The Sedgwick Spirit of Style

...more than a muse

by Audrey Rogers
“Edie danced to her own tune, and I imagine this is what inspired Warhol and Dylan as much as it did me. She created her own identity…she may only have had 15 minutes of fame, but her style and image influenced a whole generation” - John Galliano

New York, 1965: Laughter that floats like freedom. Clinking martini glasses twisting into trails of cigarette smoke. The crazy tangle of minds, ideas and art trapped between the walls of Warhol’s factory. Waifish limbs poking out beneath a short dress as chandelier earrings drip polished jewels. Short bottle blonde locks and a stare of blackened eyes covered in thick kohl. This is Edie Sedgwick and the 60s was her world.

As Warhol’s most famous muse, Edie walked into a life that thrived on thrill. From the moment he asked her “Why don’t we do some things together?” , she was spun into a dizzying circle of fame; thrown into the flurry of the New York’s socialite storm. She acted in Warhol’s films. She modeled for Vogue, Life and Betsey Jackson. She dated Bob Dylan. And she was always at a party.
Her decadent lifestyle, wealthy family heritage and easy access to money meant Sedgwick could dress as lavishly as she wanted. Instead, she drifted from the sartorial-obsessed 60s crowd and allowed her wardrobe choices to flow spontaneously. She was often seen roaming the streets of Manhattan in bare feet. Most of her outfits consisted of her grandmother’s vintage neck-sweeping earrings paired with nothing more than a leotard and leggings.

Stripes, fur, dark tights and large doses of eyeliner became her trademark wardrobe pieces. Her dressing was obviously not conscious but instead probably composed by her permanently drugged state: absentmindedly throwing on strange ensembles as she concentrated on pouring another martini. She dressed, not according to trend, but according to her lifestyle: the rapid reel of parties, drugs and drinks left little time to deliberate on fashion, so choices were sporadic, free-spirited and quick. She represented the avant-garde- the bohemian side of chic, shedding deliberate dressing and instead embracing impulse.

While Edie’s claim to fame was fleeting, her position in the fashion sphere remains an influential one. Betsey Johnson believed that her boyish figure “was the very beginning of the whole unisex trip”: the androgyny trend that now faithfully resurfaces every season. Edie love of dancing meant many of her ensembles revolved around leggings: a look that surprisingly took off and it seems the craze will never fade. Not only did they dominate the 80s, but leggings have recently drifted back into style for a second round, but this time the trend is at its fiercest, almost surpassing jeans as the crucial, can’t-live-without garment.

A walk into American Apparel demonstrates that Edie’s love of leotards is still strongly shared with contemporary fashionistas. Sienna Miller, not only played Edie in the art-house film, “Factory Girl” but in describing herself as “a child of the 1960s”, the actress and fashion icon seems to encapsulate the modern day Sedgwick spirit of style. Then again, the Edie prototype appears almost ubiquitous within today’s sartorial circles, women like Kate Moss and Nicole Ritchie have defined their signature looks with tights, boots, minidresses and chunky jewellery- evoking the Edie approach to fashion.

Regardless of era, a remnant of Edie’s innovative dress-sense is forever present. Her look has lingered and flourished throughout the decades. Her wardrobe reflects the wild wanderings of a true Manhattan maverick. Edie’s carefree, thrill-craving ways were what defined her style status, and by dying young, all that she represented was preserved. And, while she only enjoyed a fast fifteen minutes of fame, her inspiration and influence as a fashion icon have proved timeless.