Coco Chanel, the little black dress
A staple of women's wardrobes across the wardrobes across the world, the little black dress has become synonymous with refined style and elegance. Its simple form was championed by numerous designers, but it was the legendary French couturier Coco Chanel who came to be identified with it.
"Coco Chanel was a very chic woman herself and that was an element that helped her stand out", says Patricia Mears, deputy director of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. "She was able to adapt the design of her little black dress throughout the decades, and her own style helped her version of it rise above all others."
By Milena Veselinovic, for CNN Lipnitzki/Roger Viollet/Getty Images/Courtesy Chanel
Vera Wang, wedding dresses
The appeal of Vera Wang's dreamlike creations transcends borders and cultural differences to be coveted by brides from four corners of the globe. The former fashion editor first stepped on to the scene in the 1980s, the era of extravagance when the hunger for luxury goods was on the rise.
"Vera Wang was the right person at the right time with the right idea," says FIT's Patricia Mears. "She realized that high fashion bridal wear was lacking, and she made very exquisite couture quality wedding gowns. But she wasn't selling just dresses, she was selling a very high-end vision, and by creating this bridal line, she made the industry much more important." Mark Von Holden/Getty Images for NYC & Company/ Peter Michael Dills/Getty Images
Miuccia Prada, nylon bag
When Miuccia Prada joined her family's leather manufacturing business in 1978, she transformed the small, traditional company into a global fashion empire with her nylon bag. Her idea to design a luxury bag out of humble nylon was an unlikely choice for a high-end brand like Prada.
"The nylon bag was how the Prada name was made," says Oriole Cullen, a fashion curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. "When she designed these very sleek, practical knapsacks out of inexpensive and durable material, it was something no one had ever done before, and the fashion world was really enamored with them." Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week/Courtesy Prada
Donna Karan, capsule wardrobe
American designer Donna Karan introduced the concept of the capsule wardrobe -- a few garments that could be mixed and matched to create various stylish outfits. She translated her experience as a working mother into her designs, helping busy women look well put-together without having to spend much time or effort on their appearance.
"It was almost as if you could buy a little trunk and everything you needed was in there for you, the body suit, the cashmere wraparound skirt, and the jacket and coat that worked with it," says the FIT's Patricia Mears, "it was a concept of no-brainer dressing, because Donna knew that women wanted to look professional, but also how little time they had." Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Wee
Diane von Furstenberg, wrap dress
With its bold prints and slinky fabric, the DVF wrap dress symbolizes easy, timeless elegance. When Diane von Furstenberg launched it in 1974, her decision to use jersey, a low maintenance supple material in a kaleidoscope of vibrant patterns, saw her creations flying off the racks. Her success landed her on the cover of Newsweek, who dubbed von Furstenberg "the most marketable woman since Coco Chanel.
"A DVF wrap dress is something you can throw into a suitcase and then just shake it out when you need it," says fashion curator Oriole Cullen. "It's appropriate for lots of different occasions, and it made women's lives easier because there was no need for pressing and making sure that it went straight to your body from the dry cleaner's." Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week/Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week/