Dress Like Prince

Prince performs at the Ritz Theater on September 9, 1984 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Natkin)

Is it possible to dress like Prince without looking like you stepped off the set of Purple Rain?

I am here to tell you: It is.

In the interest of science, I recently spent hours researching Prince’s style. Despite the hazards involved, which included falling down multiple research rabbit holes where I lost hours of my life scrolling through all kinds of stunningly gorgeous photos of Prince in every era, I have emerged triumphant, clutching in my hot little hands a secret formula. The formula is made up of the wardrobe items that Prince would frequently combine to form an outfit. I’m not saying this was the only outfit formula that I noticed Prince following — far from it! But it is one that he wore frequently through the years and that is easy to copy. By following this formula, you too can dress in a Princely way — without looking like you’re trying to look exactly like Prince, which obviously, none of us can pull off anyway.

Herewith, the Princely Formula for Fabulous Dressing that I deduced by analyzing Prince’s outfits over the years:

Pants (NO DENIM! Pants must be fitted through the thigh and can be either flares or straight legs) + flowy top (can be a tunic or blouse) + dramatic topper (long vest or leather jacket or cropped blazer).

To accessorize, add (your choice): a long pendant necklace (pendant should hit at your belly button) or a statement necklace (the shinier and bolder and more stuff going on, the better) and sunglasses (large — we’re going for rock star drama). Bonus points for adding a hat (beanie or fedora). HUGE BONUS POINTS IF YOU CAN ADD A SPARKLY CANE! Ha!

At the Brit Awards in 2014. Photo by David Fisher/Rex.

For footwear, boots that match the color of your pants are the obvious choice, but let’s face it: Prince had given up on the four-inch heels long ago. Because Prince wore lower wedge heels (bonus if yours light up like his), I’m taking that as a green light to wear lower heels, too. But boots are still the footwear of choice, whatever the heel height.

Faux fur jacket + flowy blouse + black pants + platform wedge boots + ladylike handbag + long pendant necklace = Princely Outfit

Admittedly, this formula does not cover every single era of Prince style, with the Musicology tour and Prince’s very dapper suits and tailored shirts being one exception, and the era during which Steve Parke photographed Prince at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum wearing an oh-so-90s long, chunky black turtleneck sweater being another. But I believe that the formula covers many eras, including the rock-oriented 3rdEyeGirl era of his later years.

Here’s a way to put a slightly differing twist on this formula by substituting a dress for the pants and flowy top.

Moto jacket + flowy dress + purple pendant necklace + over-the-knee boots + mirror ball clutch = Princely Dress Outfit

And I would venture to guess that most of us can wear a formula like this and look perfectly great going about our day. Better yet, I bet that most of us can come up with an outfit from what’s already in our closets.

What do you think of the Princely outfit formula? Do you think you could put together an outfit by following the formula?

Wearing My Heart On My Sleeve

Fasting saw me fumbling around at the beginning of the January, catching a stomach virus and getting tripped up by The Devil (also known as blueberry pie). But I strode confidently into February, feeling that I was born to Dress The Part. I feel confident that this is one challenge I will own.

I’ve launched into the first Monday of February wearing a blue dress with a long, dramatic cardigan and a wide belt tied in a bow. I love the color blue and after a month of Alternate Day Fasting, I’m at least a few pounds lighter. I can feel myself walking a little taller today.

The mirror heart bracelet is my constant companion this month.

Wearing my heart on my sleeve is proving a tiny bit cumbersome, however. I’ve worn the mirror heart bracelet while writing, cooking, driving — you name it. Conclusion: This is definitely a “stage prop” accessory that was not designed to wear for everyday use! Fortunately, Michelle Streitz makes fabulous mirror heart earrings, so when I stabbed myself in the hand with the point of the heart for the third time in a day, I decided that was my cue to switch to earrings. Even the earrings are quite eye-catching, and I noticed a few people doing a double-take at Costco while I was going about my appointed errands.

However, I was secretly bummed when this past weekend while shopping for groceries at Byerlys, two Prince fans walked by me (identifiable by their purple love symbol scarves) without noticing my earrings.

I bet they would have noticed the heart bracelet.

That’s when it occurred to me that wearing the mirror heart bracelet all day long would be quite a conversation starter. And to be honest, aside from the practicality questions, I’ve limited myself by my fear of looking outside of the norm. I don’t know any suburban moms driving carpool while wearing a heart mirror bracelet, but why not try it! I need to push myself to step into this.

Although I’m not going to the lengths Prince went to draw attention (I will most definitely not be going onstage in my underwear), I pushed myself to think long and hard about my reticence, and I realized that I feel awkward wearing an item in my everyday life that calls out, “notice me.” Purposely drawing attention to myself is one strange sensation. We Midwesterners are taught not to show off. But the particular Midwesterner I’m emulating never cared about blending in. So therein lies the rub!

