by Brooke Kennedy
On Tuesday, November 8, RR Auction traveled to New York City’s Hotel Chelsea for a showcase honoring the glitzy and glamorous style of artist Prince. Attendees were given an up-close view of pieces that dazzled audiences worldwide on the stage and screen.
Crowds gathered in the Bard Room at the Chelsea, greeted by his custom ‘Love Life’ jacket, his Gold stage outfit, and his ruffled shirt worn during his sing-along of ‘Purple Rain’ at the American Music Awards. Jewelry and accessories adorned the tables; his gorgeous necklace from the ‘Diamonds and Pearls’ music video, and stage-worn headscarves worn on his world tours.
Fans got a glimpse inside the walls of Paisley Park with original polaroid photographs and a binder of invoices and fabric swatches dated to the ‘85 – ‘87 period – following the design process of outfits from the Purple Rain, Parade, and Sign ‘O’ the Times eras. It was around this time that Prince would adopt purple as his signature color, a perfect fit for his royal name.
Spread across the tables, guests got a close-up look at Prince’s stage-worn shoes from his most electrifying performances. Boots he would customize and strengthen to perform his on-stage splits without them snapping, including his blue shoes for the Act I tour.
“You can see the metal bracket braces that are holding up the heels if you look underneath it,” said Executive Vice President Bobby Livingston in an article for the Star Tribune. “It just shows an intense amount of wear — how he was jumping on stage and dancing. You can really get a sense of the performer.”
The shoes piqued the interest of Tinu Naija, an editor for the fashion publication Shoeholics magazine. “Prince was one of the original influencers,” she said. “There’s got to be some shoes to check out.” Meanwhile, her fellow guest, celebrity stylist Phillip Bloch, was fascinated with a pair of Prince’s cuff links that spelled out “Sexy.” There was no shortage of guests, with more than 200 people showing their appreciation for the late musician, including actress Rosario Dawson (Men in Black II, Ashoka).
His experimentation with fashion led him to defy the gender norms of masculinity and femininity. And his androgynous looks instilled in him a confidence that washed over enthusiastic crowds all over the globe. Lace gloves, face masks, and frilly shirts were wardrobe staples, but his style was constantly shifting along with his sound – as is evidenced in this extensive collection.
“Each new project came out and not only did he change his music but he changed his fashion and design sense,” said Livingston. “That’s what makes this collection so remarkable. You can tell the whole story from ‘Purple Rain’ on.”
Since his death, prices have skyrocketed for anything related to the rock n’ roll artist. Most recently, in June 2023, RR Auction featured his 1976 demo tape that earned him his first recording contract in their semi-annual Marvels of Modern Music auction – where it sold for $67,259. Prince has been a staple at RR, with the company offering signed albums, handwritten lyrics, and guitars in years past.
In all, this auction presents 203 items originating from one collector named Bertrand, who acquired the items from designers who worked closely with Prince and prestigious auction houses. In addition to fashion pieces, fans can get their hands on master tapes of his hits albums, polaroid photographs from his wardrobe fittings, and documentation concerning his films and music videos. Bertrand attended the event, flying over from France to share his story with eager guests.
Prior to partnering with RR Auction, Bertrand had bought all of these items to preserve them for his own museum he planned to open to celebrate Prince’s style. However, after more than 10 years of collecting and the opening of the Paisley Park exhibition, he decided he was ready to share his passion with other Prince fans.
The Fashion of Prince auction closes November 16 at 6 pm EST.