The “New” Best Dressed List For 2017: One For the “Ages”

The notion of ‘Best Dressed’ is elusive and highly subjective. It means different things to different people. It means different things to me at different times and depending on the context it’s put in. Best Dressed, like beauty, is indeed, in the ‘Eyes of the Beholder’! I’ve sometimes been tempted to do a Most Beautiful List, but beauty, which is both inside and out, is not just about possessing certain God given assets (which certainly doesn’t hurt). It’s about the entire package: your soul, your essence, your humanity, your grooming, and how you present yourself to the world (in other words, what you wear). You can’t separate these elements. 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.

I prefer to vary my categories from year to year. See our past 2016 “New” Best Dressed List ; 2015 “New” Best Dressed List; 2014 “New” Best Dress List; and our first 2013 “New” Best Dressed List This time around, I decided to focus on women between the ages of 55 – 95. If ever there was a year to do a best dressed list devoted to strong women with their own personal styles, all over the age of 55, it is 2017, the undisputed “Year of the Woman”; a time when women, age, uniqueness and individuality are all being celebrated. My aim was to represent a range of looks, styles, and approaches. Some of the women are classic, some are unconventional if not completely rule breaking; some are minimalists, some believe more is more, and there is everything in between. Some on the list live in black or black & white, while others joyfully embrace color; some may seem to be dressed up almost all the time, while others are unapologetically dressed down

If there is a thread that holds them together, it is that they each have an identifiable ‘look’ and a specific point of view. They know who they are and how they want to portray themselves to the world. They are in step with the current zeitgeist without following trends; they look modern and relevant without looking inappropriate; and they have consistently stayed true to themselves without looking as though they are stuck in a time warp. This is not an easy feat. In searching for the pictures I used (all taken in the past year or so), what hit me most is how much better and more confident they all look at this point in their lives. They are not getting older — they are truly getting better.

(Editor’s Note: Be sure to click images if you wish to see full size versions)

Queen Elizabeth II

What sets her apart: Born Elizabeth Alexandra Mary in 1926, Queen Elizabeth II is Britain’s longest-reigning monarch. (Just a note, while this list is in random order, I figured, but what better way to begin?) She has persisted through a number of personal ups and downs and as former Prime Minister David Cameron once noted, she has remained a “rock of stability in a world of constant change.” Indeed, one can always count on her royal highness to stay above the fray and “Keep Calm and Carry On”. And she can always be counted upon to carry one of her small structured black patent leather bags. Along with her sensible black shoes, they accessorize her wardrobe of proper and mostly colorful skirt suits and coats. Flowers are optional; a matching hat is not.

Lynn Slater

What sets her apart: Known for her cool minimalist aesthetic, sleek silver bob, and show-stopping sunglasses, this professor of social studies at Fordham University is the founder of the Accidental Icon blog where she writes academically about creativity and style while putting the spotlight on her fabulous outfits. But there’s nothing at all ‘accidental’ about her rigorously curated wardrobe based predominantly on black and white and filled with vintage 80’s Japanese designer clothes. The definition of subversive glamour, she describes her look and her blog, as geared for “the real woman who operates in a professional world who has to have credibility but, at the same time, doesn’t want to look boring”. While she never talks about age, through her blog, she speaks out against age discrimination in the fashion industry and elsewhere and shares ideas on the best ways to disrupt these notions through fashion (namely, she ignores those who say one should ‘dress one’s age’). Her unerring sense of style and exceptional social media status have resulted in appearances in a recent Valentino ad campaign, being chosen as one of Barney’s ‘personalities’, become a thread in Mango’s ‘story of uniqueness’. Earlier this year she was signed up by ELITE Models Special Booking, London. You go girl!

