April 2014

It’s September 2013 and I’m tightly gripping the edge of my plastic blue seat in the cavernous surrounds of London’s O2 Arena in anticipation at finally seeing my fashion hero, come on hero, Stevie Nicks.

Swathed in signature black velvet, leather and lace Stevie takes to the stage alongside her bandmates, Fleetwood Mac, and for the next three hours the sold-out crowd – spanning teenagers, hipsters, baby boomers – is entranced by her every movement. For four decades Stevie has inspired a fanatical following both as a member of Fleetwood Mac and as a solo artist in her own right. A large part of Stevie’s appeal – aside from her status as a phenomenal songwriter and performer – is her style. Of course, all musicians have had their sense of onstage amour – Dusty Springfield had her jet black khol eyes, Debbie Harry a ripped t-shirt, and sadly for Axl Rose a pair of small budgie smuggling white cycling shorts  – but, there’s something about Stevie’s style that still resonates today to bewitch musicians and fashion designers: Taylor Swift recently graced the cover of Vogue in Nicks’ chic, Alberta Ferreti’s Spring 2014 collection was infused with romantic fabrics, and Pinterest is popping cork with Stevie boards. As I spent another night trawling the dark depths of eBay in search of a Nicks fix (currently a pair of black suede platform boots) it made me think, what makes Stevie’s style so special?

Joining Fleetwood Mac on New Years Eve 1974, Stevie set out not to be a carbon copy singer following in the same style footsteps as Janis Joplin, Grace Slick or Linda Ronstadt. Enlisting designer Margi Kent, Stevie’s brief she said was to make “something urchinlike out of ‘Great Expectations’ or ‘A Tale of Two Cities’.”  The result was what she calls her “uniform”: delicate handkerchief hem skirts, chiffon sleeves billowing out of tight leotards, sequin crotchet berets attached to long shawls and towering velvet platform boots. Stevie added to Kent’s arsenal scouring flea markets in Chelsea for Victorian lace, picking-up her now iconic top hat from a thrift store in Buffalo and cutting her own hair into a wild, heavy fringed mane. Although the look is identifiable with 70s fashion– the romance of Edwardian look and the bohemian layers – it was Stevie’s interpretation that made it her own as she used her outfits as an integral part of her art and performance.

Flick through YouTube and you can see footage of Stevie at the height of Rumours’ fame – Fleetwood Mac’s second album with Nicks and one of the biggest selling albums to date – using her onstage costumes for ultimate effect. A short 1977 documentary (commonly known as the Rosebud Film) includes a performance of ‘Rhiannon’ – a track from the Mac’s previous self-titled album written by Stevie about an otherworldly goddess – where she uses every inch of the angel sleeves of her black chiffon dress to turn what should be a straight-up performance into a gothic pagan ritual: she sways and circles the fabric to mirror Rhiannon ‘as a bird in flight’, she brings the tempo down gently moving her chiffon draped arms in front of her beckoning, before finally thrusting her arms out to her sides to form a storm of black ‘taken to the wind’ for the song’s dramatic crescendo.  Stevie’s use of her outfit as a stage prop in her performance was as crucial as her tambourine.

Standing at just 5ft 1” tall and joining Fleetwood Mac at the height of 70s arena rock, Stevie’s style also had a practical element – she needed to stand out. As she told Harpers Bazaar in 2011, “a shawl is a great prop…if you want to be seen at the back of that arena, you have to have very big movements.” Unlike say Abba, the Stones or Led Zeppelin Fleetwood Mac didn’t have one unified identity as a band: then boyfriend and guitarist Lindsay Buckingham sported a big fro and wore kimonos, keyboardist Christine McVie’s style was relaxed bohemian, drummer Mick Fleetwood squeezed his 6ft 5” into the clothes of a tiny chimney sweep and bassist John McVie in eye-watering short shorts and a sports t-shirt looked like he’d crawled out from under a sand dune on Venice Beach. In order for Stevie to fit in with the Mac’s motley crue of characters she had to be unique. And, it worked as the audiences on the band’s 70’s tours teamed with girls wearing long dresses and platforms peering out through heavy Nicks’ bangs.

In the early 80s Stevie went solo and her style mirrored the transition. She moved subtly away from her stage outfits in Fleetwood Mac: the black was replaced with romantic pastels, waterfall ruffles were added and her hair sacrificed to the decade’s style of choice – the perm. But, the softening of Stevie’s style again went hand-in-hand with her music to reflect the love stories of her debut Bella Donna and The Wild Heart.  As stylist Margi Kent said in an interview, “I was putting her feelings into three-dimensional images.”

The late 80s saw Stevie’s dominance as an artist begin to fade as she battled drug addiction, first to cocaine and then Klonopin. In the early 90s she became a virtual recluse after the press unfairly lambasted her for the weight she had gained due to her addiction. When she returned in 1998 to critical acclaim with the release of her retrospective box set, Enchanted, her style also began its first resurgence in music and fashion with artists and designers looking to her classic look for inspiration.

Designer Anna Sui was the first to get on board as she dedicated a whole collection to Stevie Nicks in the late 90s and since has looked to Stevie in most of her collections. In an interview with Rolling Stone, she said of Stevie: “I’ve always loved her aesthetic; she’s a true style icon.” In 2010, Ralph Lauren’s Autumn Winter collection was filled with Edwardian velvet fitted jackets, floaty skirts and a modern knitted version of Stevie’s crotchet hats. And, only recently Milan Fashion Week saw Alberta Ferretti showcase her Autumn Winter 2014 collection, which featured gothic floor length lace gowns, wild feathers and lace detailing all recalling Stevie at the height of her fame.
The high street has regularly stepped in and out of Stevie’s wardrobe. In 2004, Sienna Miller’s bargain basement take on Stevie brought boho to the masses. Taking time off from its current love affair with 90’s neons, shops have recently been stocked with embroidered, fringed kimonos. For true Stevie obsessives, American brands like Free People and Gypsy Stardust stock entire collections inspired by Stevie, like the ‘Bella Donna Dress’ and ‘The Wild Heart Collection’.

Female musicians across the spectrum from Courtney Love to Katy Perry have been taking their cues from Stevie’s stage outfits. When Hole released their album, Celebrity Skin, in 1998 Courtney Love (a self-confessed Stevie fanatic) ditched her trademark babydoll dresses for reams of chiffon. In 2001, Florence And the Machine most notably worked with Gucci’s Frida Giannini on a Stevie Nicks inspired stage wardrobe for her tour. Like Stevie, Florence used accentuated sleeves, long hemlines and feather embellishments to commune the drama of her words. Most recently, Deap Vally and Haim work off-duty 70s Stevie in denim hotpants and heavy-fringed sun-kissed manes. Whilst Stevie’s new bestie, Katy Perry, thankfully took time-out from her cupcake squirting 50s pastiche to wear flowing chiffon and beading similar to Stevie’s White Winged Dove Tour in her video for, ‘Unconditional’.

As for Stevie herself? She still looks exquisitely dressed in a style that has served her for nearly 40 years without, like some of her contemporaries (we’re looking at you, Mick and Debbie), resembling a drag version of her younger self. Her style, like David Bowie, Patti Smith and Kate Bush, is as special as it is unique to her, inseparable from her music and like all good style, her clothes were influential then, now and will continue to be in the future. And most importantly of all? Wearing it makes you feel as cool as Stevie singing ‘Rhiannon’.