New Power Style: Reintroducing The Kid in Graffiti Bridge

This is the first in a two-part series on Graffiti Bridge fashion adapted from my recent paper, ‘New Power Style: Graffiti Bridge, body wear and self-expression’ at the Dirty Mind 40 Graffiti Bridge 30 Virtual Symposium in June 2020.

In 1980, Prince began his revolution, adopting a risqué uniform for his Dirty Mind record consisting of a customised trench coat, bikini briefs, stockings and heels. Ten years later, with the release of his fourth film and corresponding album Graffiti Bridge, the purple provocateur was now dressing for a new spiritual revolution.

Six years on, Graffiti Bridge picks up sorta where Purple Rain left us, with The Kid and Morris Day still bickering over control of the local club scene. Aura – an angel sent from Heaven – visits Seven Corners and that’s when things get really complicated. The film ends up feeling like Prince’s take on Westside Story but with celestial beings. Visually the film looks sensational with Blade Runner inspired lit backlots with piercing neons and gritty alley ways but ultimately Prince’s self directed project falls short for a number of reasons. But that’s not to say you can’t have a really good time watching this film. Graffiti Bridge is interesting from a fashion perspective as it signals a new era in Prince’s career where he is navigating relevancy and evolving spirituality. Along with an emerging fresh sound, what sartorial tactics did Prince use in the reintroduction of both The Kid and himself to a new audience in 1990?

Fashion professor Jennifer Craick states, ‘when pop and rock culture developed in the 1960s, the strategic use of official and quasi-uniforms in the language of radicalism was reinforced. Here the adoption of quasi-uniforms was an effective means to establishing distinctive identities, and recognition and identification with audiences, as well as making social comment and attracting growing media and public interests in this burgeoning phenomenon.’ Prince needed a uniform to start his revolution back in 1980 – this materialised in the DIY punk trench coat and by the time Purple Rain came round his look was crystallised into a merging of varying subcultural references. Following astronomical worldwide success Prince stepped away from his purple visage and began to experiment with silhouette, fabric and colour. Six years after the success of Purple Rain, The Kid appears almost evangelical in comparison, layering monochromatic loose vestments over skin-tight, flesh-baring bodysuits. Percolating alongside the musician’s developing spirituality, the refined New Power style seen in Graffiti Bridge heralded Prince into the new decade.

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The Kid’s costumes aside, Graffiti Bridge visually reflects emerging youth trends of the early 1990s with representations of streetwear, grunge and club kids within Seven Corners. Purple scholar Scott Woods states that Prince’s multiple reinventions were ‘accessorised with new utopias’ and we of course can see that in Prince’s Minneapolis in Purple Rain and Graffiti Bridge’s Seven Corners fantasy club hub. There are a lot of similarities between the two films particularly with the focus on youth and sub-cultures in both worlds. Purple Rain saw The Kid dressed in his now iconic New Romantic finery, a sub-cultural style rooted in historical clothing, juxtaposed with glam rock and gender fuck that came to influence mainstream fashion by the mid 1980s. The purple trench coat, ruffled jabot and skin-tight ruched trousers is forever entrenched in our pop culture minds and reflected a hyped version of contemporary subcultures at the time. In comparison the fashion worn by The Kid in Graffiti Bridge represents a personal style more akin to the clothing worn personal by Prince with some garments not even specifically designed for the filming.

Did Graffiti Bridge show a more authentic visual representation of the artist? Was the stripped back fashions an indicator of his maturing spirituality and relationship with God? His visual representation in Graffiti Bridge, although on the surface appears more conventional, it can offer us a more in depth understanding of the artist during this period in his career.

Lay Down Ur Funky Weapon – Introducing The Kid in 1990

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We are re-introduced to The Kid with the opening performance of New Power Generation with Prince demanding his audience to ‘lay down ur funky weapon’ and ‘Ur old fashioned music, Ur old ideas.’ The Kid is dressed head to toe in black, his look heavily layered, each garment cut to expose flesh. First, a loose fishnet long sleeved crop-top which is worn under a skin-tight one-sleeved unitard with self-covered buttons on the sides of the legs. The outfit is finished with a sleeveless cropped tabard, a delicate gold waist-chain and heels. An early rendition of the Love Symbol appears on both the back of the tabard and heels. There is power within this look in the juxtaposition of the traditionally masculine stacked shoulder pads and the soft fluidity of stretch fabric as it cut across his body. A strong angular silhouette compliments the battle-cry of the song New Power Generation. Prince is surrounded by his newly formed band the New Power Generation who mirror Prince’s all black ensemble but are heavily styled with street wear staples such as berets, enormous studded waist belts and an abundance of gold chains. A look not far from the emerging hip-hop scene peppered with references to signature styling from designers Dolce and Gabbana and Versace. This reintroduction to The Kid exuded power and strength and signalled a shift in his music and aesthetics.

