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.

Are You a Courageous Dresser?

Wearing sequins to a Minnesota Timberwolves game? Why not!

With 13 days of dressing the part under my belt, I’m starting to feel like I’m becoming a more courageous dresser. Adhering to my rules about no jeans, no loungewear before 6 p.m. (even when working from home) and not leaving the house unless I had done hair and make-up was rugged for the first week of the challenge due to our wow-this-is-how-winters-used-to-be weather. I wanted to wear was jeans, long underwear and big fluffy fleece hoodies and shuffle around the house in fuzzy slippers. But NO! I held myself to a higher Princely standard. It was a pain in the ass, to be honest. But it’s produced at least one positive: I’ve cranked out more work in the first one and a half months of 2019 than I did in the last quarter of 2018, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

The more I dress up, the more courageous I get. Tonight, I’m going to the Minnesota Timberwolves game where Sheila E. is doing a halftime tribute to Prince. I’m wearing a sequined jacket. Why not! Maybe I’ll blind the opposing team!

Consistency compounds like interest.

You Don’t Have to Be a Rock Star to Have a Signature Style

Prince performs at his birthday party at First Avenue on June 7, 1984 in Minneapolis. (Photo by Paul Natkin)

Prince was a bold and daring dresser. Witness his choice of costume for his 25th birthday celebration performance at First Avenue in Minneapolis: He had no problem combining burnt out velvet and mesh with a leopard print guitar strap and topping off the ensemble with a dramatic gold necklace.

Prince’s style evolved over the years, but his love of dramatic lines, bold color and complex fabrics never changed. His clothing was integral to his rock star persona and helped him achieve his status as pop icon. If ever someone had fun with fashion, it was Prince.

I feel like a rock star wearing this outfit!
When in doubt, add a pom pom.

Prince loved symbols and wore dove, guitar, heart, peace and flower icons as part of his stage costumes before he evolved into using the Love Symbol in 1993. I love that Prince communicated through his accessories or through the fabrics of his clothes themselves, such as the Lovesexy blazers that had “Minneapolis” emblazoned on the lengths of the sleeves. Every day, as I put on either the mirror heart bracelet or mirror heart earrings to my outfits, I am surprised at how my spirits life. The heart emblem is now part of my own signature style.

After spending time in January stressing about fasting when things were rocky, I’ve resolved lighten up and have fun with dressing the part. After all, while Prince was a serious musician with the highest of standards, he flaunted butt-less yellow lace “Gett Off” pants and tunics from 20Ten printed with Debbie Guan’s sketches of him. He had fun experimenting with his style — and we should too.

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.