'Purple Rain' Exclusive: The Stories and the Sketches Behind the Movie's Groundbreaking Style

Prince in Purple Rain in 1984.
Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

Prince in Purple Rain in 1984.

The movie's costume designers, Louis Wells and Marie France, share Wells' sketches and the stories behind the looks, which crowned Prince as fashion royalty.

Purple Rain's costume designers, Louis Wells and Marie France, share Wells' sketches and the stories behind the looks, which crowned Prince as fashion royalty. "He told me he would call it Purple Rain because purple was the color of royalty, and he thought of himself as musical majesty. And he was," says Wells.

Trench Coat

"I chose this fabric because it was attention-grabbing," says Wells. "And a trench because he loved the drama and fit. You never knew what it would reveal when it blew open."

More From Billboard’s Prince Tribute: Prince, the Greatest Artist of His Generation | Prince’s Defining ‘Dirty Mind’ Album | ‘Purple’ Rain Style Exclusive | Prince’s Career Control | Prince’s Female Muses | Prince’s Life as a Jehovah’s Witness | Prince’s Final Show Set List | Superfan Tracy Morgan on What Prince Taught Him | Sheila E. on Her Love for Prince | Jimmy Jam on Getting Fired by Prince | Former Warner Bros. CEO Mo Ostin on Prince’s Fearlessness | Rob Light on Prince’s ‘Creative Genius’ | Prince's Quirkiest Stories

White Ruffled Shirt

"Ours was 17th-century-inspired but made from Egyptian cotton, with a mandarin collar and individual ruffles down the center," says Wells. (Sketch shows Wendy Melvoin.)

A Look Back at Prince's Quirky, Idiosyncratic Paisley Park Records

Lace

"Right away he caught onto [lace]," says France. "It was a mixture of romanticism and punk, encompassing multiple genres, just like his music." Wells agrees: "He wasn't afraid to challenge stereotypes or gender biases. He knew if he wore it, it would be great."

Prince, Minneapolis, and a Public Wake: Finding the Man in the Stories of a City

Cropped Leather Moto Jacket

"This cut -- a cropped leather waistcoat -- was inspired by James Brown, whom he loved and admired," says Wells."He wanted this because it showed off his butt so well. He loved his butt."

White Scarf

"When you're creating a look for an artist with a young following, you have to make it simple enough for fans to re-create themselves," says France.

The Inside Story on Designing Prince's Paisley Park: Exclusive

The Color Purple

"When I first met Prince, in 1981, he had this idea to make an autobiographical movie about his life," says Wells. "He told me he would call it Purple Rain because purple was the color of royalty, and he thought of himself as musical majesty. And he was."

This article originally appeared in the May 7 issue of Billboard.

THE BILLBOARD BIZ
SUBSCRIBER EXPERIENCE

The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to Billboard.com/business.


To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.