Amy Fine Collins

What sets her apart: With her severely black short hair and long lean frame, the Vanity Fair Special Correspondent and keeper of Vanity Fair’s Best Dressed List, along with Reinaldo Herrera, resembles a tall, elegant and chic pixie. But there is nothing at all pixyish about her serious, museum-worthy wardrobe, accessorized with a never-ending cache of fabulous handbags and Manolo Blahniks. Her sophisticated, yet playful, sense of style favors strong lines rather than surface ornamentation and is the perfect combination of owning “the well trained eye of an art historian” and a formidable insider’s knowledge of fashion and fashion history. She understands the notion of appropriate and always dresses the part but that is the only common thread in her many visages. Her wardrobe and her looks are varied, and there is always an element of surprise. Whether she is wearing one of Thom Browne’s extraordinary ensembles (she is the designer’s muse), or something more classic, it is hard not to notice her in a room filled with well-dressed people. Her extraordinary uniqueness prompted Isaac Mizrahi to note, “She is this kind of invention — she made this look up and it burned itself into our psyche from the moment it appeared and it will never leave — it is indelible.”

Norma Kamali

What sets her apart: The multi-talented award winning designer is the definition of modern and has been one step ahead of everyone else since the beginning of her prolific career (a career that began in 1968 and is still going strong). It’s seen many firsts and included many highlights. She has always understood the connection between beauty, wellness, and fashion; has been on a mission to promote fitness and health and to empower strong women; and has been a champion of innovative style and technological innovation for which she credits Steve Jobs (3D films literally enable her products to pop off the screen on her website). As for her sartorial choices, she never looks like she’s trying too hard, and has wisely affected a uniform of sorts. She looks casual, comfortable, and sporty and dresses almost entirely in monotone black and white (with a touch of silver). She eschews fussy patterns in favor of stripes or graphic art inspired patterns. She opts for the simple and classic (trench coats, tailored blazers, turtlenecks, sweatshirts, jeans and jean jackets, t- shirts, leather biker jackets, and the occasional fanciful touch by way of fringe or embroidery). Other than footwear (pumps and boots), her oversized statement-making tinted glasses are her only accessory (along with her trademark blunt cut bangs).

Anna Wintour

What sets her apart: The British-born New York-based editor-in-chief of Vogue and Conde Nast artistic director is arguably the most influential person in the fashion universe and while she can have her pick of designs, she wisely stays true to her vision of herself. One of the most recognizable women on the planet she has affected and perfected what has become a quintessential Wintour look: the face framing bob, oversized Chanel sunglasses, Georgian necklaces, tall boots or Manolo Blahnik’s nude sandals or pumps, and a wardrobe filled with statement-making coats and jackets (many of them fur or fur trimmed), skirt suits, and dresses that hit at the knee or below. You will never see her in head-to-toe black, sneakers, or jeans or trousers for that matter. While she wears a variety of labels including Miuccia Prada, a personal friend and favorite of hers, you can bet she will rely on Chanel for the biggest moments of her life. So it was hardly surprising that she ignored her own dress code for the Met Gala (it was ‘avant-garde’ in celebration of Rei Kawakubo), and instead opted for an elegantly beautiful feather trimmed Chanel Haute couture gown. And when she traveled to London’s Buckingham Palace to receive her DBE or Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire from Queen Elizabeth ll, she wore a belted pink coat from Chanel accessorized with nude Manolo Blahnik Umice heels.

 Ines de la Fressange:

What sets her apart: A bona fide French aristocrat and the first model to ever sign an exclusive contract with Chanel in the 1980’s, Ines is a living legend in France and has more than earned her label as a legendary style icon having received the Legion d’Honneur in 2008. Unapologetically non- trendy, she ignores fashion and does her own thing, resulting in a look that telegraphs simplicity, chic, and originality. With her rangy boyish frame and short dark tousled hair, she not only epitomizes “Parisian Chic”, but wrote and illustrated the book. She effortlessly accessorizes her classic wardrobe staples (nobody can make a Lacoste polo look as divine) with an enviable and seemingly never-ending selection of Roger Vivier shoes and bags and she could not be a more fitting style icon. Nobody looks as good in Roger Vivier as Ines, and it doesn’t hurt that at approximately 6 feet tall, there is nobody who looks as good in their distinctive flats, which she favors for both day AND night. The one-time muse of Karl Lagerfeld has a democratic approach to fashion and is the ultimate mixer of high street and high fashion so, it makes perfect sense that in addition to being the style ambassador for what is arguably the chicest label on the planet, she also designs a line for the popular priced company Uniqlo.

