Why Aretha Franklin had outfit changes during her visitation

The Detroit News
Sabrina Owens, niece of Aretha Franklin, discusses the Queen of Soul’s funeral Friday night at an event looking back at the news coverage.

Detroit — Despite the hullabaloo over Aretha Franklin's rotating garb at her funeral, a family member said the clothing choices didn't involve a lot of planning.

"It just happened," said Franklin's niece, Sabrina Owens. "It was just something that we didn't think about."

She made the comments during a symposium at Wayne State University about the way Detroit's two daily newspapers covered the death of the Queen of Soul. Franklin died  after a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer at age 76. 

One aspect of Franklin's death that observers focused on was the changing of her outfit each day of her public viewing.

Owens said it just seemed natural to change the outfits. It never occurred to the family not to do it, she said.

The family, she said, had the same casual approach to other parts of the public viewing and her Aug. 31 funeral at Greater Grace Temple that spanned more than eight hours with songs, sermons and speeches.

Franklin was dressed in four different outfits for open-casket viewings in the days leading up to the funeral. She was buried in a gold dress and sparkling pumps.

"There was no meaning or intent behind a lot of this stuff," she said. "People made a bigger deal out of it than it really was."

On a personal note, Owens described what it was like to be Franklin's only niece for 15 years.

She said Franklin often called and was interested in her life. Franklin wanted to know what and how she was doing.

"She loved family," she said. "Family was very important to her."

She said Franklin had a special bond with her relatives.

"To others she was the Queen of Soul. To us she was just a great aunt."