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Prince and His Fashion Revolution

Music legend inspired generations to push boundaries and live free of gender stereotypes

Prince

Prince in "Under the Cherry Moon" in 1986.

Warner Brothers/courtesy Everett Collection

Prince was forever reinventing himself. Whether he was called the Purple One, “the artist formerly known as Prince,” his Royal Badness, his many monikers tracked his multiple facets as he pushed boundaries when it came to gender, sexuality and personal freedom. "I find freedom sexy. I find freedom so sexy I can't even explain it to you," he told NME in 1996. "You wake up every day and feel like you can do anything." And what he wore certainly mirrored that feeling.

Like David Bowie, another music icon who died this year, Prince will be remembered for his music, but he will also forever inspire people because of his fashion and style choices. From ruffled collars, to booty-baring pants and, of course, countless purple outfits and high heels, the pop, rock and R&B icon had a wardrobe that inspired many to take risks and find their inner freak. Here, we look at a few of the audacious choices he made over the decades.

Prince; Fashion; 1980

Waring Abbott/Getty

Animal Print Two-Piece

Just starting out after having released a couple of albums, Prince had no worries about showing off his body in a zebra-print, Tarzan-inspired two-piece when he performed at New York City's Bottom Line in 1980. It would set the stage for decades of outlandish fashion choices.

Prince

PURPLE RAIN, Prince, 1984

Everett

‘The Kid in ‘Purple Rain’

Making his film debut in 1984, Prince played "The Kid" in the rock movie Purple Rain, but it was also his ruffled shirt and purple suit that got everyone's attention – and inspired copycats.

Prince

rince celebrating his birthday and the nrelease of Purple Rain at 1st Avenue on 6/7/84 in Minneapolis, Mn. in Various Locations, (Photo by )

Paul Natkin/WireImage

Album Release of ‘Purple Rain’

After releasing his album in 1984, the performer was forever associated with the color, even earning the moniker the Purple One.

Prince

INGLEWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 19: Prince performs live at the Fabulous Forum on February 19, 1985 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Fluffy Pink Wing 1985

Purple Rain-era Prince sported curly hair and heavily brocaded outfits. But those pink wings were the highlight of this 1985 concert.

Prince

EDITORS: PARTIAL NUDITY. Musician/singer Prince performs his single "Get Off", surrounded by half-naked dancers, while clad in a see through yellow suit at the 8th Annual MTV Video Music Awards in Universal City, Calif., Sept. 5, 1991. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)

AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian

Prince at 1991 VMAs

He came out in a yellow jumpsuit with cutouts to perform a seven-minute version of his Diamonds and Pearls hit "Gett Off." But it wasn't until he twirled around to reveal the cutaway in his suit, which displayed his bare ass, that people got the full impact of the outfit.

Prince

Rock star Prince, with gold chains hanging from his police-style hat and singing into a microphone shaped like a gun, opens his concert at Sunrise Musicial Theater near Fort Lauderdale, Fla., March 8, 1993. Prince begins a 12-city tour with anew band called New Power Generation. (AP Photo/Ray Fairall)

AP Photo/Ray Fairall

Chainmail Hat in 1993

The chainmail police hat Prince wore on stage in New York in 1993 was similar to the one he wore in his "My Name Is Prince" video and album cover.

Prince

UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 08: Photo of PRINCE; Prince performing on stage - Purple Rain tour (Photo by Ebet Roberts/Redferns)

Ebet Roberts/Redferns

Body-Revealing Lace

Always a fan of lace, Prince was constantly pushing gender boundaries by wearing what many would view as feminine garments. 

Prince

American singer and songwriter Prince performs in concert, barechested with a guitar strapped at his waist, Minneapolis, Minnesota, April 30, 1990. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)

Frank Micelotta/Getty Images

Leopard Print Guitar Strap

Whatever he might be wearing (or not wearing), Prince's signature leopard print guitar strap was usually a constant accessory.

