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Fashion Meets Music: PJ Harvey


BA written all over her face

I have to admit that when it comes to girl crush worthy ladies, the BA girls that fronted bands in the 90s have inspired style infatuations in me since grade school and none more so than the not quite mainstream PJ Harvey. Throughout her 20 year career, Polly Jean Harvey has managed to cultivate a cult following through her unyielding dedication to her artistic expression and her fascinating style.

Born in October 1969 in Dorset County England, this daughter of a stonemason and sculptor joined a band in her late teens and began a love affair with music that would carry her through several genres and decades. By her early 20s, PJ Harvey had formed her own band playing raw, and sometimes raunchy, blues tinged punk/grunge. With the release of her first LP Dry in 1992, Harvey won rave reviews and a following on both sides of the Atlantic including Kurt Cobain, who listed Dry as one of his top 20 favorite albums ever in the book Journals.

As the 90s rolled on, Harvey’s musical style progressed from bare bones instrumentation to a broader sound including synthesizers, strings, and organs. At the same time as she began to add surreal elements to her music, Harvey’s image began to evolve from a no nonsense aesthetic-little makeup, hair pulled back, all black clothing and Doc Martens-to a more feminine, over the top, almost cabaret style.  Her dramatic makeup, bizarre stage props and wardrobe consisting of everything from ball-gowns to pink catsuits channeled Ziggy Stardust, Joan Crawford and a touch of performance art. Eventually the 90s came to an end and with it so did Harvey’s penchant for extravagant costumes.

In an effort to never do the same thing twice, PJ Harvey changed again and adopted a slick, urbane style to coordinate with her more polished sound incorporating lush, melodic, pop-rock elements with a gritty punk energy. From wearing power suits and straightening her hair to collaborating with Radiohead’s Thom York, PJ Harvey began to push the mainstream envelope without ever fully becoming a household name. After toying with all things popular, including adding a touch of the hipster to her look, Polly Jean Harvey’s music has taken another turn from her usual and has embraced more emotional piano ballads. Once again, as Harvey’s music had changed so has her sartorial influences, this time taking a cue from Victorian fashion plates by sporting long, leg of mutton style dresses in black or white with her hair loosely curled and piled on top of her head.

Whether she was busy helping to define the style of a generation of girls who came of age during the heyday of the Riot Grrl movement or going Gibson girl while performing songs from her White Chalk album, most of us can agree that PJ Harvey’s ability to explore new styles makes her the object of many a girl crush. Don’t believe me, check the footage.

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