The Love Symbol Motorcycle Jacket 

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One of the key garments worn by Prince in the film is the black leather motorcycle jacket. The motorcycle jacket has long been associated with youth and rebellion and is synonymous with the depiction of the ‘outsider’. Following the success of The Wild One, the motorcycle jacket increased in popularity in America during the mid-’50s and enjoyed a revival among the 1960s counterculture and 1970s punk rock scene. In wearing the customised motorcycle jacket, Prince representing the Black rebel but instead of wearing traditional workwear such as blue jeans, underneath he wears skin-tight bodywear.

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Not just any old battered up motorcycle jacket – garment had been noticeably been augmented to reflect Prince’s unique style with black leather tassels and one absent sleeve. Two gold metal early renditions of the Love Symbol protrude from both the back and sleeve. These symbols were commissioned by Paisley Park with Minnesotan jewellery designer Liz Bucheit discussed the process of mounting the symbol onto the back of the jacket. Initially I wondered if this was a stylistic choice, a type of armour to compliment the traditional masculine toughness expressed with motorcycle leathers but she explained the metal piece was mounted a few inches on top of the garment to stop any oxidisation with the tough leather interior underneath. She also expressed that Prince at the time was into black and gold which explains the unusual gold fastenings and trimmings of the jacket and throughout the film.

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Slightly cropped the jacket is cut close the body and featured an unusual one-sleeved design detail that cast doubts of the jacket’s perceived functionality.Underneath the jacket Prince wears softer, stretch garments – the jacket acting as a protective shell in the streets of Seven Corners. In the place of gang insignia on the back of the jacket was a bold gold metal Love Symbol that literally exuded a few inches of the garment. Mirroring Prince’s fashion worn in Graffiti Bridge, the metal symbols were clean, graphic and bold. Wearing symbols and text upon his body was not unusual for Prince. We are of course aware of his use of simple, clean graphics worn on his body during the Parade, Sign of the Times and Lovesexy eras that are worldwide signifiers for love and positivity. Wearing the Symbol literally embedded into his clothing signalled the importance of the emerging design within his work.

This was also not the first time Prince had worn a motorcycle jacket with variations of the style being worn in previous films Purple Rain and Under the Cherry Moon. There is a distinctive design development from Prince’s early trench coat prototypes of Dirty Mind to the fringed motorcycle jacket. All these garments are key signifiers of youth culture, particularly the rebel and Prince identified with this image throughout the first decade of his career and beyond. By branding the jacket with his emerging symbol, Prince was defining his visual identity for the new decade.

Moschino’s Fright Night

Do you like scary movies and resort wear lines?

As each Moschino collection breaks the internet, designer Jeremy Scott turned to All Hallows’ Eve for inspiration for the brand’s Resort Wear 2020 collection released back in the summer. Of course, Moschino is not the first fashion house to find inspiration in things that go bump in the night. 2019 saw cult horror nods from everyone from Prada (Bride of Frankenstein prints and Wednesday Addams plaits) to Undercover (Suspiria emblazoned overcoats) citing inspiration from the genre. Horror and fashion are becoming increasingly intertwined with the genre influencing everything from blood-soaked runways to garish garments.

Undercover Fall 2019 RTW
Undercover Fall 2019 RTW

The collection features many classic Halloween trick-or-treater tropes such as conical witches hat, capes, plastic masks and devil horns. Under the genre-heavy styling lie a collection of loud party dresses, clean tailoring and throw-back prints. These designs are not meant to form a cohesive design story but do complement and juxtapose each other harmoniously like delving into a well-stocked fancy dress box.

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Photo: Marco Ovando / Courtesy of Moschino

Jeremy Scott is not shy of EXCESS and this collection oozes with Instagram-ready looks, overt pop-culture references & tongue-in-cheek humour. Whilst some may feel Scott relies too heavily on stylistic pastiche, personally, I always look forward to watching a Moschino runway. Not content on his tribute to things that go bump in the night, Scott went one step further and staged his very own scary movie.

