Why Prince’s bold, gender-bending and very contemporary fashion legacy matters

On Thursday, Prince passed away in his Paisley Park home in Minnesota, at the age of 57 – and the universe lost one of its most opulent star.  Prince Rogers Nelson was an icon not just because of the prodigious musical ability that would see him win seven Grammy Awards and sell more than 100 million records over his four-decade-long career -bot to mention that His Purple Highness had played all 27 instruments on his debut album, For You- but also because his style was gender-bending and audacious. Just like David Bowie he loved glitter, ruffles, flared pantsuits fringed ponchos, lace suits, cropped tops and tight pants. Today, sartorial gender-bending with Gucci’s current creative director Alessandro Michele being a frontrunner, yet Prince was there from the beginning. “By 1984’s Purple Rain (and under the guidance of costume designer Marie France), he had perfected his iconic look: frilly shirts that were the cousin of Princess Di’s pie-crust shirts, stack-heeled platform boots and his hair tightly wound into a rapturous bouffant of dancing curls. It was dandyish but it also nodded to the military jackets of Jimi Hendrix and the psychedelia of Sgt Pepper” writes Guardian’s Priya Elan. “He made me feel comfortable with how I identify sexually simply by his display of freedom from and irreverence for the archaic idea of gender conformity” added Franck Ocean. A master of disguise and music, Prince still reigns.


In the event of his passing Vogue reprints two takes on the “Fresh Prince,” from the January 1992 issue, one by George Kalogerakis, the other by André Leon Talley, with photographs by Herb Ritts. This is an excerpt of the latter. “Well into the fifth wardrobe change of the day, Prince got around to letting go. The sun had set, and he asked one of his many assistants to rush across the highway to his house and bring back two of his new Sicilian card-shark, lounge-lizard chalk-striped suits in navy and black. The suits didn’t have matching pin-striped shoes, but appropriate and highly original take-offs of gangster spats and spectator oxfords in linen and patent were whipped out of shoe bags.


A baby grand piano lacquered sky blue was spotted in the corner and wheeled onto the set. It was suggested that Prince wear his new taxi yellow shiny PVC bolero and high-waisted tango jumpsuit, with yellow zipped shoes and matching guitar, of course. Prince changed, then bolted on top of the piano. Standing there he began the longest conversation of the day.


“Tell me if this makes you want to puke, throw up.”

“You look sensational.”

“I can change if you want.”

“Instead of standing, why don’t you perch on the edge of the piano and pretend you’re playing the keyboards with the heels of your fabulous yellow shoes?”

Prince got down, put his guitar aside, and lightly stabbed the ivories with his yellow patent heels, provoking Ritts to respond, “You look great. You look so sexy.”

Prince immediately walked off the set, with no explanation, telling Ritts, “Burn those negatives.”

Upstairs, for yet another change, a row of Jean Paul Gaultier fishnet T-shirts and red-hot denim jeans, laced up the back of the legs like an old-fashioned corset, elicit positive emotion. “They are nice. I like those.” But then Prince sits down and says, barely audibly, “But everyone wears Gaultier.” “Everyone,” to his mind, is, of course, that other style icon, Madonna.

Asked if he would consider being photographed at home, across the road, Prince’s eyes widen Clockwork Orange–style, and then he glares. Asked if he would sit down for an interview if he were pleased with the results of the sitting, Prince replied in his soft whisper, “I don’t talk very much. I don’t have much to say.”

Read the rest of his fashion wisdom here.

Photos via Vogue