Style: Rebirth of the Factory girl

With her 'anthracite-black eyes and legs to swoon over', Edie Sedgwick was the darling not only of Andy Warhol's crowd, but of all 60s New York. Now she is fashion's top muse once more, reports Ellen Brookes Burney

Fashion will always need muses. Clothes, you see, aren't enough: in order to get truly excited about fashion, we need a whole character to dress up as. This year's name became clear when John Galliano announced that both his haute couture and ready-to-wear collections for Christian Dior were inspired by Edie Sedgwick, Andy Warhol's 1960s superstar. Combine this with the fact that Sienna Miller, currently a fashion muse in her own right, is to play Sedgwick in an upcoming film - and recently bought $12,000 worth of photographs of Sedgwick at a Manhattan gallery - and you have an instant icon.

Miller's turn as Sedgwick in the forthcoming film Factory Girl is sure to have the celebrity magazines turning out "get the look" pages before the ink is dry on the reviews.

Like everything in fashion, Sedgwick has, of course, been around before. Since her 60s heyday - and her death in 1971 - her ghost has drifted on and off the fashion radar. Think of Kate Moss's blonde pixie cut a few years ago, or of Sofia Coppola dedicating her debut Milk Fed collection to Sedgwick's style. And it's not all underground; model Fanni Bostrom danced barefoot as she played Sedgwick to Will Young's Warhol in his 2002 video single Light My Fire.

Sedgwick's story as a fashion icon began when she fled Harvard for New York draped in her grandmother's antique jewels, and ended up in the Factory, Warhol's infamous slick-silver Manhattan studio. As young American heiresses go, Sedgwick was no different to your modern-day little madam, chartering countless personal limousines for her shopping sprees around New York and charging the bills to daddy's unlimited account. One crucial difference, however, from the Twit girls of today: she had style by the bucketloads.

Sedgwick set trends by not caring what was in fashion. She would turn up to posh society dos barefoot, or for dinner dates in little more than a leotard accessorised with bangles, multi-strand necklaces and dangling chandelier earrings. Sometimes she'd be wearing just a white mink coat and nothing else. But, crucially, she had her style signatures: the fragile, alabaster skin; the sootily rimmed teacup eyes; the Liz Taylor dark eyebrows; the silver spray of gamine-like hair, dyed to match Warhol's; and black opaque tights. As Life magazine put it in 1965, "This cropped-mop girl with the eloquent legs is doing more for black tights than anybody since Hamlet".

Sedgwick's flair caught the eye of the top New York designer Betsey Johnson when she was just starting out. "Edie was my first fitting model ... very boyish, in fact she was the very beginning of the whole unisex trip," Johnson recounts in Jean Stein's 1984 biography, Edie. "I liked leotardic clothes - body-conscious clothes. The jersey-bodied, T-shirty, silver, second skin. That was Edie. Her body was very important to her." Diana Vreeland, then the editor of American Vogue, pronounced Sedgwick a "Youthquaker!", aged 22, describing her as "white-haired with anthracite-black eyes and legs to swoon over". Gloria Schiff, a senior editor who soon shot with Sedgwick regularly, called her "an enchanting, remarkable creature of the moment".

According to friends, Sedgwick's apartment was chaos, piles of clothes on every piece of furniture. There were ostrich-plumed capes (how very now), tailed shirts, and high, high heels. Both Sedgwick and Warhol were fond of the now-iconic Breton stripes and would wear them out together. As the poet and artist René Ricard recalls in Stein's book, "Edie was pasted up to look just like him, but looking so good! The T-shirt. The black stockings. Long earrings. Just the most devastating, ravishing beauty." But who was copying who? Truman Capote guessed that Edie was something Andy would like to have been.

"He was transposing himself into her, à la Pygmalion. Have you ever noticed a certain type of man who always wants to go along with his wife to pick out her clothes? I've always thought that's because he wants to wear them himself. Andy Warhol would like to have been Edie Sedgwick."

He wasn't the only one. Sedgwick was fast becoming fancy dress party fodder, with the likes of artist Roy Lichtenstein's wife Dorothy attending a Halloween party dressed up as her. "Dorothy wore hotpants and very high heels and put on a lot of silver glitter," Lichtenstein (who accompanied her as Warhol) told Stein.

But soon, Warhol grew bored of Sedgwick and found himself another superstar, leaving Sedgwick even more messed up - and a little less dressed up - than before. "The Queen Bee Speedfreaks and Amphetamine Annie had found out where my apartment was," says Sedgwick on the tapes for the Warhol thriller, Ciao! Manhattan. "All my jewellery was stolen and all my expensive clothes. Dior, Balenciaga, just tons of originals. By the way, have you heard anything about my furs? Everybody's wearing them."

And 40 years later, we're wearing Sedgwick's wardrobe all over again.

The GuardianTramp

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