Opening with a homage to Scream (1996) and that cream ribbed sweater (forever in infamy, thanks to Casey Becker played by baby-faced Drew Barrymore), the runway kicked into full gear with an army of masked spooks. Naturally, things finished off with an en-masse zombie stagger through the Universal Studios backlots.

Homages to kitsch Scream Queen style staples like the maribou trimmed bed jackets are some of the most successful looks on the catwalk. Sugary-sweet babydolls as outerwear instantly bring to mind Valley of the Dolls (1967) drug-fuelled psychedelic slayings with stacked pastel Mary-Jane creepers. I’ll take one in every colour, please.

Turn of the century fancy dress costumes were recreated in bright jelly-bean shades in co-ordinating separates and overalls. Stylised Halloween inspired shapes like crescent moons, stars, fangs and Frankenstein stitches are dotted throughout the collection.

Clear slick blood-red pea-coats are complimented by jaunty bat wing hats. Patterns are bold, in childlike technicolour with graphic monster and ghouls emblazoned on everything from blazers to Day-Glo backpacks.

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Photo: Marco Ovando / Courtesy of Moschino

Inspiration comes from plastic fantastic Halloween King Ben Cooper who manufactured affordable mass-produced Halloween costumes from the 1930s to the late 1980s. Costumes consisted of from vinyl character smocks and plastic masks and ranged from the classic Universal Monsters to Mr. T. The retro company is now enjoying a resurgence in today’s popular culture thanks to shows like Stranger Things and independent clothing brands such as Vixen by Michelline Pitt collaborating with their archives

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Vixen by Micheline Pitt Ben Cooper Swing Skirt

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Ben Cooper masks

Moschino Resort Wear 2020
Photo: Marco Ovando / Courtesy of Moschino

Speaking of Universal Monsters,  Moschino and Universal City Studios collaborated together a small selection of garments and accessories for the collection which are now currently available on the designer’s website. And I want each and every single one.

Prince Estate X Zara: Prince style hits the high street.

One of the world’s largest fashion retailers Zara has teamed up with the Prince Estate to release a capsule collection available online and instore across the UK and Europe.

The menswear collection consists of 5 garments – two t-shirts, two jumpers and one hoodie. The collection could definitely be viewed as unisex. The size ranges for the collection are disappointing – a very limiting S, M, L and XL. The company is known for having some of the smallest sizings on the high street so I’m not personally expecting to get into any of the collection easily. For fans of Prince’s eccentric wardrobe, filled with exquisite tailoring and embellishment, don’t hold your breath. As an activewear range, designs are mostly monochromatic with a hint of signature Prince glamour.

As mentioned this is an activewear range so the small collection is more geared to running errands or hitting the gym than a night of Princely decadence. The closet we get to His Royal Badness flamboyance is a matt bugle bead encrusted logo sweatshirt. A nice touch but how amazing could this design be if they brought out the Love Symbol paillette sequins Prince favoured in the mid-1990s? Perhaps a touch far for the everyday Zara shopper.

The garments are styled very minimally for the Zara website – the opposite of Prince’s personal style. Every separate is paired with a pair of jet black skinny jeans (no high waists/ no buttons/ no stretch flared yoga pants) and LOAFERS – yes LOAFERS! Of course, I don’t expect the models to be dressed up as the musician but styling could have been a bit more inspired.

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I’ve read many online comments about this latest release from the Estate – Prince wouldn’t wear that/ he wouldn’t want his face selling t-shirts/ why no Lovesexy pastels? Looking at the collection as a whole I can see a (heavily watered down) trace of Prince’s sartorial handwriting. The capsule collection is (mostly) monochromatic, clean and graphic. Attributes that could be seen in previous Prince design details such as the Nude tour and 3121 outfits. Unlike the majority of Prince’s clothing, these garments are not tailored but oversized and would not look out of place in your average high-street streetwear collection. Zara and the Estate have been clever here – this is what sells, not assless canary yellow pants.

The ‘Love Print’ sweatshirt initially seems the furthest away from signature Prince style but the graphics are lifted straight from a 1996 black leather design currently housed within the Paisley Park archives. Nice attention to detail guys! The bold collegiate style white and black letters are blown up and emblazoned across the plain sweatshirt in white and grey.

