Style Icon: PJ Harvey

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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.

10 Responses to Style Icon: PJ Harvey

  1. Erin 07/07/2009 at 3:17 pm #


  2. Katie 07/07/2009 at 3:34 pm #

    oh man, I love Polly Jean! that third image in the series of four… totally remember seeing that in a magazine when I was about 13 and being crazy envious of her clothing.

    I’m also a big fan of the cover art on ‘To Bring You My Love,’ where she’s floating in the water in a red shirt… gorgeous!

  3. Polly 07/07/2009 at 5:26 pm #

    i’ve loved her for so long. seen her live on 3 continents. oh yeah. plus, as a fellow polly jean – i definitely feel a kinship with her!

  4. Melanie 07/07/2009 at 9:02 pm #

    PJ Harvey is truly an icon, and I love that you featured her!
    She’s probably one of the few artists that would cause me to go very emotional if I met her because she’s had suc an impact on me

  5. Brooke W 07/09/2009 at 6:25 am #

    Polly Jean Harvey’s music has been an addiction of mine since I randomly picked up “Is This Desire?” in the mid ’90s. So, I love you guys for giving her some kudos.

  6. Julie 07/09/2009 at 11:48 am #

    right after this post went up, i pulled my ipod out and started listening to her!

  7. JP 07/10/2009 at 5:23 am #

    It’s actually “Stories From the City, Stories from the Sea” not “Songs From the City, Songs from the Sea” 😉

  8. Richard 07/10/2009 at 6:49 pm #

    Hi JP. Oops! What kind of PJ Harvey am I!?!? 😉

  9. Richard 07/10/2009 at 6:51 pm #

    Errr, PJ Harvey FAN am I!?? (It’s been a long, busy week!)

  10. Hannah 07/11/2009 at 12:04 pm #

    WAHOO! PJ Harvey!

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