Iris Apfel

What sets her apart: What doesn’t set her apart? What more can be said about this inspiring, ageless nonagenarian who shows no signs of slowing down that has not been already said? The oldest on this list at the age of 95, she still remains the coolest cat in any room and always stands out owing to her signature look: close cropped white hair, black framed owl shaped eyeglasses, bold use of color and pattern, magnificent, statement making over-the-top accessories personalize even the most simple, classic pieces forming the basis of her wardrobe. How many women can say they have had an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art solely dedicated to their amazing sense of style and extensive wardrobe? “Rara Avis: The Irreverent Iris Apfel”, 2005, was a game changer for women of all ages, and especially for women of a certain age, opening their eyes to the realization that they don’t have to become invisible, fade into the woodwork or into a boring beige wardrobe.

Lauren Hutton

What sets her apart: When the trailblazing Southern California born model signed a contract with Revlon cosmetics back in 1973 for $250,000 a year for 20 days’ work, it was the biggest contract in the history of the modeling industry. She also appeared on the cover of Vogue magazine a record 26 times. Ever since, the iconic model and actress famous for her All-American natural good looks and gap tooth smile, has inspired generations of modern women thanks to her easy, effortless but polished, style; the perfect mix of masculine and feminine (as exemplified by her love of the tailored suit); spontaneity and authenticity; blending the trendy and the traditional. Her mantra says it all: “Fashion is what you’re offered four times a year by designers and style is what you choose.” Unsurprisingly, she continues to be much in demand as a model, as exemplified by her appearances in advertising campaigns for H&M, Lord and Taylor, Alexander Wang, and stints on the runways of Tom Ford and Bottega Veneta.

Betty Catroux

What sets her apart: Is it any wonder that with her cool laid back rock ‘n’ roll style, long white blond hair, lanky body, gaunt features and androgynous appearance, she was Yves Saint Laurent’s model and muse in the 60’s and 70’s? In fact, Yves described her as his “twin” and referred to her as his “female incarnation”. Tom Ford was so inspired by her that he dedicated his debut YSL Rive Gauche collection to her. When asked about her fashion sense, Betty, who is married to legendary decorator Francois Catroux  has said, “I have dressed the same way practically since I was born. I don’t dress as a woman. I’m not interested in fashion at all.” And to her credit, she has stuck with her signature look through the decades. You never see her in anything but a variation on a theme and she is still a vision in head-to-toe black (lots of leather and touches of fringe), her long legs encased in skintight pants and her ever present boots.

Linda Fargo

What sets her apart: Linda is not only Bergdorf Goodman’s Senior Vice President, Women’s Fashion Director and Store Presentation but the face of this luxury retailer. A major style influencer with an infectious love of fashion and natural exuberance, she could not be a more fitting ambassador. With her silvery white bob, bright red Chanel lipstick, perfectly manicured red nails, she always makes a powerful statement and regardless of what she wears (whether it’s strict tailleur or something more lighthearted and free flowing), she is always true to herself and authentic. Her meticulous attention to detail and her POW accessories never go unnoticed. She wants to put the joy back in fashion and in shopping and was just given the perfect platform with which to do that:  her own 600 square foot shop on the 4th floor, which she has curated with a fabulous mix of items. As she enthused, “I’m already a customer in my own shop. “Linda’s at Bergdorf Goodman” is really my fantasy closet and home.”

Donna Karan

What sets her apart: From the very beginning, Donna has sought to empower women, make their lives easier, more comfortable, and more beautiful. In 1984 she launched her eponymous collection predicated on a dynamic system of modern dressing and now the award winning iconic designer, world traveler, and humanitarian is focused on her Urban Zen Foundation; a realization of her dream to not just dress people, but to address them. She continues to find inspiration in the people, art and culture around her and through her world travels, and she continues to embody the label she founded. The creator of the 7 easy pieces knows a thing or two about the importance of affecting a monochromatic uniform based on signature wardrobe staples. Regardless of whether she is in a strong shouldered jacket or something more sensual that envelops and wraps her body, her personal ‘signifiers’ are a black cashmere scarf and a bold artisan necklace made of wood or stone. “The scarf is a way of life for me; it’s a security blanket, a luxurious piece to throw on my shoulder or wrap around myself if I get cold. The necklace – often something I pick up in Haiti from craftswoman Pascale Theard – adds that element of soul and individuality.”