The Lovesexy hoodie seems to be getting a lot of love online – it’s a no brainer really – we all want that iconic Lovesexy font down on forearms. How I wish there were some matching leggings too! What is apparent throughout the capsule collection is Prince’s dynamic style cannot be easily transferred into highstreet fashion. In fact, Zara and The Estate have cleverly adapted iconic (and not so iconic) gems from Prince’s wardrobe and translated them into accessible activewear that even a non-Prince fan could enjoy.

Following the unnerving news that the Estate is severing ties with Graceland Holdings, could this collaboration be part of the funding plan to help manage Paisley Park? I wouldn’t be mad if selling some bog-standard Controversy t-shirts for accessible prices on the high street would safeguard the continuation of Prince’s wardrobe being accessioned, conserved and displayed for future purple fans for many years to come. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Are you a good witch or a bad witch?

A love letter to the iconic costuming of the Wicked Witch of the West.

Thankfully The Wizard of Oz always seemed to be on ‘council telly’ growing up over Christmas. With no flying snowmen in sight I would still happily take Oz over a rerun of The Snowman (even with the Bowie intro). I have fond memories straining my eyes watching the film on my Grannie’s tiny television, in awe as the screen filled with glorious Technicolor. I’m not the only one who holds the fictional land of Oz dear, the film has continued to top cinema-lovers polls since its revolutionary cinematic release in 1939.

Everyone has their favourite character from the film. For me it was the gleefully villainous Wicked Witch of the West that stole my heart. With just a mere 12 minutes of screen time, actress Margaret Hamilton birthed a screen icon. Each time I revisit Oz there’s nothing I love more than to watch the Wicked Witch of the West and her band of smartly dressed Flying Monkeys torment Dorothy and friends down the yellow brick road. 

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It’s crazy to think The Wicked Witch of the West has been scaring and delighting audiences for over 79 years. She didn’t need ruby-red slippers or a clumsy Scarecrow dance to appeal to audiences. Her overtly cruel, camp performance along with her costuming sealed her fate as one of cinemas most revered baddies. Hamilton’s on screen witch was visually iconic with thanks to the creative makeup from artist Jack Dawn who hand blended the legendary green body paint. Margaret Hamilton endured hours under the painful hot studio lights in the copper based green paint and prosthetics. The role had a lasting effect on the actress, specifically that of a greenish hue that lasted for months after shooting. Styling details such as the long green pointed fingernails echo the eerie long fingers of Nosferatu but also the elegant, fashionably poised manicured nails of the late 1930s. I wonder if she wore Revlon’s Cherries (or how about poppies) in the Snow? Quick reality check – the snow used during the poppies scene was of course everyone’s favourite multipurpose material – Asbestos!

 

 

In contrast to the neatly trimmed cuticles, Hamilton’s brows were brushed upwards and crudely overdrawn. Her green complexion appeared both patchy and caked on in various scenes, never achieving over all opacity in the film. To put it bluntly she was not HD ready. To finish off the look a glorious hairy wart was perched upon Hamilton’s hooked prosthetic chin. To this day what child isn’t terrified of warts and unkempt eyebrows? Nowadays the green makeup of Hamilton’s witch is still viewed as one of the archetypes of the modern witch and has continued to influence the  visualisation of witches in popular culture ever since. 

 

 

 

The Wicked Witch of the West wasn’t always destined to be the green-skinned Margaret Hamilton. The role was originally that of Gale Sondergaard, a 40-year-old actress who originally was dressed in full sequined cowl, body-conscious dress and hat. To complete the character – overdrawn lips, fashionably heavily pencilled arched brows and full false eyelashes.

 

 

At first the film was majorly influenced by the recent Disney hit Snow White and the Seven Dwarves but things quickly went to the darker side. Sondergaard’s glamour ghoul morphed into a drastically dowdier witch with frizzy wig, unflattering prosthetics and gasp…no sequins!

 

 

Ultimately Sondergaard  decided playing the character would do her career no favours and in came along character actress Margaret Hamilton whose favourite book growing up was…you guessed it…The Wizard of Oz.

Head of Metro Goldwyn Mayer Costume Department Gilbert Adrian designed over 3000 costumes for the film. His designs for the Witch have now helped define how we envisage an atypical witch in the twentieth century. Adrian designs were typically extremely ostentatious, evoking high glamour and paying no real close attention to historical accuracy were required. He did not need to worry about realism whilst working on Oz, Adrian had free-reign to design a whole world of colourful costumes fit for Technicolor. Dressed head to toe in black Adrian’s witch was albeit less flashier than the previous sequined cowl for Sondergaard but still had that signature Adrian style.

