When Did You First Learn the Value of Style?

My grandma, mom and I on Easter Sunday 1967

This month, I’m voluntarily taking on the challenge to dress up daily — but how did I feel about dressing the part back when I was a toddler? I marvel at the fact that my mother had me all dressed up in white gloves and stockings with a knitted yellow scarf on my head (Mom tells me that my great-grandmother, a Swede, knitted these for me) — and as the cherry on the sundae, a yellow corsage pinned to my lapel. Whether or not I enjoyed dressing up is unclear as I have no memory of this moment, but what is clear is that I seem to think the handbag handle is designed for chewing.

While I may not have valued style back then, I certainly have come to appreciate it as an adult. My in-depth scientific research has unearthed a telling moment in Prince’s own fashion evolution — perhaps one of the first moments that demonstrated Prince’s own understanding of the value of style.

In Owen Husney’s memoir, Famous People Who’ve Met Me, he writes of the day when Prince unboxed his first album, For You. It happens to coincide with the moment when Husney notices that Prince’s style has begun to gel. Husney writes:

“I couldn’t help but notice the up-tick in Prince’s appearance when he walked into my office … Now his emerging look was less casual, augmented by a trimmed fro, black leather jacket, a pullover white V-neck linen shirt, dress pants, and high-heeled boots … I was opening a square box that was just delivered via UPS. It had a big WB logo on the side and was marked in block letters “Promo Copy – Not For Sale BSK-3150.” “Do you want the honors?” I said as soon as the box was pried open. “Sure” came Prince’s one word reply. He reached in and produced a single vinyl album from the box of twenty-five. On the top it said “PRINCE-FOR YOU.” … Prince then reached in the album jacket and pulled out the dust cover. “Let’s see if they got it right” he said, examining the superimposed shot of him naked on a bed, a guitar covering his private parts. “It’s perfect.”‘

Was it a coincidence that Prince stepped up his style at the same moment that his first album was released? I think not. But while this particular style worked during the For You era, Prince wasn’t married to it. By the time Allen Beaulieu photographed Prince for the cover of his next album, Dirty Mind, Prince taken his wardrobe game in a vastly different direction. He sported straight, spiky hair and wore a knotted red bandana around his neck, combined with a studded purple trench coat, a fedora and “rude boy” pin on the lapel (and not much else). Dirty Mind was heavy on new wave and punk elements and Prince dressed the part.

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