In life, Prince vibrated on a higher frequency, musically and stylistically. In death, he has completed his final and most funky-mysterious transformation to the highest level possible – I am thinking that he must have changed into a freaky, lavender, every-gendered wizard-dove.
Prince was a powerfully funky little man: the weird, sweet guru of innocent sexiness and nasty purity, merging fabulous masculinity and fierce femininity. His music espoused Love, and all its attending attributes including spiritual intimacy and sex. Prince’s styles have always supported what he communicated in his music, he was a showman and a true artist in this regard; his appearance referenced his sound and his message and vice versa. He was so arty that he famously changed his name to a symbol for a time; no one had done that before.
Whichever style he was doing at the moment, it was always extremely chic, high-fashion and very much his own.
He emerged in 1979 and 1980 with “Prince” and “Dirty Mind”; his look was half-naked, pervy, dark and punk. His trench coat plus nudity was an almost feminine expression of the punk and New Wave aesthetic. The music was spare and kind of punk rock as well, one with soul and psychedelic influences. This was his raunchiest era, though it later mellowed into a lush sexuality that pulled strength from the most alluring qualities of both men and women.
Prince was fancying up during “Controversy” and “1999” into a New Romantic dandy by the mid 80s, his iconic Purple Rain phase of fancy ruffles, feminine menswear and 1700s style cutaway tailcoats. These coats were made of fantastical fabrics: cloud-printed, purple shimmer, Jacobean florals; he was royal-looking and beautiful. His stage shows got showier and more complex at this time, too. He crowned Wendy and Lisa his beyond-backup princesses, and the band as well as the stage production reflected this Baroque sensibility.
Throughout his prolific career of 39 studio albums (sometimes two a year) in 37 years, Prince kept true to his key, early styles: decorated and fancy menswear, nudity-as-garment with a bared chest, lace, the colors white, purple and gold. Rich and luxurious textures like shiny silk, metallic brocades, fur, sequins and gems bedazzled his clothing. His shoes had heels and were very 18th century. Prince stuck to this core aesthetic over decades, a true sign of an enduring and authentic personal style. Onstage he was amazing; I got to see him twice. Each time, the whole band was dressed to the nines, theatrical and all harmonious with each other, musically and stylistically.
Prince moved in Love as well as singing about it and continually supported, encouraged and collaborated with emerging bands and musicians: Wendy and Lisa, Sheila E., Morris Day and the Time, the New Power Generation. He knew how art, music and style can grow and flourish when shared freely.
Prince’s style toward the end of his life got looser and more bohemian: the Jheri-curled bouffant relaxed into a soft Afro, his diamonds and pearls turned to love beads. Nehru suits, dashiki shirts and the styles and materials of India suited this mature and mellowed Prince. He seemed serene, his simplified style speaking to a Love more Sixties than Sexy in inspiration. The eyewear reflected this sensibility, his big, round, purple glasses were even more symbolic and artful with the addition of the “third eye” lens over his forehead, worn at the time of 2014’s “Art Official Age.” What did he see through this extra eye? I wish I knew. On the cover of “Hit n Run Phase 2” from 2015, and also while touring, he wore shield-shaped aviator glasses. Both of these glasses give me chills; they now seem to be a prescient symbol of Prince’s looking beyond his earthly future.
It is certain that Prince’s current milieux is fabulously sensual, royally lavish and full of the everlasting Love and peace that he has been explaining to us with his guitar and lyrics for the last 37 years. There are doves and beautiful scarves everywhere and some of my people, too. I get comfort from imagining my beloved dead hanging out together in the afterlife, Prince and Bowie are trading jumpsuits and doing each other’s eyeliner, and my friend Gabe Doelger is there offering them both funky finds from Heavens Thrift Store.
Prince thanks him and smiles sweetly, puts on his Third Eye shades and gazes out into a new, purple sequined landscape.
Heather Narwid owns Sideshow, a vintage and modern clothing store for men and women established in Dolores in 2007. Sideshow is now located in Durango at 208 County Road 250 in the fabulous commerce corridor between Florida Road and 32nd Street. Sideshow is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. till 6 p.m.