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The black gown itself was a full length a line gown with detailed leg of mutton sleeves, nipped in waist and laced faux stomacher. It appears that Adrian was inspired by some aspects of 17th century clothing especially in the faux stomacher and trademark conical hat. The hat received the Hollywood treatment with black wool bunting base, steel hopped brim and a sweep of black silk which menaced through the air. The bewitching ensemble was of course finished by a dramatic jet black cape because all witches have to have a cape right?

 

 

Throughout her career Margaret Hamilton held the role dear to her heart, reprising the role several times including an ill-fated episode on Sesame Street. Early tests of the show proved once again children were transfixed with Hamilton, in particular her green face. Despite the overwhelming positive response from the kids, parents were outraged by having a Wiccan women on a children’s show and sadly the episode 0847 never aired.

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Margaret Hamilton and Oscar the Grouch, 1976.

Marilyn and Pucci

The Sixties welcomed a sexual revolution with fashion playing a key role. Italian fashion designer Emilio Pucci liberated women from the restrictive clothing of the previous decades with the patent of a revolutionary fabric which was both breathable and wrinkle free. The designer was an avid traveller and knew the importance of wearability in a women’s wardrobe and the innovative fabric became key to his design practice. Pucci’s designs were often simple silhouettes such as shifts, capris and high collared blouses in a variance of loud patterns and colours. The garments were easy to wear and instantly recognisable to the brand with thanks to the iconic, psychedelic prints. From the mid 1950s onwards Pucci was fast becoming a symbol of the fashion forward woman. It was no surprise that some of the eras most famous females such as Marilyn Monroe, Sophia Loren and Jacqueline Kennedy were stepping out in his creations.

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Emilio Pucci ensembles dating from the mid 1950s to late 1960s from the collection of Lauren Bacall at the Museum of FIT.

The designs were modern, chic and effortless with the bold prints echoing youth culture of the time. Garments had the allure of couture but did not come with the hefty price tag with Life magazine quoting in 1964, ‘creations can range from a $2.50 hankie to a $2500 evening dress.’ This variance of accessibility allowed women from middle to upper class backgrounds to wear Pucci.

Prior to the turn of the decade, Marilyn Monroe was famously known for her hourglass silhouette which was amplified by skintight clothing. Her curves were so ample that she urged seamstresses to sew her into garments, reinforcing seams in the process and always requesting for the garment to be made tighter. This was noted most famously on the ‘Happy Birthday Mr President’ nude illusion gown created exclusively for the actress by designer Jean Louis in 1962. On screen Marilyn was turning her nose up at the fashionable full skirts of the 1950s – choosing instead to wear body conscious suits and gowns. During the filming of How to Marry a Millionaire Marilyn even went so far to refuse to wear anything full even though her co stars Betty Grable and Lauren Bacall caved in and wore a fuller silhouette. For Marilyn she knew her shape was part of the Hollywood illusion and chose clothing that amplified this.

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Marilyn Monroe wearing a Travilla designer gown for How to Marry a Millionaire in 1953.

 

In her astronomical rise to fame Marilyn’s choice of clothing off camera was not necessarily reflective of her sex symbol status she was fast becoming. She opted for mid-century basics such as capri pants, sweaters and pencil skirts in an often monochromatic palette. In particular Marilyn seemed to have a fondness of houndstooth wearing the pattern throughout the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s in trousers, capri pants and swing coats.

Marilyn began wearing Emilio Pucci designs from 1960 until her death on August 5th 1962. The loose silk jersey knit clung to Marilyn’s shape but not in the overtly sexualised manner of the gowns she wore in the years before. Wearing the young, hip designs would be of importance to Marilyn, who at that time was trying to regain her popularity and relevance amongst the newer generations. She did not want to be seen as the dumb blonde she often portrayed on camera and was implicate in her wardrobe choices when off camera to show more authenticity.

It has been noted in several autobiographies that Marilyn’s personal cleanliness could fall behind when the star was under pressure from the studios. She was noted as having a hatred for underwear and a habit of wearing unlaundered clothing. In fact some of clothing existing today has various stains on it including food and makeup. With Pucci’s design being fairly easy to care for whilst appearing effortlessly chic, these garments would be the perfect uniform for Marilyn in the later years of her life.