Carmen Dell’Orefice

What sets her apart: The world’s oldest working supermodel defines longevity with a modeling career that has spanned more than 70 years. She posed for Salvador Dali at 13 and had her first Vogue cover at 15 and after seven decades in the fashion industry, this age defying woman is still going strong. In fact, she continues to thrive in an age phobic industry and has actually admitted that she’s worked more in the last 25 or so years, than ever before. “Today I am in a territory that business considers unmarketable: age and white hair. Slowly, however, I started to own that territory little by little because I stood up for age.” Because of her patrician looks, regal bearing, striking cheekbones, and lanky 5’9” frame, she can literally wear anything. And while she tends to favor the classics (always perfect accessorized with the right jewelry), she can just as easily pull off the highly dramatic better than almost anyone else.

Vera Wang

What sets her apart: This past March, Vera Wang received the Légion d’Honneur, France’s highest civilian distinction from Gerard Araud, France’s ambassador to the U.S. Past awards include the CFDA Womenswear Designer of the Year in 2005 and their Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013. Although skating and dance initially brought her to Paris, it is her deep connection to Paris and her love of the city, that shaped her life, inspired and nurtured her. But while the award-winning fashion designer grew up going to the couture in Paris with her mother, there’s a duality due to her rebellious streak. She once admitted “Conventional clothing as always looked pretty ridiculous on me” and has stated, “I wasn’t ever an uptown girl but I always had an uptown budget, and that made me lethal.” Her personal style (like her designs) put an emphasis on sophisticated purity, mixing high and low, and can best be described as unconventional, laid back, slouchy, and idiosyncratic. Vera prizes comfort and ease and is big on layering and her working uniform is black leggings and slouchy knit tops. But regardless of what she wears, the resultant look is always edgy, with plenty of attitude, and a youthful flair.

Carolina Herrera

What sets her apart: The iconic fashion designer who has already been inducted into the International Best Dressed Hall of Fame, is always polished, impeccably turned out, flawlessly groomed, with an old world elegance that remains modern to the core. She is the definition of easy and effortless and never looks forced, uncomfortable or contrived. It’s almost impossible to NOT look good – and ageless – in a crisp white shirt, and Carolina knows this better than anyone. They have become part of her uniform and her trusty “security blanket” for both day and evening, not to mention when she takes her bow after a fashion show. Her signature, non-fussy look, is comprised of a skirt (knee length or floor length, either narrow or full), mannish trousers, and a tailored (or not so tailored) shirt, always accessorized with one of her many pairs of Manolo Blahniks. It is a look so finely honed, she has marveled that it takes her only 10 minutes to get ready for even the grandest occasion. Now, that’s what I call elegant, chic, modern, and totally ageless!


What sets her apart: The Somali born fashion model, actress, philanthropist and widow of rock musician David Bowie is an entrepreneur and pioneer in the field of ethnic cosmetics (Iman Cosmetics). With her long neck, slender figure, fine features, copper toned skin and exotic bearing, she became an instant success in the fashion world and was a muse to Halston, Gianni Versace, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, and Issey Miyake. She was also a favorite of Yves Saint Laurent who once called her his “dream woman”. It’s no wonder she has such a finely honed sense of style: bold, exotic and predicated on the classics. In addition to her fondness for structured tailoring, she is a self-professed lover of kaftans (she has hundreds in her personal closets, “hasn’t met a kaftan she doesn’t love” and considers them to be must-haves). So it’s not surprising that for her freshman Iman Global Chic line of accessories, fashion, jewelry for HSN, (inspired by her world travels and geared for the average woman  who is not a red carpet fixture), her first design was a kaftan.

