The look is pure Stevie. Long, fluid chiffon skirts, airy capes with cut velvet details that seem to move to the music, rich jewel-toned maxi-coats and buttery suede platform boots. And black--lots of it.
Many things have changed since 1975 when a doe-eyed 26-year-old named Stevie Nicks joined a struggling British blues band called Fleetwood Mac. But Nicks’ look has remained a crystal vision. She is still the gypsy queen of diva-dom.
Today, she is high on the success of the group’s reunion tour, which on Friday night will add a Hollywood Bowl engagement to its roster of sold-out shows across the country. At 49, Nicks has reached a point in her life where she is confident with herself and her look, a look she didn’t come upon by accident.
Living in L.A. with Lindsey Buckingham in the early ‘70s, before either had joined Fleetwood Mac, Nicks had her eye on another diva.
“I was very influenced by Janis Joplin,” she said during a recent interview, “the one time I saw Janis in person, and all the times I saw her on television with her feathers and her bell-bottomed pants and her beautiful silky blouse tops.”
She liked the look so much that she traveled to San Francisco to try to duplicate it at the Velvet Underground, a store where Joplin and Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick bought their clothes.
“It was a tiny little store, but it had the most beautiful things,” Nicks recalls. “Tunic tops that came down to your mid-thigh, and evening gown, old-lady nightgown material bell-bottoms that weren’t really wide, but instead fell straight over a really high boot. It was in that room where I thought ‘Wow! These are the kind of clothes I’m going to wear forever.’ ”
The “Rumours” tour in 1977 was a definitive point for the band and for Nicks’ ethereal stage look.
“Onstage I wanted to wear skirts that just flowed around me as I walked, and if there was air-conditioning, or real air, they would move,” Nicks said.
Margi Kent, a designer in L.A., helped Nicks crystallize the look and has acted as the primary designer of Nicks’ stage clothes ever since. This past summer, Nicks had two- and three-hour fittings at the Kent studio, located near the Beverly Center, to make sure each wardrobe piece for the current tour would fit perfectly. Nicks and Kent’s partnership will be the subject of an eight-page photo spread in the November Harper’s Bazaar.
During the “Rumours” tour, the bulk of Nicks’ onstage wardrobe consisted of quasi-religious-looking black skirts and fringe shawls that helped feed her wise woman/high priestess image. But black became her color of choice for practical reasons, not just a desire to dress like the Celtic witch she sang about in “Rhiannon.”
“I really started wearing black because it was easy and it was slimming,” Nicks explained. “I kind of elongated the little black dress into a mid-calf length because it was dramatic and because my hair is kind of streaky blond and black is always good on blonds.”
Another part of the look are 7-inch-heel platform boots. “They make me feel like a bigger person,” said the singer, who is 5-foot, 1-inch. The boots have been custom made for 20 years by a local Italian boot maker, di Fabrizio.
Although her relationships with Kent and di Fabrizio have been long and fruitful, others in the fashion world had not shown much interest in designing for her, Nicks said. “Fashion people have always talked about me like ‘that’s a very Stevie Nicks maxi-coat’ or ‘that’s a very Stevie Nicks chiffon skirt,’ but nobody really came to me.”
But last season, both Isaac Mizrahi and Anna Sui dedicated collections to Nicks. Richard Tyler, who approached her last year, also has contributed a few pieces to the tour wardrobe.
Undoubtedly, some of the increased attention springs from an apparent re-fascination with anything from the 1970s. Fashion-forward pop singer Courtney Love--another in a long line of divas (and also a Harper’s cover girl)--says she has long been fascinated both by Nicks’ music and her clothes.
In the early days of her own band, Hole, Love took her pop idol’s dreamy gypsy look and hardened it into grunge for the ‘90s. Instead of the love-struck mystic personified by Nicks, Love came across as an angry broad with smudged black eyeliner in a ripped lace baby doll dress.
Unlike that of many female rock singers, Nicks’ image was never about how much skin she could get away with showing the audience. “I never wanted to create a sexual object kind of image,” she said. “I wanted to be beautiful first, and somewhere on down the line sexy came with it.”
Indeed, for Nicks, feeling sexy has nothing to do with hem or necklines. It’s about how clothes feel against her body.
“I am a fabric sensualist,” she said. “I love fabrics. Cashmere, velvet, silk chiffon. . . . If it feels good, it doesn’t have to be particularly beautiful. I buy clothes sometimes just because I like the way they feel.”
Now, 20 years and some 50 million album sales after she joined the band, Nicks has her own stylist, Kim Brakeley, who swatches all over the world for her silk chiffons and textured velvets--some of which cost more than $100 a yard. Nicks also has the attention of the fashion elite focused on her, really for the first time in her career.
Still, many of the pieces you will see among her seven costume changes in the band’s show are not the latest creations from Kent, Mizrahi, Sui or Tyler. They’re old--as old as Nicks’ membership in the band.
“I knew when I created this image in 1976 that I was going to stick with it,” Nicks said. “I knew the skirt lengths could be changed, they could handkerchief their way to the floor or come right back up to under the knee. It was a moving style. If shoulder pads go ‘out,’ we pare them down and if they are back ‘in,’ we use them again.”
Many of the costume pieces are almost as essential to the concert experience as the music itself--and have proven just as enduring. “Some songs have a special item or piece of clothing that goes along with the song. Either it was in the video or it has stood for that song,” said Brakeley, who is touring with the band.
“There are capes that literally have names that go with songs, like the Gold Dust Woman cape, the Bella Donna Blue cape. Everything has a meaning.”
The Gold Dust Woman cape is one of Nicks’ personal favorites. “It’s gold chiffon with sequins, glitter and drapery fringe, and it’s strong as anything,” Nicks said. “It looks like it’s brand new. But I had it made in 1976.”
That cape no doubt will make an appearance Friday night--along with another Fleetwood Mac hallmark: the Stevie-heads, fans who mimic the gypsy look, twirling in their own chiffon.
“I think if people like to dress like a gypsy and they get a little inspiration from me to do it, then it’s great,” Nicks said. “It’s definitely something everyone should try at least once in their lives. Dress like a gypsy!”