Dec 11, 2013 5:35PM

Top 5: Unlikely Feminist Style Heroes

Good, good girls.

If you're a girl who obsesses over your female icons, you'll probably be aware that to value their fashionz is not to devalue their smarts. The two can coexist, you guys! Weird that we even need to point that out — Wendy Syfret would agree. She runs a just-launched, all-girl digital platform called Good Good Girl. Here, the rad site's Editor gives us a run-down of overlooked feminist ladies that dress smart and think glamourously.

Even as I'm writing this the grrrl in me can't help but cringe; when you're talking about your female idols you're not really meant to be focusing on their use of proportion or cut. But as someone who spends a lot of time reading about great feminists, and a lot of time thinking about different pleat options for a pair of shorts, the two tend to cross paths. And you know what, fuck it why shouldn't they? Being smart and inspiring doesn't mean you shouldn't be able to belt a coat like a boss. Giving a shit how Nicholas Ghesquière is going to get on as Marc Jacob’s successor doesn't mean you keep a wedding scrapbook under your bed — it just means you get the vapours over a bit of quality tailoring.

 
Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven
It's easy to look at a picture of the Baroness and figure she was ahead of her time, but she really was WAY ahead. During her hey-day in the late 19th century most women were expected to wear corsets and try not to sweat while sewing in front of the fire. Elsa was overcoming an abusive childhood to become a respected Dada artist. Everything she did was groundbreaking — her poetry (erotic), her marriage (open), her performance art (I'm not sure if we really have a term for it yet). Contemporaries Gertrude Stein, Man Ray, and Marcel Duchamp were only a few of the men and women who flocked to her and her hypnotising style. She's pretty much the godmother of Marina Abramovic, Louise Bourgeois, and 80s era Madonna. Look!
 
 
Emilie du Châtelet
If you think the jokes about girls not being good at maths and science are annoying, spare a thought for Emilie du Châtelet. In revolution-era France she was a prodigious mathematician, philosopher, physicist, considered an intellectual equal in academic circles. Her impact is still widely felt — she translated Isaac Newton's Principia Mathematica and was a pioneer in the science surrounding what we now know as infrared light. But she wasn't a typical book worm: her lovers included Voltaire (she left him for a struggling poet), and her penchant for chokers was totally Tumblr. 
 
 
Gayatri Spivak
Indian literary theorist and philosopher, Gayatri Spivak’s work hasn't been specifically gender focused, but rather concerned with post-colonialism in India. Although she didn't set out to do so, for thirty years the presence of a strong female political and academic voice in India on human rights has shown how closely feminism and humanism are related. Plus, you could talk forever about how it takes a certain kind of woman to pull of tightly cropped hair — pair that with a sari and a trench coat and you just hope Karl googled her in the lead up to Chanel's Fall 2012 collection.
 
 
Mademoiselle d'Éon
Eat your heart out Jenny Shimizu, d'Éon beat you in the masculine style department by 200 years. Mademoiselle d'Éon identified as being transgender (before there was a word for it), as opposed to just digging boots. Lightness aside, she was a hero to a community that is still marginalised today. Her life was far from easy, she lived as a man for decades under King Louis XV and Louis XVI after outing herself very publicly in the French court. In a surprising twist, after her revelation the court were relatively supportive — she was allowed to wear her knighthood she’d been awarded as a man.
 
 
Muriel Matters
When people think of the beginning of the 20th century there is a lot of focus on flappers, and so they should be — with their modern cuts and loosening sexual restraints they were feminist icons in their own right. But let's not lose sight of the work of their suffragette sisters. It was their less glamorous protests a decade earlier that made many of the Bright Young Thing's exploits possible. Also their love of white and lace was very Susien Chong. From progressive Adelaide (seriously 1900s Adelaide was the place to be), Australian Muriel Matters moved to the UK to be an actress but was soon sidelined by politics and the fate of her British sisters who hadn't yet received the vote. Plus, bitch could layer a blouse like nobody's business. 
 
 
Wendy Syfret