I have to admit that I have had a crush on Polly Jean Harvey for about the last decade or so. It’s not just because she’s ferociously adorable (in much the same way a cuddly koala will turn violent when disturbed), but also because she possesses an amazing musical talent and flair for fashion. For my money, PJ Harvey is one of the most consistently relevant musicians around. Certainly not obscure, but not quite household, Harvey, throughout her 20-year career, has managed to toe the very fine line between uncompromised artistic expression and pop culture acceptance to cultivate a cult status level of popularity. And she’s so done so in many sensational styles.
Read on to learn more about PJ Harvey’s style progression.
PJ Harvey was born nearly forty years ago in the English county of Dorset, which boasts a coastline marked by many notable geological landforms. The area’s natural beauty and chalk hills would later inspire her somber and haunting album, White Chalk.; but perhaps in an act of disassociation from her small town upbringing, in her early twenties, PJ Harvey formed a band in London that began playing raucousy–and often raunchy–blues-based rock and roll.
So, then, began PJ Harvey’s music career and exploration into style. During the early years, PJ kept things simple–little to no makeup, hair pulled back, mostly all black clothing, and combat boots. After a quick, one-two punch of albums that featured bare bones instrumentation–usually just crunchy, distorted guitar, bass, drums and vocals–that matched this bare bones style aesthetic, PJ began experimenting with synthesized instruments in her music, which coincided with an exploration into extravagant wardrobe choices. As her music now added ‘unnatural’ elements, so her persona took on a surreal quality. At this point, she vamped up a more exaggeratedly feminine look by wearing dramatic makeup, letting her hair down, wearing long gowns, and performing in a melodramatic style suggestive of cabaret or vaudeville.
PJ changed again, and for most of the last decade, starting with her album Songs from the City, Songs from the Sea, began adopting a more cosmopolitan style of dress. This trend started with her wearing power suits and straightening her naturally curly hair into a sleek razor cut hairstyle then ended several years ago with her cutting her hair into a short wispy bob and wearing more new wave, hipster-chic articles of clothing that appeared derivative of Yeah Yeah Yeah’s frontwoman, Karen O.
PJ Harvey’s style then took another drastic turn as her recent creative output has taken her full circle back to her humble beginnings in rural Dorset County. Inspired sartorially and lyrically by the historical characteristics of the area’s villages, PJ, for performing songs from her White Chalk album, donned either black or white, long, puff-sleeve Victorian dresses and wore her hair curly and loosely piled on top of her head.
PJ Harvey’s many adoring fans will tell you that she is a style icon because she is never afraid to change and explore new avenues of fashion. We all look forward to hearing new music from her and seeing in which direction her wardrobe takes her. This is love, love, love that I’m feeling.