Secret Style Icon: The Ronettes

No one wore a beehive and a pencil skirt like this trio.

Illustration by Jessica Harby

There were a million girl groups in the 1960s, but the Ronettes were the biggest, baddest, and sexiest of them all. While Motown groups like the Supremes went to charm school to sand down their rough edges and become more acceptable to white audiences, the Ronettes did no such whitewashing, and it shows. The Supremes were the prom queens of soul, poised and proper young ladies in false eyelashes and evening gowns. The Ronettes were the girls popping their gum and gossiping under the bleachers.

At the heart of the Ronettes’ look was the standard-issue mascara-and-miniskirt bad-girl uniform, but taken to the most ridiculous proportions: pencil skirts so tight they made the wearer wiggle more than walk, winged black eyeliner laid on so long and thick it disappeared into their bangs, hair piled so high atop their heads you were better off measuring it in feet, not inches.

Then there was lead singer Ronnie Spector’s voice. It wasn’t the mannered croon of Diana Ross or the soul-deep belt of Aretha. It was weird: a jagged, androgynous wail as urgent as a heart attack. When Ronnie yelped at a boy to “be my baby NOWWWW,” it was as much a command as a come-on. Plus, her eyeliner game was so tight—yes, that is a wing at the top AND bottom lashes in the picture below. (Stay tuned for a video later this month from Arabelle that’ll show you how to do a quality cat-eye yourself!)

The Ronettes’ look has inspired tons of fashion editorials (see below), but maybe it’s more telling that I think of them literally every time I backcomb my hair, squeeze into a pencil skirt, or sweep liquid liner all the way up to my temples. It’s such a simple look, but it always turns heads, every place you go.

This look never gets old.


  • darksideoftherainbow November 8th, 2011 7:18 PM

    this piece and the ronettes serve as excellent inspiration. i’m going to check out their music now! good looking girls and awesome style. thanks for this! i loved it

  • Chandler November 8th, 2011 7:34 PM

    I love the similes and metaphors used in this story.! Haha.:) I love the cat-eye eyeliner. I am SOOO excited for the upcoming video later this month. And I already started a “pencil skirt collection,” this makes me want to collect more…fast! : )

  • coffeeandinternets November 8th, 2011 8:52 PM

    Yes, yes, and yes.

    And also — “Be My Baby” is a GREAT karaoke number. Trust.

  • la-simplicite November 8th, 2011 9:47 PM

    Ooooo, The Ronettes are my favorite! I am so glad someone is acknowledging them! I recommend Ronnie Spector’s book: Mascara, miniskirts, and madness! So gooood<3

  • MichyMich November 9th, 2011 1:17 AM

    Man, when I read this post, it reminded me of Amy Winehouse – from the beehive hair, winged eyeliner, cleavage-revealing dresses and attitude.

  • zazza November 9th, 2011 3:07 AM

    i was gonna say AMY WINEHOUSE thats where she got the look
    loved the artcle!!

  • samhatt November 9th, 2011 6:09 AM

    love this!! <3

  • Rhianna November 9th, 2011 1:08 PM

    See, this was the age in which women could be famous artists and still have class and style. Nowadays the vast majority of female artists dress like something that belongs in the red light district and subtlety is a thing of the past.
    I wish we had more artists like the Ronettes, I think the sexy wiggle in a pencil skirt is far more attention grabbing than wearing a bra and knickers on stage, a pvc catsuit or god forbid, a meat dress to get attention.

  • RockHatesMiriam November 9th, 2011 2:32 PM

    A lot of modern day artists have obviously taken a lot if inspiration from them, Amy winehouse etc..
    Also, that winged eyeliner is perfection :)

  • jambajuicekitten November 9th, 2011 4:54 PM

    Rookie mag: the reason i wake up early and do my home work in the morning, instead of at night. (:

  • Suzette November 9th, 2011 5:43 PM

    I love the Ronettes. I’m totally obsessed with covers of “Be My Baby”, especially the French ones. So good.

  • Angelofthemorning November 10th, 2011 5:01 AM

    Yay! I love the Ronettes, I think they’re fantastic! I was waiting for Rookie to run an article this month on 1960′s girl groups and this is just it. Thankyou!

  • FashionHauties November 12th, 2011 9:47 PM

    The 60′s. I always go to Vintage stores and try to find stuff like this…
    I wish it was more popular!