After a turbulent few years resulting in a two divorces and the formation of Marilyn Monroe Productions Inc. Marilyn began to switch up her style, reverting back to a simpler silhouette and more colourful looks. Along with Pucci, Marilyn also favoured designer Jax who had a store close by to Marilyn’s house in California. Jax designed womenswear basics including snug fitting trousers with a centre back zip and an absence of pockets – enhancing the figure in a restrained, casual manner. The trousers retailed for $60 a pair – a costly price in those days and stars like Jackie Kennedy and Elizabeth Taylor would snap them up by the rail load. Nancy Sinatra was so fond of Jack Hanson (designer of Jax) creations that she was quoted as saying, ‘the most important men in America are my father, Hugh Hefner and Jack Hanson.’

At the time of her death Marilyn, a fan of buying much loved garments several times over in several colours, had a amassed a colourful collection of Pucci separates, dresses and accessories. A selection of Marilyn personal Pucci collection was sold at Christie’s auction house in 1999.

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Part of the Marilyn Monroe Pucci Collection at The Museum of Style Icons.

Although Pucci prints were vibrant and eye-catching, on hanger  however the garments could appear lifeless. There was no intricate tailoring, no camera ready embellishments – just a simple cut and innovative fabric choice. The designs particularly came to life when Marilyn wore them who exuded an understated chicness whilst retaining her bombshell legacy of the 1950s.

When tasked with selecting Marilyn’s burial outfit, her housekeeper Eunice Murray helped pick out Marilyn’s favourite dress at the time – the green Pucci shift dress with tassel rope belt. The very same dress worn on Marilyn’s trip to Mexico in February of the same year. When a reporter commented on her dress Marilyn quipped, ‘you should see it on the hanger’.

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The green Pucci shift dress, Marilyn’s favourite dress at the time of her passing.

Dressing the Batdance

Prince’s relationship with the Batman franchise began in the late 1960s where a young Prince learned to tickle the ivories along to the Batman television series theme tune. Fast forward to 1989 – Prince had released Lovesexy the previous year, a euphoric album celebrating positivity after the last minute shelving of the ominous The Black Album.

On the surface the partnership of Prince and the Batman franchise seemed a bit of an odd pairing but Prince, a self professed atypical Gemini, held a personal affinity to duality of Bruce Wayne and was drawn to the dark underworld of Gotham City.

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Time has not been kind to the Batman record with some fans and critics writing it off as a kitschy puff piece. Historically however the album did well in sales and enjoyed six week’s at No. 1 in the Billboard charts in 1989. All in all I’ve got a mega soft spot for the Batman album…okay except The Arms of Orion – I can’t get off the couch fast enough to skip that song (sorry Sheena!). But I’m not here to discuss the music – let’s talk the looks – green jerry curls and all!  I’ll be looking at the following three music videos from the album; Batdance, Partyman and Scandalous.

This town needs an enema!

The album was oddly released before the film’s debut but go figure, that’s pretty much standard Prince. The first single Batdance is an erratic blend of funk, rock and the pioneering use of sound bites from the film with Prince answering back to the film throughout (‘Oh yeah I wanna bust that body right’).  The video is a kitsch love letter to Prince’s Gotham City with Gemini (one of Prince’s many alter egos) in a comic book inspired ensemble and a harem of doppelgänger Kim Basinger’s gyrating round the sound stage. Yes it is as marvellous and ridiculous as it sounds.

The video is directed by Albert Magnolia with costumes by Helen Hiatt and Susan Stella. The real Prince is behind the scenes, chilling in the studio, laying down the track in high waisted corseted genie pants and triumphant blow dry. It’s his own take of Bruce Wayne leisurewear and I’m very here for it. Side note – my Mum and I’s favourite part of this video is when Prince does a cheeky wee hair flip and smile when he sings ‘hey Jackie’ – even better when my Mum’s name is in fact Jackie. But in actual fact he’s saying ‘hey ducky’ and we only just realised this last week – devastating after all these years.

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Prince chilling in the studio in his jumpsuit, Batdance (1989)

I was lucky enough to see the Batdance suit in all it’s campy glory at the My Name is Prince touring exhibition at the 02, London last year. I remember vividly screaming in a tour guides face as I tried to barge past a blockage of visitors to get a closer look. The vertical divide suit complete with 1 PVC batwing was still as bright and jarring as it appeared in the video. Looking back on the costume now it’s very reminiscent of the ‘half and half’ costumes worn by burlesque dancers in the 1940s and 1950s. Each costume represented opposing characters such as bride/groom, devil/angel and the dancer utilised each persona throughout their number with clever choreography and design detail – just like Prince does in the music video.