I assumed this would be an easy month. Ha! After four days of Dressing the Part, I’ve learned another thing from Prince — never make assumptions.

Why I Chose a Heart As My Symbol

“Hundalasiliah,” by Troy Gua

February’s theme is “Dress the Part,” and in preparing for the month, I challenged myself to find or create something to wear that symbolizes me — just as Prince’s love symbol symbolized him.

As I mulled over what would be an appropriate symbol, I considered butterflies (symbolizing coming into my own this year), a circle (wholeness), a star (#becausePrince) and an owl (hoping for wisdom!).

Because I’ve been reading Daring Greatly, I kept coming back to the idea of wholeheartedness, which was one of the phrases that author Brene Brown uses frequently. I think of wholeheartedness often while writing. Writing well requires me to be vulnerable, or put another way, to show up wholeheartedly. Anything less isn’t up to Prince’s Gold Standard. And then of course, February means Valentine’s Day. And just last week, I featured the work of artist Jimmi Toro, who had painted Prince wearing red. And was there ever an artist more oriented toward the heart and who touched so many on a heart level? All signs pointed toward the heart.

Prince accessorized with mirror hearts in the Sign O’ The Times and Lovesexy eras, and as it happened, dear friend, Michelle Streitz is the talented maker of the heart bracelet that Prince is depicted wearing in Troy Gua’s work, above. Michelle generously gave me a bracelet, and I had already purchased mirror heart earrings from her. That sealed the deal. My symbol for February is the heart.

Every day this month, I’ll be wearing my heart on my sleeve. How apropos! And each and every day, I’ll be dressing up too. I’ll make sure to post some outfits here.

What about you? Will you pick a symbol for yourself? If so, what are you considering? Have you settled on one?

I Loved Life in The Fasting Lane

January 2019, I am closing the books on you. Fasting is nearly over, and February is on the horizon. What a ride it was!

I surprised myself by actually enjoying Alternate Day Fasting (ADF). To be honest, the most vexing problem I had was that even on my fasting days, I still had to cook for my family. I found it challenging to keep my emotions in check. I’d find myself feeling grumpy and resentful and sorry for myself while cooking something delicious for someone else. (So much for being a selfless mother — or for even being emotionally mature, for that matter).

Then, there was the inconvenience. There were times when I had to change lunch or dinner plans with friends in order to accommodate my fasting schedule, which led me to wonder whether the plan was ridiculously restrictive. Shouldn’t I be enjoying life to the fullest? That’s clearly a valid argument for some. But you know what I discovered? It wasn’t that hard to rearrange plans. I still got to see friends, just on a different day. If I had to do another month of fasting, I would simply schedule lunches or dinners on eating days.

Best of all, I discovered that some cheating didn’t hurt. Even if I stuffed a handful of bell pepper in my face while resentfully cooking spaghetti sauce, or if I sampled a couple of spoonfuls while the sauce was simmering, it didn’t matter. I still kept succeeding. Overall, I had more energy, I felt creatively invigorated and I cranked out a blog post every day since this challenge started. I’m declaring “Life in the Fasting Lane” a win. Onward!

Portrait of The Artist

Magic happens when Jimmi Toro paints Prince.

Can you feel Prince in this portrait?

If you can, credit the alchemy that happens when Salt Lake City artist Jimmi Toro spins paint on canvas into gold.

In 2018, Liz Malmquist of Salt Lake City commissioned this portrait from Toro. She says that Prince’s death hit her profoundly. Only months before Prince died, she had lost her closest friend. She was the same age as Prince and found herself struggling with her own mortality.

“I have loved Prince since before Purple Rain. He was beautiful. Just beautiful. I was more fascinated by his mind that was filled with so much music and lyrics. And his quiet life in many ways,” Malmquist wrote in an email interview.

Artist Jimmi Toro

Malmquist and Toro collaborated on the portrait and looked for photos together. Malmquist did not share Prince’s love of purple but rather, favored the color red. Toro found a photo of Prince wearing red on the cover of Portuguese magazine BLITZ, from July 2010.

Some of the images that Malmquist and Toro considered before settling on the one featured by Portugese magazine BLITZ in July 2010.

Toro began with a sketch.

“The result is stunning,” Malmquist says. “It takes your breath away. It really is something to be seen in person as it is almost tactile. I have never had a person not reach out to touch this painting. Young and old. The textures are both smooth and rough, the contrasts of this painting I feel add to the contrast of the subject. Prince was an enigma.”

Malmquist says, “I look at this painting every day. It has become more than art, it has become a reminder to live my life fully.”