Prince

American singer and songwriter Prince performs in concert, singing with a guitar strapped behind his back, Wembley Arena, London, England, July 1990. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)

Frank Micelotta/Getty Images

Gender-fluid Symbol

Prince was always a volcano of androgynous energy, but he especially confounded fans and critics when he changed his name to a symbol in 1993 to get out of his Warner Bros. contract. Music journalists began to call him "the artist formerly known as Prince," but it was this "Love Symbol" – which was a mash-up of the gender symbols for man and woman – that he used that got him called "crazy" and "ridiculous" but also seemed to presage today's celebrities' embrace of gender-fluid identity.

Prince

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - FEBRUARY 04: Prince performs during the "Pepsi Halftime Show" at Super Bowl XLI between the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears on February 4, 2007 at Dolphin Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Super Bowl XLI

The memorable performance on February 4th, 2007, at halftime of Super Bowl XLI had all eyes glued on Prince, in a teal suit, as he performed in the rain.

Prince

Rob Verhorst/Redferns

‘Lovesexy’ Tour’s Polka-dots

During 1988's Lovesexy tour, Prince donned a white polka-dot suit, black polka-dot shirt and wore polka-dot heels for a mind-bending ensemble.

Prince

Prince during The 61st Annual Golden Globe Awards - InStyle/ Warner Bros Golden Globe After Party - Inside at Palm Court at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California, United States. (Photo by M. Caulfield/WireImage)

M. Caulfield/WireImage

Tailored Suits

After year's of ostentatious designs, Prince went through a phase of classic tailored suiting, such as this bright blue one he wore during the 61st Annual Golden Globe in 2004.

Prince

LONDON - SEPTEMBER 19: Singer Prince performs before the Matthew Williamson LFW Spring Summer 2008 show at London Fashion Week 2007 on September 19, 2007 in London, England. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

Black Jumpsuit and Top Hat

Fashion designer Matthew Williamson was thrilled to find out that Prince would perform at his London Fashion Week show in 2008 since his girlfriend at the time, Chelsea Rodgers, was a fan of the designer's work. The performance took place on the catwalk and Prince's all-black outfit (with silver accessories) popped against the pink backdrop.

Prince

Frank Micelotta/Getty Images

White Hood at 2005 People’s Choice Awards

His silky white outfit for the awards ceremony seemed to evoke a spiritual advisor from some serene planet.

Prince

INDIO, CA - APRIL 26: Prince performs during day 2 of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival held at the Empire Polo Field on April 26, 2008 in Indio, California. (Photo by John Shearer/WireImage)

John Shearer/WireImage

White Tunic at Coachella 2008

For his hits-filled set at the California concert, Prince chose a very desert-friendly white tunic with metal studding. The most jaw-dropping moment of the night came near the end of the main set when he broke out Radiohead's "Creep."

Prince

Chris Graythen/Getty

Goatee and Asymmetrical Shades

Tired of being the center of attention, Prince tried to "disguise" himself at the 2004 at Essence Music Festival with a goatee, straightened hair, a red-and-black-sleeved flowing ensemble and funky Eighties sunglasses. But the Purple One cannot be contained.

Prince

LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 22: Singer Mary J. Blige (L) and recording artist Prince perform onstage during the 2012 iHeartRadio Music Festival at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on September 22, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Clear Channel)

Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Clear Channel

Afro and Gold Eyewear in 2012

At the 2012 iHeart Radio Music Festival in Las Vegas, Prince joined Mary J. Blige on stage for a duet of "Nothing Compares 2 U," which was a hit for Sinead O'Connor. The multi-colored psychedelic top and gold face mask were a new look, as was the natural afro that he first debuted a month earlier to much fanfare.

Prince

LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 19: Recording artist Prince performs during the 2013 Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 19, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Turquoise and Fringe

Prince received the Icon Award at the 2013 Billboard Music Awards. And his turquoise outfit was matched with a black jacket with some serious fringe.

Prince

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

‘3rd Eye’ Glasses at 2015 American Music Awards

What began as an illustration from his Art Official Age album in September 2014 inspired a real pair of "3rd Eye" glasses. He debuted them on an episode of Saturday Night Live in October 2015 and later work them to accept an award at the American Music Awards that year, while sporting an all-gold ensemble.

In This Article: Prince, Purple Rain

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