The dichotomy of the costume goes hand in hand with Prince’s evil twin, Gemini, who appears in the video as a Paisley Park hybrid of the Joker/Batman. The attention to detail in the outfit is astounding with teeny tiny bat symbols on Prince’s signature cuban heeled boots, I’ve never wanted to steal a pair of shoes so much before! For the Joker side of the costumes there an huge nod to Jack Nicholson’s depiction of the Joker in the film.

All hail the new king in town!

Gemini returns in Partyman wearing a more traditional tailored suit (no PVC this time around) again in purple and orange. It’s a pinstriped number with sparkly thread running through as an accent detail with opposing fabric covered buttons. The sleeves of the jacket are adorned in Kanji writing – a foreshadow to the Grafitti Bridge premiere and Nude Japan tour looks to come in 1990.  My favourite thing about the suit has to the impeccable tailoring and clever use of buttons throughout. When Gemini spins round on his cuban heels you can see bright orange buttons acting as a cinch at the waist of the jacket. This is further tailored by the extreme cut of the closure of this jacket, again drawing the eye in to that tiny waist with clever use of button detailing – Gemini’s nod to the zoot suit. Costumes were designed by Helen Horatio & Sarah Daubney – ladies if you are out there I would love to see those dress patterns!

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Gemini’s version of a zoot suit – sparkly pinstripes included.

The interesting thing about Prince’s costuming throughout this music video is the emergence of the 1990s silhouette developed throughout the impeccable tailoring of the Paisley Park wardrobe department. With a heavily built up shoulder line with corseted and darted waist with flat fronted closures, Prince was building his ideal silhouette which in turn mimicked that of a hyper version of broad shouldered dames such as Joan Crawford and Marlene Dietrich. There’s a real correlation between the two here seen below in the heavily tailored suit for the Violet the Organ Grinder video, 1991. We know Prince was a huge Old Hollywood buff so I like to think this was intentional.

Touch it and explode.

Lastly Scandalous sees Prince incredibly parred down with just over of 4 minutes of sensuous air humping, sashaying and spilting his way through the ballad. He’s really feeling himself in this video. He’s opted for an all red ensemble of high brow MC Hammer trousers with cinched waist and corsetry detailing on the centre seams and shoulder padded tank top with mandarin collar (of course). This look mimic the Batdance studio outfit and seems to be Prince’s idea of sweatpants and old band t-shirt you wear to watch Netflix in bed. The trousers in particular are in interesting mismatch of feminine lingerie detailing (the lace-ups) and zoot suit pleating to add volume and shape to Prince’s silhouette.

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Prince in the Scandalous music video, those baggy trousers making that spilt look seamless.

Overall the Batdance record provided us with a myriad of transitional looks from the 1980s to early 1990s…and my Mum’s most favourite hair flip in music video history.

His Royal Badness & Me

A lot of people are often surprised when they find out I’m a huge Prince fan mostly due to the way I dress. One fellow (immaculately dressed) Prince fan commented on how it’s very uncommon to see someone like myself, an active part of the vintage scene, to enjoy Prince. I had never really thought of it that way before and it got me thinking about my relationship with the vintage community and sub-cultures in general. My own personal taste in vintage clothing, ranging mostly from 1940s to early 1960s, can make dressing as a fan, at times, awkward. Yes I wear seamed stockings and obsess over finding affordable bakelite in Scotland (no chance!) but I am not strictly committed to ‘vintage’ music tastes as such. Don’t get me wrong I love Little Richard – without him there would be no Prince – but I’d much rather listen to the purple one than Gene Vincent.

With thanks to my parents who have admirable music tastes I grew up in a house where Prince would often be playing in the kitchen. The first time I put a face to the voice was watching Prince bare his (wonderful) ass at the MTV Music Awards in the now infamous canary yellow jumpsuit designed by Stacia Lang. I remember feeling the magnetic fuzz of the television as I pressed my face up close to the screen gawking at His Royal Badness. Looking back I think this introduction really set me off on my path for overt displays of glamour and style that I continue to love to this day as  a thirty year old woman. Things came full circle a few months ago in Minneapolis where I got to tell Lang just how much of an impact her creations had on me growing up and yes I did cry.

