Rock ’n’ roll stardom, solo success, coming back from the brink of addiction – Stevie Nicks has practically seen and done it all. And she’s done it in clothes that even Liberace would see as a little excessive. Yep, it’s fair to say that the Fleetwood Mac icon isn’t afraid of pulling on a witchy outfit or two. But she has a reason for dressing like she does – as well as a pretty neat way of storing her considerable collection.
So, was Nicks always this way? Well, to be honest, she wasn’t exactly brought up in a bohemian family. Instead, her dad was a corporate executive, while her mother tended to the family’s home in Phoenix, Arizona. But Nicks did at least get a taste of life on the road. Thanks to her father’s job, she, her parents and her brother, Christopher, often moved from state to state.
It was in LA, though, that Nicks began to let her freak flag fly. After becoming a student at Arcadia High School, she dipped her toes into performing with the band Changing Times. And that wasn’t unexpected, as the young Nicks had already shown a real interest in music. Perhaps that was down in part to her grandfather.
Aaron Nicks was a country music performer, you see, and he gave her a crash course in the most iconic twangy tunes. He even built her a guitar. But the aspiring musician didn’t want to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps. She preferred a different genre of music.
“I started singing when I was in fourth grade,” Nicks told Rolling Stone in 2019. “R&B, all the Shirelles’ songs and the Supremes and the Shangri-Las. All those amazing songs Carole King and Gerry Goffin wrote. That was my diving board for singing as a little girl.”
Nicks added, “My grandfather was a country singer, but I said, ‘No, I’m full-on Top 40. I’m not country.’ I’m dancing to all this crazy R&B music, singing, ‘Sugar pie, honeybunch,’ and my parents are asking, ‘Where did she come from? She’s an alien!’” Yes, even then, Nicks marked herself out from the crowd.
Then the young star-in-the-making found a kindred spirit. After having switched schools yet again, she got to know a man who would shape her future: classmate Lindsey Buckingham. He was also an aspiring performer, and the pair bonded to the extent that they were soon making sweet music together.
It was a no-brainer, then, that Nicks would join Buckingham in the lineup of his band, Fritz. And that led the singer on to bigger and better things. Incredibly, Fritz played on bills alongside both Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, and those brushes with rock legends naturally inspired Nicks.
“When I joined Lindsey’s band, we played all over San Francisco, opening for all the big groups,” Nicks recalled to Rolling Stone. “I got to watch Janis Joplin, who was not a super attractive girl. But when she walked out on that stage, she was amazing and beautiful. Jefferson Airplane – I got to watch Grace Slick.”
“[Slick] was sexy and wore actual high heels – not boots, but high heels – and silky dresses that swished back and forth on the stage,” Nicks added. “She’s singing about Alice in Wonderland. It was the best school of rock ever. I took little pieces from everybody. I was just planning my world.”
Fritz eventually broke up in 1971, but Nicks and Buckingham stayed together, with the pair now in a romantic relationship. As for their music, they scored a deal at Polydor Records, leading to a big moment the following year. Indeed, the couple’s debut album, titled Buckingham-Nicks, hit the shelves at that time.
However, the record flopped upon its release in 1972, which led to a tough period for Nicks and Buckingham. The former in particular had to look for jobs outside the music industry at that point in an attempt to make some money. She subsequently took on work as a waitress and a maid, but then everything changed in 1974.
That year, Fleetwood Mac arrived in Los Angeles scouting for a new studio to record their music. Following the group’s formation in 1967, only John McVie and Mick Fleetwood remained as the original members, alongside Christine McVie. She was recruited back in 1970 after working on their sophomore record.
During Fleetwood Mac’s trip to Los Angeles, they arrived at Sound City Studio, checking things over. And while the trio were there, they tested the sound of the studio by listening to a track. In a real twist of fate, though, the song in question was from Buckingham and Nicks’ album, as they had produced the record at that facility.
And the band was particularly impressed with Buckingham and his guitar skills, which led to a pivotal moment at the end of the year. With Fleetwood Mac on the lookout for another guitarist, they contacted Nicks’ partner to offer him the spot – however, he would only join the group on one condition.
Indeed, Buckingham wanted Fleetwood Mac to recruit Nicks as well. And thankfully for the couple, the band had no issue with the conditions, finalizing the deal in 1975. Meanwhile, when looking back at that crucial period, Nicks spoke about the importance of Christine McVie’s position in the group, and the impact that it had.
“If I had been the only girl in Fleetwood Mac, [my career] would have been very different,” Nicks told Rolling Stone. “So I’m really glad I joined a band that happened to have another woman in it. At the beginning people said, ‘Does Christine want another girl in the band?’”
“And I said, ‘I hope [Christine] does. When she meets me, I hope she likes me,’” Nicks added. “She did really like me — we got Mexican food and we laughed and looked at each other and went, ‘This is going to be great.’” However, few people could’ve predicted just how “great” this new collaboration would turn out.
So with Nicks and Buckingham ready to go, Fleetwood Mac produced their next album in 1975. The self-titled record proved to be a smash-hit in the U.S., topping the charts with more than seven million sales. And off the back of that, the band then worked on their follow-up release, titled Rumours.
In the year leading up to the album’s release, though, Fleetwood Mac went through an incredibly tough period. Indeed, not only was Fleetwood going through a divorce, but the McVies, Nicks and Buckingham also ended their respective relationships. Yet despite all that turmoil, their careers hit new heights in 1977.
