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How Prince Impacted and Inspired the Style of Their Era and How It Has Influenced Fashion Through 20th and 21st Century

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An analysis of how fashion icon/muse impacted and inspired the style of their era and how it has influenced fashion through 20th and 21st century[pic 1][pic 2]

Prince “made me feel comfortable with how I identify sexually simply by his display of freedom from and irreverence for the archaic state of gender conformity” Frank Ocean

Prince Rogers Nelson was best known for being a global musical icon from 1975 to 2016 (Fig 1), a lot of his music was inspired by James Brown, due to seeing him as a child, therefore Brown had a profound influence on both his song writing and stage performance.                        

However, despite Prince’s musical talent, his fashion sense and style gave him a unique, flamboyant visual flair during the 1980’s. Prince’s regular use of colour, makeup and gender-bending costumes ultimately had a strong social and political influence during the 1980’s and 21st Century. Furthermore, Prince’s outfits challenged the conventional ideas of masculinity and redefined the rules and expectations of fashion establishing a new conversation about gender and race within the fashion industry; making the world explore the way that both males and females dress. [pic 3][pic 4]

Prince’s androgynous and amorphous sexuality is explicit within both his music and clothing, like David Bowie, Prince wore tropes of stereotypical feminine outfits which oozed sex appeal and gave Prince the title of a sex symbol whilst retaining an air of mystery which could be considered elusive. This is validated through his choice of colour and material, Prince regularly wore the colour purple which connotes a regal and mystic quality to his style. The materials of rich velvets and sequins created an innovative and luxurious style. It [pic 5][pic 6]

can also be considered that these types of materials were a way of acknowledging some of his musical inspirations such as Little Richard.  Ultimately, Prince exchanged his stage name for a symbol cooperating and blending the symbols for male and female- creating the idea that gender is a spectrum and there is more to just male and female (Fig 3).

[pic 7]

However Prince’s body language interrogates conventional notions of masculinity to radiate power which demonstrates Prince’s oxymoronic visual outlook as he blurs the lines between masculinity and femininity- he lived as he sung “now where I come from/ we don’t let society tell us how it’s supposed to be/ our clothes, our hair, we don’t care/ it all about being there” (Fig 4 and 2). This shows us that Prince was not afraid to explore the trends of the 1980’s, thriving in the glam rock style of high waisted flares (Fig 4), denim, rhinestones and use of makeup. Prince’s outrageous style was extremely influential during the 80’s as it marked the era for men being able to experiment with makeup, the camp and androgynous feel symbolised the glam rock style.                                                                         [pic 8]

Prince did not only influence adults during the 20th Century, he had a profound influence on youth culture during the 1980’s as the impatience of the youth drove a shift in styles. Rock n roll caused a rise in youth culture, particularly within fashion, youth culture began recycling clothes as a way of giving them originality and flare- and it is clearly expressed within prince’s style and performances. The youth culture established an anti-fashion; blurring the lines between society’s expectations of being and own personal ideals. This recycling and originality is very apparent in today’s society as Prince redefined rules and expectations of fashion by introducing it as inclusive and universal gave people today and then to feel united and at home with being authentic and giving them an ‘I don’t care’ attitude.  [pic 9][pic 10][pic 11]

It is clear that Prince’s style has evolved with the decades from his peasant Victorian style (Fig 5) which was extremely popular that constant desire to keep inspiring kept him current, vibrant and iconic. However, in 1984 he thrived in wearing lace, this is interesting because lace has connotations of purity, delicacy and femininity (Fig 4) which highly contrasts to his sexual lyrics. On one hand this could be seen as a motif for the sexual liberation movement. The

social movement that challenged behaviour related to sexuality and interpersonal relationships. The lace defines the development within the fashion industry specifically within Prince’s style and we can see a change of becoming more dandyish compared to his peasant blouses which gave him a feminine edge.[pic 12][pic 13]

Prince’s love for Cuban heels (Fig 6) (which many women during the 80’s loved)  Prince drew on what his fans loved to stimulate buzz, making him a legend and icon within both fashion and music it is obvious that he was a risk-taker. He continued to use his fashion to live up to his ‘sex-symbol’ nickname. Specifically one big trend he followed was colour blocking in 2007 - he wore brightly coloured suits, (Fig 7) echoing his strong sexuality and Phallic guitar holding.[pic 14][pic 15]

In conclusion, in the 21st Century males clothing is colourful (Fig 7) and expressive and men today begin to use fashion as an expression of identity. We live in an era where style is one of the biggest forms of self-expression, especially through social media, blogging and other online platforms. Prince’s fashion influence has demonstrated that clothes no longer have a duty to define sexual differentiation, as gender identity is no longer a question of nature and nurture?                                                 

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