Prince: Fashion Icon

What are the chances that two idiosyncratic, beloved, highly individual, highly influential music legends, AND bona fide cultural and fashion icons, would pass away within less than 4 months of one another? David Bowie lost his battle with cancer this past January at the age of 69, and Prince passed away suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 57 on Thursday (the exact cause is still under investigation).

While very different, the artists shared many similarities. In addition to their amazing bodies of work, they exerted enormous global influence, changed countless lives, and worked tirelessly on behalf of humanitarian efforts. And they were both known for their rule breaking, gender bending styles. The fact that we’re at a time in fashion which is all about gender fluidity and being unique, makes it even more topical and of the moment. But while David’s sexuality may have been ambiguous (he outed himself in 1970 and admitted he was bisexual), Prince’s attraction to women and his masculinity was legendary and would never be in doubt. He was a real lady’s man, and sex (the more explicit, the raunchier the better) was always part of his music.

Prince portrait in The Smithsonian National Portrait  Gallery

The worldwide reaction to Prince’s death has been truly astounding though not surprising. It even overshadowed coverage of the 2016 Presidential election (and Donald Trump). Yesterday it was reported that The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery would recognize the life and accomplishments of Prince Nelson with a photograph taken in 1993 by Lynn Goldsmith. Many have stated that his songs were the “song tracks” of their youth. The only thing I can compare this to (maybe) is the untimely death of prolific American pop icon Michael Jackson at the age of 51 in 2009.

Prince 1995 VH1 Fashion Awards

Speaking of prolific; Prince created his own music and there is a lot of material that is yet to be heard. There are reportedly as many as 20,000 of his unpublished songs secured away in the massive vault inside Paisley Park Studios. His 55,000 square foot Chanhassen Minnesota recording studio took three years to build, includes a wardrobe department and an art department, and has been described as “his universe all under one roof”. It was so named because of his love of print design. When the charismatic enigmatic star (and Oscar winner) was asked by Larry King during the course of an interview many years ago, why he lives in his hometown just outside of Minneapolis rather than the more expected New York or Los Angeles, he smiled and answered: “It’s so cold it keeps the bad people out.” In addition to his high IQ, he reportedly had a wonderful sense of humor.

As for his fashion legacy, let’s just say that everyone has seemingly weighed in. Even news reporters have included segments on Prince’s style. A woman reporter said that her girlfriend told her that “Prince wears lace better than her girlfriends.” The New York Times’ Vanessa Friedman wrote an article on Friday which appears in  Sunday Styles,“Prince’s Heels Elevated Him as a Style Icon”, which was all about his penchant for wearing all those traditional symbols of femininity: lace, feather boas, sequins, ruffles, and high heels.

The 5’2” star once said that he didn’t wear those 4 inch Cuban heels (which almost always matched his pants as to elongate his legs) to make himself taller, but because “women liked them”. Sadly, it appears they are also the reason he had to rely on painkillers (which might have contributed to his death). He was in pain all the time and had issues with his hips and ankles because he used to jump and strut around on stage wearing those heels.

In March, the CFDA announced that they would bestow their 2016 Board of Directors’ Tribute Award to British born David Bowie. It is not generally given posthumously though Alexander McQueen received the honor in 2010 (he passed away in February 2010). Iman will be on hand (at the ceremony which takes place on June 6th at the Hammerstein Ballroom), to receive her late husband’s well-deserved accolade.

The CFDA also made the decision to pass on this year’s Fashion Icon Award. Like the Board of Tribute Award, it is not normally given posthumously, but in light of recent events, I can’t think of a more fitting person to be so honored, than American born Prince, a man of vision and a true genius.

– Marilyn Kirschner

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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