As the world mourns the untimely death of one of the greatest musicians and fashion icons of the 20th and 21st centuries, Fashion Reverie takes a retrospective look at the fashion stylings of the peripatetic and ever-evolving Prince. No other musical and fashion icon has had the global impact over the past four decades than Prince Rogers Nelson.
When it comes to finding that delicate balance between feminine and masculine silhouettes with a dose of avant-garde and a nod to vintage and the baroque, no musical has defined this mix of fashion eclecticism better than Prince. With Prince, sexy surprise is the norm. And his norm is way ahead of the fashion curve.
That said; with almost four decades in the music industry, no musical artist has made the impact Prince has made, musically or creatively. He is irreverent, rebellious, sensual, fashion forward, unpredictable, sublime, and yes, divine. In other words, Prince is in a class all of his own!!
Since his musical debut in the late 70s, Prince has consistently defied the standard perception of how a male musical artist is supposed to dress on and off stage. From wearing black bikini thongs with thigh-high leg warmers and heeled boots to a pompadour coif with ruffled shirts and heavily embroidered jacquard baroque–inspired jackets to his final incarnation paying homage to Black Power in a big Afro, Prince’s fashion predilection was not only fashion forward and gender bending, but also political.
What could be more political than redefining masculinity and masculine silhouettes. Yet, Prince’s political leanings went way beyond juxtaposing feminine styles against masculine silhouettes. When Prince was not able to access his master tapes in the mid-1990s he started writing ‘slave’ on his face and used he moniker the ‘Artist Formerly Known as Prince.’ His nod to black empowerment was made evident in donning a big Afro paired with Nehru-type jackets and love beads.
Prince never tried to separate politics from life. And the real-time politics of everyday life was infused into his music, as well as his fashion choices. Think the lyrics in “Controversy,” “Annie Christian,” and “Ronnie Talk to Russia,” all from Prince’s 1981 “Controversy” album. There is also “Money Don’t Matter 2 Night” and “Race” from Prince’s “Diamonds and Pearls” album. Last, but not least, there is the “Emancipation” album that was heavily inspired by Prince’s battle with Warner Bros. over master tapes. This album produced the politically charged “Face Down,” “2045: Radical Man.”
Still, at times his political statements didn’t match his religious views. Some social pundits note that Prince may have been a conservative Christian that didn’t support gay marriage and his spiritual journeys which swayed from Seventh Day Adventist to Jehovah Witness were crazy quilt and uneven, at best. Perhaps, like all deep thinkers, Prince was continually searching for his truth. And his search for the Divine evolved just like his music and personal style.
That said; what cannot be denied is his style. No other pop artist celebrated bold color, and in particular the hues of purple like Prince. From sequined purple jackets, to metallic purple trench coats to tight purple, hip hugging slacks to purple heels, Prince was the ‘Emperor of Purple.’
We will never, ever forget you dear Prince. May your music and fashion style live for generations to come. Long live the Prince!!
—William S. Gooch