After the success of Fleetwood Mac, Rumours was an even bigger hit for the band, winning the 1977 Album of the Year award at the Grammys. The record produced a number of classic songs, such as “The Chain,” “Go Your Own Way,” and “Don’t Stop.” And some two years later, the group then earned their place on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Meanwhile, following the release of Fleetwood Mac’s newest album, Tusk, in 1979, Nicks made a big decision. Alongside her stint in the group, she wanted to try her hand as a solo artist. However, as the Arizona native explained, that required a lot of hard work on her part.
“Up until 1980, I had five years’ worth of songs that I knew were just never going to have any place to go,” Nicks told Rolling Stone. “So I did the Gemini thing where you’re two different people. Let’s give Stevie her solo career, without breaking up one of the world’s biggest bands.”
“I was on a mission,” Nicks continued. “Every time a Fleetwood Mac tour ended, I hit the ground running. I would already have songs ready for my next record. I’d take a week off, then I’d be in the studio. Everybody else would go on vacation.” And, thankfully, this hard work certainly paid off.
In 1981 Nicks’ first solo album, titled Bella Donna, hit the shelves and became a major success, reaching the top of the domestic charts. The record subsequently went platinum, but the music superstar refused to take all of the credit. That’s because, in her mind, someone else deserved a share of the praise.
“[Tom Petty] gave me ‘Stop Dragging My Heart Around,’” Nicks told Rolling Stone. “Had he not given me that song, let me candidly tell you, Bella Donna might not have been a hit. That song kicked Bella Donna right into the universe.” And off the back of that, she continued to balance her solo career with Fleetwood Mac, earning plenty of plaudits along the way.
However, while Nicks’ music was incredibly popular, her dress-sense on stage didn’t go unnoticed by fans either. From shawls to top hats, her style was incredibly distinctive at the time. Incredibly, though, the Arizona native’s attire first originated from an unexpected source several years before, back when she was at school.
“In sixth grade, I was in a play as one of the two surviving women of the Alamo,” Nicks recalled to Rolling Stone. “I was so bad, I said, ‘Mom, never ever let me sign up for anything dramatic. No drama, no chorus, no anything. I’m not a good actress – I’m never doing that again.’”
Nicks continued, “But right after that, I signed myself up for a talent show. I did a tap dance to Buddy Holly’s ‘Everyday.’ I practiced the hell out of this dance to get it right – I wore a black skirt, a black vest, a white blouse, black tap shoes and a black top hat.”
“It’s like I had the vision already,” Nicks added. “I knew what I would wear in 30 years.” On that note, the superstar then talked about her vast collection of clothes, accumulated over a quite remarkable career. And she explained the rather unique way in which she stores her attire.
However, Nicks has a good reason for storing her clothes the way she does. The singer explained, “I have my shawl vault – they’re all in temperature-controlled storage. I have these huge red cases Fleetwood Mac bought, all the way back in 1975 – my clothes are saved in these cases. All my vintage stuff is protected for all my little goddaughters and nieces.”
At that point, Nicks then made another interesting admission about her huge wardrobe. She added to Rolling Stone, “I’m trying to give my shawls away – but there’s thousands of them. If I ever write my life story, maybe that should be the name of my book: There’s Enough Shawls to Go Around.”
Meanwhile, Nicks also lifted the lid on why she adopted that particular style on stage. In her mind, it merely reflected her disinterest in wearing more casual-looking clothes away from the live performances. But that wasn’t all, though, as the music star delved a bit deeper into the matter.
“I could never go onstage in street clothes because it’s not who I am,” Nicks told Rolling Stone. “I could never go out there in a pair of jeans and a denim jacket – I mean, I don’t do casual very well. Even my normal life, I’m in cashmere pants and a cashmere sweater and cashmere thoughts.”
Nicks then added, “I don’t put the boots on until right before I walk up to the stage. But when my little foot goes into that boot, it is like Cinderella. All of a sudden I become me. I become six inches taller. I walk like an African queen.” Meanwhile, as for her career, the songstress reached another incredible milestone in 2019.
Back in 1998, Nicks had earned a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Fleetwood Mac. And as a result of her efforts since then, the Arizona native was inducted again some 21 years later, this time for her solo output. With that in mind, she cited the importance of the honor to Rolling Stone ahead of the ceremony.
“It’s 22 to zero,” Nicks said. “It’s 22 guys that have gone in twice to zero women. Eric Clapton is probably in there 22 times already! So maybe this will open the doors for women to fight to make their own music.” Meanwhile, the Fleetwood Mac star then made an intriguing statement about her solo performances.
Indeed, according to Nicks, she didn’t see her act going off in that particular direction. The singer continued, “I never wanted a solo career, I always wanted to be just in a band. But I just had so many songs! Because when you’re in a band with three prolific writers, you get two or three songs per album, maybe four.”
Meanwhile, Nicks’ last solo album came back in 2014, which she titled 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault. As for her Fleetwood Mac connection, she’s currently on a world tour with the band, belying her advancing years. She continued, “At the ripe and totally young age of 70, my voice hasn’t changed.”
“As long as I take care of myself, I am still going to be doing this when I’m 80,” Nicks added. “There’s so many things I want to do. I tell myself, ‘Do it now because you’re spry, you’re in good shape, you can still do the splits, you can still dance on stage and wear a short skirt and high six-inch heels.’”