Diane Keaton

What sets her apart: Talk about being prescient! At a time of gender fluidity, Diane Keaton, in her iconic role as Annie Hall, was the original “borrowed from the boys” gal and it’s still hard to separate the legendary character from the woman as they are all in one. This true style original made vests, pantsuits, and ties a fashionable choice and she has always refused to adhere to red carpet standards preferring to put her own spin on things. We’re in a moment that prizes being covered up and leaving something to the imagination rather than baring all, and Diane has always preferred to cover up. But she’s wisely shown off her toned body in perfectly fitted coats, waist defining jackets, and through the use of wide cinch belts. She has also made bare necks all wrong, preferring to hide them in taut turtlenecks and high Edwardian collars.

Lynn Wyatt

What sets her apart: This international society icon, philanthropist and third-generation Texan was hailed “The Best Little Socialite in Texas” by Vanity Fair (she is married to self-made millionaire Oscar Wyatt Jr. and her grandfather founded the Sakowitz Department store chain). She once aptly described her style as “class with a bit of dash and never trash”. Indeed, she always looks rich and glamourous regardless of whether she is wearing head-to-toe denim, cowboy boots and a cowboy hat, or something far more opulent and couture, which is more the norm. But to her credit, she does her homework, manages to keep it fresh, modern and current, and is never stuck in a time warp. Most importantly, she knows what looks good on her small fine-boned frame and she always selects clothes that flatter, not overpower her. While others her age continue to go bare, strapless, sleeveless (even when they shouldn’t), Lynn is almost always quite covered up in figure flattering dresses, pants, fabulous jackets, blouses, and suits.

Linda Rodin

What sets her apart: When this NYC based former model, magazine editor, boutique owner and stylist could not find beauty products that suited her, she devised them her own bathroom. The result is luxury beauty brand RODIN olio lusso (which was acquired by Estee Lauder in 2014). Her guiding force is “simplicity is beauty” and to her credit, she has refused to look younger unnaturally (she never dyed her hair or considered getting a facelift). She is eternally cool and oozes relaxed elegance thanks to her innate knack for throwing her classic pieces together in a playful, highly personal way. She has said, “I didn’t find my style. It found me.” She eschews trends in favor of a signature personal style that suits her and her lifestyle: she only wears flats or very low heels (shoes and boots), has traded in eye-makeup for a statement making glasses, keeps her platinum hair in a simple ponytail or bun, wears red lipstick. Her enviable, carefully edited wardrobe is based on simple clean unfussy lines, and her love of denim, specifically dark, original, uncreased denim. As she put it, “I like jeans with anything! Casual or dressy. Jean jackets with a dress or skirt, jeans with vintage sequined tops… jeans are always right. They have been the main part of my wardrobe since I was 16.”

Joy Venturini Bianchi

What sets her apart: This native San Franciscan, a familiar face on the society scene, is as much known for tireless philanthropy as for her faultless taste and bold head turning, entrance-making style (she has said she learned about quality, fit and investing in great pieces and how to mix them up and make them work, from both her parents). She has been involved with Helpers, a charity that aids the developmentally disabled, 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.

Michele Lamy

What sets her apart:  With her tattooed hands, gold teeth, eclectic jewelry and artistic use of kohl, Michele is the most eccentric and unconventional in this group. She has enjoyed successful careers as defense attorney, clothing designer, cabaret performer, film producer, and restaurateur. But since 2003, she has been best known as wife, business partner, muse, inspiration, and creative mind behind fashion designer Rick Owens (who will receive the 2017 CFDA Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award on June 5th). Rick has described her as “a mesmerizing sphinx” and the couple, who live and work in Paris, are all but inseparable; dressed head-to-toe in his designs. Unsurprisingly, the only other designer she is seen wearing other than Rick Owens, is Rei Kawakubo. At the recent Met Gala, she was one of the few brave souls who actually took the dress code seriously and wore an avant-garde red Comme des Garcons dress, prompting one attendee to note “Michele is more Rei Kawakubo than Rei Kawakubo”.

(Photo credits:,,

– Marilyn Kirschner

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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