Talk of the Town

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Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soulful style 


With a career spanning six decades, Aretha Franklin -- the Queen of Soul -- has seen her share of fashion trends. 

Her own choices have run the spectrum from furs, pearls and animal prints to glamorous beaded, sequined and embroidered gowns. 

From her empire waist dresses and bouffant hair in the 1960s when her career first caught fire to the gray felt hat at the 2009 Presidential inauguration which earned its own Facebook page, Franklin has made an important mark on the fashion world. 

While she was known to wear top designers including gowns by the legendary late designer Arnold Scaasi, she also gave her friends equal treatment. 

In a 2003 interview with the AJC, Franklin shared that her friend, the late singer Luther Vandross had designed two of the gowns on her tour. 

“Oh, Luther is an absolutely fabulous designer! He designs all of his singers' gowns. When I was admiring theirs, he said he would design some for me. And believe me, he is as good with that as he is with his voice. So you know it's the bomb,” Franklin said.

Here is a look at some of her rock steady fashion choices.

1960’s style: Franklin’s early looks included bouffant style hair and empire waist gowns. 

Crochet: By the mid-70’s, Franklin was rocking out hippie style in a pantsuit with a crochet poncho as she did during a 1976 appearance on Soul Train. 

Furs: Franklin loved a good fur from cropped to full-length in a range of colors and styles like the white fur jacket she wore in November while performing at the fall gala for the Elton John AIDS Foundation in New York City. 

Fishtails and turbans: In 2008, Franklin wore this black beaded and tulle fishtail style gown with a black turban when she was honored as MusiCares person of the year in Los Angeles, California.

Pearls: Franklin often accessorized her outfits with a single strand of pearls as she did during this 2012 performance in Los Angeles. 

Embroidery: Embroidered gowns were a staple in Franklin’s wardrobe, including the gown she wore during her 2012 performance at the Fox Theatre. 

The other lemonade: Franklin knew the power of a yellow dress long before Beyonce. She wore this lemony number to the 30th Annual Kennedy Center Honors in 2007.

Shimmer and shine: Franklin often chose to wear sequins and iridescent fabrics which she sometimes paired with feather wraps and boas. She is pictured here in 2010 during her induction into the Apollo Legends Hall of Fame.

It’s all in the hat: Franklin wore lots of hats but this one threatened to upstage the President. When Franklin wore a gray felt cloche adorned with a bow and rhinestones by Detroit-based milliner, Luke Song, it received the ultimate respect --  a place in the Smithsonian. It will reportedly end up in the Barack Obama Presidential Library upon its completion in 2021. 


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About the Author

Nedra Rhone has been a features reporter with the AJC for 10 years. She’s written about everything from fashion to food to news.