Sometimes the best part of a movie isn't the dialogue, the acting or the story. It's the fashion.
It seems apropos that on my birthday, there are a smattering of stories about the 25th anniversary of Purple Rain. In the summer of 1984, I was obsessed with the movie, the soundtrack, and the fact that Prince and I are both Geminis. But what Christel Loar writes about on PopMatters is what Prince wore. Specifically: That shirt.
I recall having an extended lingerie-as-daywear argument with a conservative Catholic grandmother during that year's back-to-school shopping trip, and it had nothing to do with Madonna. Not that I was wishing to adopt Apollonia Kotero's merry widow and cape get-up. I just wanted to appropriate some lacy, racy accents from Purple Rain.
I felt the same way, and it seemed that nothing in Prince's wardrobe was just thrown together. I loved that each item had intricate details, a story to tell, layers upon layers upon textures. Buttons outlining the crotch of pants; veils of lace cascading from hat bands; boots with high, solid, chunky heels. All of it exuded a raw sensuality — the perfect combination of sex and romance, or so my pre-teen brain thought.
But the shirt, really, was key, according to Loar:
Personally, though most people will tell you it's the purple great coat with the studded shoulder that cemented Prince's status as an icon, I think it was the shirt that sealed it. Lots of other pop stars rode motorcycles and wore satin, lace gloves, gold hoops and tight pants, but as far as I was concerned, only Prince could pull off the perfect white shirt. In fact, I think it was the poetic billows at the neck, or the open-to-the-waist ruffles with the crisp high collars and the pirate cuffs that anchored all the other pieces and gave an instant visual cue of that sense of romantic mystery Prince cultivates. This was years before I began reading Byron and decades before Captain Jack Sparrow stumbled across a screen dragging a romantic notion of pirate-chic back into our cultural consciousness again with one flick of his filthy frock coat cuff (Johnny Depp has famously said he based his character on Keith Richards and Pepé Le Pew, but I'd be willing to wager that there's a little Prince in that pirate, too), Yet that mysterious quality, that thing that declares, "Baby I'm a Star!" without a word is all communicated in the cut of that shirt: Dangerous. Daring, Sensitive. Sexy.
Looking back now, Prince's theatrical mix of hard and soft, rock and ruffles, masculinity and "feminine" elements like lace, heels and veils seems even more fascinating. Would any male artist today be so innovative, so brave?
The Beautiful One: Prince and the Fashion of Purple Rain [PopMatters]
Let's Go Crazy: Celebrating 25 Years of Purple Rain [PopMatters]
LINKAGE: Honoring The Prince [Threadbared]
Purple Rain Trailer [Trailer Addict]