 

Fashion was incredibly important to me growing up. At the same time as I was discovering Lauren Bacall’s houndstooth suit in The Big Sleep I was also delving into charity shops for the first time and realising clothing didn’t have to just come out of Tammy Girl. Already a firm Prince fan it took me surprisingly 14 years to watch the film Purple Rain. I distinctly remembering staying up late to watch Prince writhe to Computer Blue through the bars of my (naturally) purple bed bunk and thinking to myself ‘why didn’t my parents tell me he did THIS too?’.

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Prince performing The Beautiful Ones. Purple Rain, 1984.

 

My first thought immediately went to the clothes in that film. Those clothes really spoke to me – all those rhinestones, lace, ruffles and high-octane glamour that mirrored my burgeoning interest in Old Hollywood. I vividly remember buying a pair of nylon lace gloves from a charity shop for 20p and a handful of tangled costume jewellery pearl necklaces in my first direct fashion ode to Prince in second year of high school. However I did not spending my teen years wearing high-rise nylon teddies from Marks and Spencers a’la Apollonia instead I spent a lot of time in my teens skanking away to bands like Reel Big Fish and Mad Caddies, wearing jumbo sky blue cords, two-tone anything and plastic jewellery (nothing changes there). I didn’t really feel like my side passion for Prince was relatable to my peers but I found my way of getting my purple freak on. One of the first nights of university, amongst a group of fashion students, I put on my beloved Prince box set and we all sat down to watch to Purple Rain. Previous to this we had all watched The Notebook on mass and the memory of watching my soon to be friends drop their jaws as Prince gleefully humps First Avenue’s floors is probably one of my most fondest memories. 

As I mentioned previously this year I did something I never thought I would – I visited Minneapolis, Prince’s beloved home city. I was accepted to speak at the Prince From Minneapolis conference at the University of Minnesota and with the help of credit cards, overtly generous friends, family and strangers I made it to my purple mecca. Prior to touch down I knew I needed the perfect fashion homage to Prince and felt it fitting to recreate my own version of 1950s circle skirt complete with Prince felt appliqués. Novelty skirts were incredibly popular in the 1950s where home dressmakers and the department stores alike created whimsical thematic designs focusing on kitsch themes such as poodles, vegetables and circus scenes. My Mommie Dearest and I had the best time gluing our fingers together to make rhinestone Love Symbols and 3D felt Prince effigies. I went for Third Eye Girl P and classic Purple Rain era after an ill-fated foray in fashioning a felt Gemini Prince from Partyman but at least I tried. This skirt still feels like the perfect marriage of my identity lovingly rounded up in one garment, super glue stains and all.

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At the Capri Theatre on April 21st, 2018 wearing my Prince themed novelty circle skirt.

Standing outside Paisley Park, the epicentre of all things Prince, I watched for 4 days as fans from all over the world jumped out of taxis, buses and  insane yellow sport cars decked out in their Prince finery. Nods to The Purple One ranged from the unassuming (there was A LOT of immaculate purple manicures) to the wonderfully outrageous. One fan I met outside the Target Centre at the controversial Prince: Live on Big Screen show had worked for months with a seamstress to recreate the Raspberry Beret suit from head to toe. Boots included. Creative fans customised denim jackets with hand-made appliqués, pins, embellishments and fabric with a special shout out to the women I saw in First Avenue in FULL Dirty Mind garb – bikini brief and all. 

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Customised Prince denim jacket outside Paisley Park, April 20th 2018.

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Lovesexy look – all handmade at Prince: Live on Big Screen, April 20th 2018. 

I think the thing I admire most about Prince is his sense of self, something he remained unapologetic for throughout his career –  ill-fated blue smurf suits and all. With every encounter I have with a Prince fan his style comes up with people remarking on how only Prince could pull off his eccentric ensembles. True there aren’t many people who can pull of the Gangsta Glam unitard and skates look but I love the fact that people do revel and rejoice in his clothing in their own individual way. Recently the EYE NO: Prince Lovesexy symposium at NYU filled my heart with such happiness as I saw scholars and fans alike decked out in polka dots in honour of the album’s iconic look.

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Prince for V Magazine. Photography – Inez & Vinoodh. Fall, 2014.

Prince’s true sense of self continues to inspire me every day and rings true of my other coveted weirdos who make me who I am – John Waters, Elsa Schiaparelli, Carmen Miranda to name a few. Prince himself was inspired by other like-minded eccentrics and I like to think that I’ll continue to spread the good purple word wherever I go in life, all whilst wearing a raspberry beret of course.

Long may this celebration of outrageous glamour, race, gender, sexuality and self reign!