My Style Icon: Björk

My first woman crush

As a punk-loving teenager, I was told repeatedly by my friends to check out the Sugarcubes. I'd love the lead singer, they all said. So I did. And I did.

How utterly depressing, then, to learn that the band had broken up long before I'd discovered them.

That was before Björk struck out on her own just a few months later. When she Debuted, I was there for it. It became the soundtrack to my fresh-out-of-high-school years and I took inspiration not only from the heavy bass lines and her unique voice but also from her appearance.

Punk rock may have been my musical love but I was over the teeny-tiny t-shirts and baggy jeans that I'd spent much of my youth wearing in an attempt at displaying my femininity while simultaneously hiding my body. A fashion statement designed to help me fit in with the skater boys and ravers I spent my free time with.

But Björk: she was the first punk idol I had who embraced her womanhood, gracing it with a signature quirkiness to her appearance. Some days she'd trade in her oversized sweater for a colorful pom-pom dress, dye her black hair orange temporarily, slide her black combat boots on under a skirt.

Over the years, I followed Björk as much for her music as for her style and later for her acting in “Dancer in the Dark.” She inspired me to think for myself when I dressed – her music in my ears as I purchased my to-this-day favorite Diesel dress, denim with glow-in-the-dark inserts. And even as I didn't love the swan dress she wore to the Oscars, I found myself defending her to a colleague who found it too outrageous for the red carpet. “Sometimes,” I told her, “the red carpet needs to be outrageous.”

The infamous swan dress (copyright creative commons)

The infamous swan dress (copyright creative commons)

Just six months later, at a concert at Radio City Music Hall for her album “Vespertine,” there was no outrageousness to be had. The smell of the fires at the World Trade Center still hung over Manhattan as I made my way to the concert hall with my sister, both of us wondering if now was the right time to finally be seeing our idol live. Björk knew, though. She'd brought a choir from Greenland as back-up vocalists. Adorned in traditional attire from the island, the choir brought tears to our eyes. So did Björk.

Have you ever had that? A singer, a celebrity, who seems to know your mood, what you need at a given point in time? The woman who served as a fashion role model, easing me into acceptance of my femininity and body in a truly unique way as I bloomed into adulthood was there on stage when I was mourning, realizing there is a time and place for conservatism and that was it for me.

As I grew older, Björk's music was less frequently on rotation in my house but she continued to inspire me. After a trip to Reykjavik, I brought home a CD of Icelandic jazz hits, “Gling Glo” that kept me awake at nights during graduate school. Björk's latest, “Vulnicura,” written about her separation from artist Matthew Barney, came out right as I was finding my way again as an independent woman after a divorce. In interviews, she asked for privacy while at the same time promoting how she had created this album on her own. Yes! It was so enlightening to hear someone talk about her grief at a lost marriage while also showing women can rule while remaining independent.

Our paths, it seemed, would neither converge nor diverge. Which is why I still, after more than 20 years, turn to Björk for fashion inspiration, asking myself at times: What Would Björk Wear? (ct)

Cover of Homogenic

Cover of Homogenic