You could argue that during Fleetwood Mac’s 40-year run and her own solo success, Stevie Nicks has never needed a comeback, because she never reall19y went away — or at least her jet-set gypsy style never has. But in the last 12 months, the 65-year-old singer has been practically inescapable, popping up alongside Dave Grohl for his “Sound City” documentary and subsequent tour, and taking center stage on FX’s “American Horror Story: Coven,” playing — appropriately enough — a fictional “white witch” version of herself. Not to mention Fleetwood Mac’s 2013 34-city U.S. tour, which wrapped up recently.
Through the decades, Nicks’ flowing, bohemian look has influenced other musicians as much as her signature sound. Her style is so iconic and enduring, it’s hard to believe it started with her having nothing to wear.
The year was 1975. Nicks was 27 and, along with then-29-year-old Lindsey Buckingham, was about to go into the studio with Fleetwood Mac for the first time and record what would become the group’s breakthrough self-titled album. Songs like “Landslide” and “Rhiannon” were works-in-progress for months, but swiftly after the album’s July release the band was booked on a whirlwind worldwide tour.
“I had nothing but street clothes with me,” Nicks recalls. “I’d gained 10 pounds and nothing fit. I wound up performing in my best jeans, a cute top and old clog high heels. For two months. When even my parents told me to upgrade, I never wanted to go on another tour unprepared.”
Fortunately, it didn’t take long for the money to start rolling in and Nicks was able to trade in her jeans for custom-designed costumes. A friend introduced Nicks to Los Angeles-based designer Margi Kent-who still makes all of Nicks’ stage outfits and most of her clothes more than 35 years later — and, as the singer recalls: “I told Margi, ‘I want to look like a Dickens character straight out of “Great Expectations.” I want handkerchief hem chiffon skirts, all edgy at the bottom, a bodysuit for a top, a scarf around my neck and little equestrian riding jackets on top.’ I paired that with very fitted platform suede boots, and I found the famous real English top hat in Buffalo, N.Y., in an antique store . . . The first night I went onstage with that look, in 1976, I felt good, tall and beautiful. I called Margi and said, ‘We’ve done it!’ And I have never felt the need to change.”
Kent, still based in L.A. and working with many musicians, maintains that though there have been rock style icons from Grace Slick to Lady Gaga, “nobody ever stepped in front of a band and kicked ass wearing chiffon except Stevie Nicks. Everyone tells us they’re inspired by her. Anna Sui has done collections built around Stevie’s style, Alexander McQueen did one, so did John Galliano.”
Nicks still owns most of the original pieces. “My nieces all want to borrow them now,” she says. “Capes, ponchos, with gold thread and sequins and beautiful long fringe.”
So where did the Dickens-Bella Donna connection originate? Nicks explains: “During the first few months of Fleetwood Mac, I got infused with English style through Mick Fleetwood. He wore handmade jeans and had his shirts done by a shirtmaker. So I picked up on English fashion. And when I lived in San Francisco, we opened for a lot of big rock bands-I watched Jimi Hendrix perform in a white leather outfit with fringe, Janis Joplin in silky bell bottoms-I drew all these looks and gave the sketches to Margi.”
Kent also made Nicks velvet panne pants that were rucked in the style of ’70s leg warmers. “Prince borrowed that look from me,” Nicks says with a laugh.
Does Nicks have any contemporary fashion influences herself? “The Olsen twins are pretty fantastic, actually. They come to a lot of my shows. And I have a lot of respect for Florence Welch — she does a nice take on Stevie Nicks. I’m delighted to share that with her. And Kate Moss told me she goes to Night of a Thousand Stevies in New York.”
Night of a Thousand Stevies? That’s right: Gypsy-worshipping devotees who dress up in Stevie drag have been congregating for years — the next one is May 9 at Irving Plaza in New York — although the woman of honor has yet to attend. “I’m going to go one year and dress up so they don’t know it’s me,” she jokes. “I’ll walk onstage and start to sing and they’ll freak out.”