Mac, and glam rock?

Best Dressed on the Campaign Trail: Melania Trump

What sets her apart: Regardless of what you may think of Donald Trump (and no, I’m not going there!), there is no denying that his wife Melania has pretty much nailed it on the campaign trail (not that she’s really had much competition). A commanding presence, the striking and statuesque former model understands the idea of what is appropriate, certainly knows how to best present herself, and has exuded chic authority whenever she appeared in public. This was exemplified at her husband’s final campaign rally before the Iowa caucuses, when she made a statement all in red, wearing a long sleeved fitted dress, matching pumps, and a red coat nonchalantly thrown over her shoulders. She repeated this ‘styling trick’ (favorited by fashion editors) at the third GOP debate in Colorado, where she went a softer route, opting for an ivory sweater and trousers, classic quilted Chanel chain strap bag, and a powder pink coat thrown over her shoulders.

Best Dressed Stylist: Freddie Leiba

What sets him apart: The successful, prolific, and very in demand fashion stylist and arbiter of taste has an understatedly elegant personal style that perfectly reflects his world travels. It has nothing at all to do with fashion, but rather, beautifully made clothes that he loves to wear. He has affected a uniform and among his signatures: crisp white jeans (year round), button down shirts (or in his case, button up shirts), well cut jackets, distinctive coats, and chic scarves.

Best Dressed Portraitist: Ike Ude

What sets him apart: This New York based, Nigerian born artist, photographer, author (“Style File: The World’s Most Elegantly Dressed”), and publisher ( is a true original whose interest lies in the interaction between culture and style. He specializes in portraits and portraiture and while he has painted the portraits of many famous people (Rihanna, Marisa Berenson, Mary McFadden, Manolo Blahnik), this modern day dandy is undoubtedly his own best subject. His brilliant and unexpected mixes and combinations (designer, thrift shop, cast offs) are endlessly creative and highly visual. They routinely blur the lines of gender, sexuality, class, race and are captured in his ongoing series “Sartorial Anarchy” where he dresses in a variety of costumes from different times and places.

Best Dressed Sculptress: Olympia Scarry

What sets her apart: This Swiss born New York based visual artist routinely uses industrial materials such as cables, motors, mirrors, and fluorescent lights for her boundary breaking works. Among the standouts: Black Hand, her Rodin-esque wax; Licks, the stacked rock-salt towers meant to attract local wildlife; and the skeletal house-like installation she constructed last year out of metal poles on a lake in her native Switzerland. While she admits to living in t shirts and jeans at the studio, she is a fashion muse to designers such as Raf Simons (while at Dior) and Riccardo Tischi at Givenchy, and describes her personal style as clean and minimal focused predominately on black and white.

Best Undressed: Ciara

What sets her apart: It seems we’re at a time when gratuitous nudity is the new black and undeniably, it’s produced some cringe worthy moments. But if you ARE going to bare all (or almost all), at least make sure that you have the body, carriage, and wardrobe to pull it off. And there is no question that the beauteous Ciara did just that when she hosted the 2016 Billboard Music Awards. In three hours, she made 7 fabulous wardrobe changes, one barer and most spectacular than the next.

Best Dressed Building: One World Trade

What sets it apart: Since early 2015, floors 20 – 44 at One World Trade, has been home to Conde Nast’s 18 magazines (including Vogue, Vanity Fair, Glamour, GQ, The New Yorker, and Architectural Digest) and its approximately 3,400 employees (including Anna Wintour and Graydon Carter). Downtown Alliance president Jessica Lappin observed that the celebrated media company’s arrival (they relocated from 4 Times Square) “put a stiletto in the heart of the outdated notion that Lower Manhattan is stuffy and gray”.

Photo credits:

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.


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