7 of prince's most iconic outfits
The artist's boundary-pushing choices set a new standard in both music and style.
Photo by Ian Dickson/Redferns
Never one to follow the crowd, Prince set a new standard not only for music, but also style. His intricately-designed outfits reached another level of artistry and challenged traditional gender roles. His unique style has left an indelible mark on the fashion world, inspiring runway designers such as Versace, and countless musicians, such as Lil Nas X. The recently released Prince memoir, titled The Beautiful Ones, further explores just how monumental Prince’s pop culture influence continues to be following his untimely death in 2016.
In honor of the High Priest of Pop’s new book, i-D takes a look at some of his most iconic style moments throughout the years:
Performance of “Gett Off” at the 1991 MTV VMA’s
For his performance during the 1991 MTV VMA’s, Prince took the stage dressed in a yellow lace suit and yellow boots while performing with a matching yellow guitar. The boldest statement of the night though may have been when Prince turned around while on stage to reveal that his trousers were backless, exposing his butt to the world. However, as it turns out, there is more than meets the eye. In a 2017 interview with a Minnesota news publication, Prince’s master fabric dyer, Marliss Jensen, shared that what appeared to be cutouts were actually panels of fabric made to match the musician’s flesh, giving off the illusion that Prince was showing his bottom when in reality he was not.
“Raspberry Beret” Music Video
Even though Prince did not opt to wear an actual raspberry-colored beret for his “Raspberry Beret” video, he made up for it by providing us with no shortage of frilled dress shirts and quirky suiting. In this particular music video (yes, the one where Prince coughs in the beginning) the performer can be seen wearing a bright blue cloud-covered blazer and ruched pants, matching cloud boots, and a Dalmatian-printed guitar strap. The video was directed by the musician himself, with animations created by Colossal Pictures co-founder Drew Takahashi.
“Welcome 2 America” Tour Performance at Madison Square Garden, 2011
In 2011 Prince took the stage at New York City’s Madison Square Garden dressed head to toe in a gold glitter pantsuit with sequined heels. The stagewear on his tour, “Welcome 2” was characterized by brocade suits, sequin tunics, and plenty of ruffles. In a 2016 interview with Allure, his longtime hairstylist, Kim Berry, shared that all of Prince’s clothing were custom and he did not own one pair of blue jeans. In fact, Prince was so dedicated to his style that he would even play basketball in these same elaborate outfits, complete with 3-inch heels.
Performing at Wembley Arena, London, 1995
During his “The Ultimate Live Experience” tour in 1995 Prince danced in a bright pink matching set covered in oversized sequins. In addition to his otherworldly clothing choices that took centerstage during his performances, Prince would often perform with the word “Slave” written on his face in marker. This small, but statement-making, gesture acted as a commentary on how large corporations treated musical artists and the unreasonable grip they often held on them — an issue that still plagues many musical acts today. In a 1996 interview with Rolling Stone, Prince shared the tenuous relationship he had with his own record label by saying, “People say I’m a crazy fool for writing my face, but if I can’t do what I want to do, what am I? When you stop a man from dreaming, he becomes a slave. That’s where I was. I don’t own Prince’s music. If you don’t own your masters, your master owns you.”
“Purple Rain” Music Video
The video for “Purple Rain,” which also was part of the singer’s eponymous film, bears all the hallmarks of signature Prince style: the Edwardian ruffle collar, bedazzled blazer, bold colors, and eccentric guitar strap — in this case, an animal print one. Costume designers Louis Wells and Marie France collaborated on the creation of the film and music video’s wardrobe, drawing inspiration from romanticism, the fashions found in 17th and 18th century Europe, and James Brown mixed with edgier punk elements.
Performance of “Kiss” at Paisley Park, New Year’s Eve, 1999
Quite possibly the king of the turn of the century (he did write “1999,” afterall), Prince threw a blockbuster show on New Year’s Eve outfitted in a metallic blue outfit complete with high heeled boots and a furry baby pink guitar strap. The concert was held at Paisley Park, Prince’s private estate and music production complex in Chanhassen, Minnesota. Over a decade earlier, Prince hired a then 23-year-old architect named Bret Thoeny to build the dream space, which exuded the musician’s personality, from its private meditation area aptly called the Galaxy Room, a large rehearsal hall, a supposed private nightclub, and plenty of purple. Today the sprawling 65,000-square foot compound functions as a museum that welcomes the public.
Prince at a 2000 Press Conference
In 2000, Prince was photographed at a New York press conference wearing a white knit turtleneck with tinted sunglasses, proving that his eccentric style personality still shone through even when wearing pared down outfits. The press conference was held when Prince famously reverted his moniker back to his birth name, “Prince.” Since 1993, and prompted after a dispute with Warner Bros. Records, the musician went by a symbol that combined both traditional male and female symbols and was later on referred to as “Love Symbol.” He explained during an interview with Larry King Live in 1999 that the common usage of the phrase “the artist formerly known as Prince” was actually created by the media since they did not know how to pronounce the symbol he once went by.