Five years since his death: Why Prince was a fashion legend

Music – Prince – ‘Parade Tour’ – Under the Cherry Moon Tour – Wembley Arena, London
Music – Prince – ‘Parade Tour’ – Under the Cherry Moon Tour – Wembley Arena, London
7:30am, Wed 21 Apr 2021
CBAD8A00-D2B9-4E0E-ADDF-D0366C357A34 Created with sketchtool. E9A4AA46-7DC3-48B8-9CE2-D75274FB8967 Created with sketchtool. 65CCAE04-4748-4D0F-8696-A91D8EB3E7DC Created with sketchtool.

The world lost a true fashion trailblazer when Prince died five years ago today.

Prince Rogers Nelson was a visionary with his music and style, and his impact is still being felt today. Who else has ever managed to take ownership of an entire colour?

The Purple Rain singer will long be remembered for his gender-fluid dressing and ability to break boundaries. He used fashion as a mode of self-expression – challenging traditional gender norms and what it meant to be a sex symbol. Here is why his legacy will never be forgotten…

He championed androgyny

Prince performing

From Adam Ant to David Bowie, androgynous dressing was rife in music in the 1980s – but none were quite as impactful as Prince’s approach to gender-bending style.

Prince’s whole persona was built around mystery, and this included his gender and sexuality. His style reflected this, mixing up masculine suits with feminine heels and prints.

Mural in memory of Prince

In 1993 he changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol – known as the Love Symbol – blending together the signs for men and women. He predominantly changed his name as an act of rebellion towards his label, but many saw it as a visual representation of what his fashion and music had long championed – gender fluidity.

In the 1984 Prince And The Revolution song I Would Die 4 U he sang: “I’m not your woman/ I’m not your man/ I am something/ That you’ll never understand” – and he continued to keep us guessing with his fashion choices.

He always took risks

In his 1996 song Style, Prince sang: “Style is not lusting after someone because they’re cool/ Style is loving yourself ’til everyone else does too.”

This very much sums up his approach to fashion: Prince was always uniquely himself and unafraid to take risks. He challenged norms by playing around with the classic suit – wearing cropped blazers, or assless trousers.

Prince

Prince was constantly changing up his aesthetic, taking risks with colour, silhouettes and prints.

He made Victoriana cool

Prince wearing ruffles in 1985

Prince was an unabashed sex symbol: his songs were sexy, and his dress sense was similarly provocative. It’s perhaps surprising he managed to make one of his signature looks – Victoriana – actually look sexy too.

For the Purple Rain movie, album cover and tour, Prince wore the now-iconic outfit of a purple suit and white ruffled shirt. Ruffles became his signature look – and he managed to make this fussy vibe look incredibly cool.

His influence is long-lasting

Lil Nas X arriving at the MTV Video Music Awards 2019, held at the Prudential Centre in Newark, NJ. Photo credit should read: Doug Peters/EMPICS

We’re still seeing Prince’s legacy on the red carpet today. From fringed trousers to ruffled shirts, celebrities are constantly inspired by his boundary-breaking, androgynous approach to fashion.

Just take Lil Nas X, who wore a silver sparkly Christian Cowan suit to the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards, complete with a frilly lace shirt.

Harry Styles’ fashion also has echoes of Prince. He wore a flared suit and a feather boa to the recent Grammy Awards – something Prince often accessorised with onstage.

Sign up to our newsletter