You can trust Beyonce to steal the show.

In a surprise appearance, Beyonce strode onstage at the CFDA Awards in a sparkling pinstriped pant suit – and spectacularly wide-brimmed hat.

Appearing at the annual Council of Fashion Designers of America awards ceremony to accept her Fashion Icon award, she told a crowd of designers, TV stars and other celebrities: “As long as I can remember, fashion has always been a part of my life.”

Beyonce sparkled on stageBeyonce sparkled on stage (Rex/Shutterstock)

Beyonce said her seamstress grandmother had passed her skills down to her mother – who helped create outfits when the labels did not want to make clothes for black performers.

“When we were starting out in Destiny’s Child, high-end labels, they didn’t really want to dress four black, country curvy girls,” she said. “And we couldn’t afford designer dresses and couture. My mother … used her talent and her creativity to give her children their dreams.”

Destiny's Child in 1997 (Houston Chronicle/Smiley N Pool)Destiny’s Child in 1997 (Houston Chronicle/Smiley N Pool)

She spoke of wearing her first costumes, which her mother and uncle had designed and sewn, “putting so much passion and love into every detail”.

It felt, she said, “like an extra suit of armour. It was so much deeper than any brand name.”

Usually, organisers announce the name of the Fashion Icon winner well in advance, but this year they kept it under wraps until the end of the ceremony. Beyonce was supported by husband Jay Z and daughter Blue Ivy.

“I encourage you to not forget this power that you have, or take it lightly,” the singer told her fashion industry audience.

“We have an opportunity to contribute to a society where any girl can look at a billboard or a magazine cover and see her own reflection.”

The surprise honoree was one highlight of an evening that also included a touching tribute to the late David Bowie from his friend, actress Tilda Swinton.

Tilda Swinton arrives at the 2016 CFDA Fashion AwardsTilda Swinton arrives at the 2016 CFDA Fashion Awards (Evan Agostini/AP)

Tilda’s speech took the form of a letter she’d written to the singer, telling him he was being honoured “for all your colours, all your magic, all your vim and vigour”.

“This is a good thing: You have brought out the freak in everyone,” Tilda said.