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20 things to know about the new kaleidoscopic exhibit of Prince's shoes at Paisley Park

Jon Bream, Star Tribune on

Published in Fashion Daily News

MINNEAPOLIS — He had bespoke shoes for each and every outfit. And then some, like platform sneakers and roller skates with transparent wheels that lit up.

By official count, Prince had about 1,200 pairs of footwear housed at Paisley Park.

Over the ankle, over the knee, zip up the side with a peace-symbol zipper pull. All custom made, of course. No loafers or wing tips. These are shoes fit for a you know what.

An exhibit of 300 pairs of the late music icon's shoes, "The Beautiful Collection," went on display Friday at Paisley Park as part of regular tours at his Chanhassen, Minnesota studio-turned-museum.

There are beaded shoes and sequined shoes, ones decorated with hand-painted clouds and another with a Batman theme, fake-fur knee-high boots and footwear festooned with reproduced signatures of Queen Elizabeth I and Pancho Villa. It's a magnificently rich, kaleidoscopically overstimulating collection that's as dizzying and dazzling as his stage performances.

To get to the, um, bottom of Prince's shoes, we reached out to retired wardrobe maven Helen Hiatt, who worked with Prince from 1983 to '91; veteran Minneapolis stylist Gwen Leeds, who worked for Prince but not as a stylist, and Paisley poobah Mitch Maguire, the museum's preservationist who also became its managing director this spring, and we watched the exhibit's videotaped interviews with shoemakers Gary Kazanchyan of Andre No. 1 in Los Angeles and Cos Kyriacou of City Cobbler in England.

 

Here are 20 things to know about his royal soles:

1. Prince, a massive star with a diminutive body, had a smallish foot. Hiatt, who wears a women's size 8 or 8.5, could easily fit in his shoes, meaning he probably wore a men's size 6.5 or 7. Not that he ever bought any shoes off the rack after 1981 or so.

2. Prince had shoes made for every outfit, usually out of the same material as the outfit. But when it came to more generic shoes — say white, black, peach or turquoise — he'd require three or four pairs of each.

"Matching the boots to the colorful suits was a bit much, it wasn't the way one with any fashion sense normally dressed," Leeds said. "But this was rock 'n' roll where rules were nonexistent. And it didn't escape me that matching from head to toe tended to elongate a rock star who was self-conscious about his height."

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