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.
“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.”
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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.)
“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.”
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.”
“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 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.