She adds, “But as much as I admired Prince, I also admire Jimmi Toro. His quiet beautiful soul and his talent so multifaceted. The two of them would have had good conversations I think. I am honored to have this piece.”

“Prince seemed to never age,” Malmquist says. “He did towards the last photos of him but he will always be this, this kind of Mona Lisa smile and those eyes. He will always be one of the beautiful ones.”

Review: “Prince Was a Modern-Day Sage”

Do you consider yourself to be a student of Prince? According to Prince’s Friend and his new video released today called “Prince Was a Modern-Day Sage,” if you are a Prince fan, friend or fam, then by definition, you are a student of Prince.

Prince’s Friend steps out of his more typical interview format to offer a personal take on the influence Prince has on his life, at one point recalling how he transcribed Prince’s lyrics as an 11-year-old child in order to study their meaning (he doesn’t share which songs he transcribed, but one would hope it was more along the lines of “Free” and less “Let’s Pretend We’re Married.”). The result is one of his most effective videos to date.

I found myself nodding along to much that Prince’s Friend had to say, including his comment that dedicating oneself to a single goal (in Prince’s case, music) carries a steep price for other areas of one’s life. As I listened, visuals popped into my mind, including a memory of Morris Hayes speaking at Steve Parke’s book signing in Edina in September 2017. Hayes shared that Prince told him that he considered himself a writer first and foremost. And that my friends, gets to the heart of this video. Prince very intentionally shared messages in his songs. Those of us who resonate with those messages (and I include myself in this category) enjoy taking a deeper look at his meaning, his messages and his intent.

If you ask the big question of life, which is “how do we live?” Prince certainly had a prescription, which was love for one another, acceptance and respect. I would add: We must be bold. What looked a whole lot like rebellious teenage (or early 20s, as the case may be) behavior on Prince’s part is now better understood as Prince expressing himself. Whether by wearing bikini underwear on stage or writing “slave” across his cheek, Prince was bold about expressing himself and in turn, pushing people to open their minds, “as only a sage can,” in the words of Prince’s Friend.

In a sense, this video plays out as a welcome complement to this blog and my “Year of Living Like a Prince.” Prince’s Friend and I are each walking that line between admiring the message and making peace with the flawed human behind them. While Prince’s messages stand as proof of the power of the word, in his life, there was much that is not only not admirable, but also clearly should not be emulated. That’s okay with me. I can experiment with the great qualities and practices that made Prince a tremendous success, while looking at him in a clear-eyed manner. He was not a perfect person. Others may not be able to overcome that hurdle and discard the message because of the actions of the man. That’s their prerogative and I understand that as well.

One of the best parts of 2018 was watching Prince’s Friend and Darling Nisi step into the spotlight with Prince’s Friend and Muse 2 The Pharoah respectively. This video represents a major new effort from Prince’s Friend to delve deeper into Prince’s legacy.

Do you agree that Prince was a modern-day sage? Do you consider yourself a student of Prince? Join the conversation over at Prince’s Friend.

How to Win at Alternate Day Fasting

My new motto: Surrender, Dorothy.

After the bumpy fasting ride of last week, I needed an attitude adjustment and a Win, with a capital “w.” Granted, things had started out rocky for me. I had coped with a bout of the stomach flu during week two (I was pissed off, mostly because the virus struck on an eating day) and a couple of failures of compliance, most notably last week after a sugar binge. But I was determined to get myself on track and finish strong. As I myself have preached, fasting is a mental game. What I needed to do was reset my frame of mind.

I had studied Alternate Day Fasting inside and out, I had watched videos, I had followed someone on Instagram who’d lost more than 100 pounds and I had talked about it with friends and family ad nauseam. Now I needed to throw my brain into autopilot and roll with it. This weekend, I had a lightbulb moment: Instead of stewing about my small defeats, what I needed to do was stop overthinking and submit to the plan. (My name is Laura and I have a teeny tiny problem with being headstrong and overthinking things).

Two words came to mind: “Surrender, Dorothy.”

Surprisingly, this little mental reset worked and I had a great fasting day on Saturday. Creatively, I felt re-energized and was able to successfully crank out a 1,500-word magazine article about a certain purple you-know-who. Last night I stayed up writing until 10:30 p.m. and stopped myself only because I looked around and couldn’t find Andy and the kids, only to realize they were in bed! This is a revelation: Normally, I am a grumpy and exhausted zombie by 9 p.m.

Getting on board with Alternate Day Fasting has taken until the last week of January, but the effort has been so very worth it. I’m even considering continuing with the plan in February. I feel like I’m just getting started.

Who Inspires You?

Thomas Matson at work in the studio, back when photography was high tech.

This photo shows my great-grandfather at work in the Reierson Photography studio at 23 S. Pinckney Street in Madison, Wis., around 1916-1919. According to his World War I draft card, he both lived and worked at this address. Thomas Matson was born in Arendal, Norway and came to the U.S. at the age of 12. Thomas was 34 when he married Augusta Olson, a Swede from Minneapolis, which was probably not the most popular choice for a Norwegian, but I get the feeling that Thomas didn’t let the expectations of others deter his path. Sadly, he died of pneumonia in 1928 at the age of 40, leaving Augusta with two young children just as the country was about to plummet into the Depression. Fortunately, Augusta had a degree from the Minnesota School of Business that enabled her to get a good job working for a judge in Madison, thus saving the family.

A relative loaded this photo to Ancestry.com. Through the magic of Framebridge, I was able to have it printed and framed. Now it sits on my desk, where I get enormous pleasure from imagining Thomas using his creative talents in what was then a high-tech field. Do you have an ancestor who inspires you? Do you keep something of theirs as a memento?

Fasting True Confessions

I had a bad fasting day. A very terrible, awful failure of a fasting day. And what adds insult to injury is that the bad day I had on Tuesday created an even worse day on Wednesday.

Here’s how it started. On Monday, my husband and I had each had a long day. It was exceptionally cold in Minnesota and the feeling of wanting to hibernate on the couch under a bunch of blankets was overwhelming. He decided that the idea of having a beer was appealing. I decided to join him with a glass of wine. It was an eating day, so that was allowed. The glass of wine led to a piece of blueberry pie and no, I did not hold the ice cream. Again — eating day, and allowed.

I slept horribly and the next day, almost from the moment I woke up, I felt overwhelmed with cravings. My body ached. I was grouchy. My nose was stuffy, I kept itching my head, and I felt like I had hayfever — in January, in subzero weather. Around noon, my allotted two cups of Skinny Pop, my mid-day snack, became four cups. It was as if I couldn’t stop myself. Next thing I knew, I had disassociated from my body and found myself ferreting around in the chips drawer. After I blew it by eating chips, I decided I didn’t want my normal fasting day dinner so instead, I ate leftover pasta, which, let’s face it, is more carbs. That caused me to feel even more sluggish. I yelled at the kids. I was on a shame-and-blame rollercoaster and I tried to make it go away by eating chocolate.

Is it possible to have a sugar hangover? Is sugar an addictive substance? The Purple Guinea Pig is here to tell you: Yes, and yes.

Tidying my house was one unintended consequence of fasting. The second is that I am grappling with the fact that I have a sugar problem. I was shocked at how strong my sugar cravings were on my fasting day, after having eaten sugar on my eating day.

While scrolling through Instagram yesterday, a quote from Russell Brand popped up on my feed. He wrote, “If you want to see if something’s problematic in your life, see what happens if you withdraw it from your life.”

Whoa. That hit home. On fasting days, I remove sugar from my diet. I didn’t purposely remove sugar, but I don’t eat it because there is no room for sugary treats in a 500-calorie fasting day. When I added sugar back on my eating day, I was shocked at how sick it made me feel, and how much I craved more and more, even while I felt grumpy and sluggish.

Oh sugar, we had a long love story. But fasting taught me something I never saw coming. You and I are no good together. It’s official: Sugar and I are breaking up.

Unveiling February’s Challenge

February is about style. Artist: Erika Peterson, @erikastrada

Although I feel like I’m just getting rolling with fasting, unbelievably, it’s almost time to shift gears. For those of you brave souls following along, you’re going to need some time to plan for this challenge, so here’s a peek at what’s in store for February.

February’s theme is “Dress the Part.” Prince dressed the part of Prince, and showed up every day looking on point. My gut says this was about more than style and that dressing the part played a role in his success. In February, I am committing to dressing up every day. By “dressing up,” I mean putting on an outfit of actual clothing, and that means that if I wear pants, they need to have a zipper and button — no elastic stretchy pants allowed.

It’s easier to say what I won’t do, so here it is:

  • I won’t wear loungewear until after 6 p.m., even if I am spending the day at home
  • I won’t wear jeans
  • I will not leave the house without doing my hair and makeup

But wait: There’s a catch. And that’s the second part to February’s challenge and the part you will need to plan. You must find or create something to wear that symbolizes YOU — just as Prince’s love symbol symbolized him. And you must wear it every day. So, for example, if 2019 is the year you see yourself as coming into your own, maybe you’ll choose a butterfly as your symbol. Or, if people love to come to you for advice, then perhaps the wisdom of the owl represents you. I’ve been mulling mine over, and think I’ve finally landed on the right thing. More on that next week.