Amrit Virdi analyses the style evolution of global superstar Taylor Swift.
In her country starlet to pop princess pipeline, Taylor Swift has experienced more fashion eras than the ordinary popstar.
Her 16-year long career included 10 studio albums and two re-recordings, and with this, the 11-time Grammy Award winner has shifted from country, to pop, to indie, and back to pop. With these musical genre shifts, a change in her style, involving dramatic hairstyles and a bleach blonde stint, was bound to happen as her musical journey is symbolically charted in her fashion.
Taylor Swift first rose to fame in 2006 with her debut eponymous album, which paid homage to her Nashville roots with its country influences. Emerging onto the scene with luscious blonde curly locks, cowboy boots, and floaty day dresses, she was just a girl with her acoustic guitar taking on the world.
Her lead singles ‘Tim McGraw’ and ‘Teardrops on My Guitar’ harken to her country style of the early 2000s. In this musical ‘era’ of hers, Swift’s youth is also apparent in her fashion choices — minimalistic makeup with a natural lip, heavy blush, and coloured eyeshadow seemed to be her go-to — the same as with many other teenage girls around the world at the time. Paired with hipster-chic dreamcatcher earrings and ditsy dresses, Swift still successfully embodied a ‘regular girl next door’ image, despite the fact that she was quickly becoming a household name.
As time went on, her curls got looser, and the star started to embrace her transition into young adulthood. Second studio album Fearless, released in 2008, was still mostly country but contained some pop elements. The then 18-year-old firmly set her place in the industry with smash hits ‘Love Story’ and ‘You Belong with Me’, making the album one of the most awarded country albums in history.
Flawlessly fearless in this era, Swift showed through the album that she was going through the emotions that most young women were experiencing at this age — love and heartbreak. Through the music videos for the chosen singles, she brought the songs to life with her fictional fashion. From nerdy girl next door chic in ‘You Belong with Me’ to ball dresses and perfect updos in ‘Love Story’, her excellent storytelling was assisted with carefully selected fashion choices.
Away from the music video world, Taylor also showed some more maturity in her red carpet looks at this time. The 2009 MTV Video Music Awards saw Taylor, despite the infamous Kanye West incident, don the red carpet in a stunning silver sequin dress, paired with a loose curls updo and red lip. Gone were the floaty dresses of her Taylor Swift era, according to her red carpet looks.
2010 brought with it Swift’s highly loved Speak Now album, which harkened back to her fairy-tale inspired roots of 2006. The album cover shows the singer graciously taking centre stage in a glittering ballgown, and this sophistication followed through to her award show fashions, notably the 2010 Grammy Awards where her signature curls returned as she stunned the cameras with a floor length bodycon blue sequin Kaufman Franco dress.
Being in her 20s at this time, her matured look didn’t come as a surprise, including her little black dress at Roberto Cavalli’s 40th Anniversary party and her bright red floor length gown at 2010 CMA Awards. Her fashion choices were taking a gradual turn towards adulthood and away from her fictional, fairy-tale, and country princes-like persona established at the beginning of her career.
With 2012’s Red era, Swift returned to music with a vengeance after her love life had been blasted in the press in the years prior to the album’s release. Reflecting this, her style emphasised that she was no longer the naive, innocent, and emerging singer that the press could belittle, and she owned her status of being a free, independent young woman in her twenties living her life for her.
In terms of her street style, Swift was seen more often with straightened hair and jumpers or cardigans paired with smart trousers or skirts— a far cry from the printed dresses and cowboy boots her fans were used to seeing her in.
With Red mostly being associated with the autumn season, it made Taylor’s autumn and winter fashion from this time stick out to be a memorable and long-lasting legacy of hers. The scarves and trench coats, particularly those worn during her brief relationship with Harry Styles when her paparazzi presence was at one of its heights, have turned out to be some of her most memorable fashion staples.
Another trend emerging from Taylor’s style at this time was her iconic red lipstick. From red carpets to everyday looks, the singer was increasingly spotted with the statement, makeup go-to, which perfectly pulled her outfits together in a sophisticated way. The 2013 Video Music Awards where Swift stunned the ceremony with an embellished bodycon Hervé Léger dress paired with a red lip was a standout moment. It fittingly explained her ‘’red lip’’ references in her 2014 hit single, ‘Style’.
Being in her early twenties around the release of Red, Taylor still retained a youthful energy in her music and her fashion of the early 2010s. Coinciding with the Tumblr era, Taylor’s oversized sunglasses, array of hats, and baggy t-shirts styled with black jeans and shorts, specifically in the ‘22’ music video, showcased her ability to still enjoy her young life despite being blasted in front of the whole world. Red has been marked as one of the best pop breakup albums, so Taylor showcasing her fun and independent nature in her fashion is an empowering statement relating to the sentiment of the record.
2014 brought with it Taylor Swift’s true popstar era, led by the release of 1989. Embodied in the album’s cover, Taylor’s fashion in the mid 2010s had a nostalgic feeling, combining elements of older influences with the playful and fun concepts of the current fashion at the time. Her colourful combination of miniskirts and crop tops with heels were mellowed out by her straight, short, choppy hair, and, again, her sophisticated red lipstick. With her fashion clearly reflecting her genre changing music, Taylor took this style switch as an opportunity to reintroduce herself and firmly cement herself in the world of pop.
The ’1989 World Tour’ also showed Taylor developing her own fashion legacies which she established earlier on in her career. Her earlier affection for all that glitters in the Speak Now era well and truly came back on this tour, albeit in a more mature way. Sequin embellished leotards with glittering jackets ensured that Taylor brought her songs to life and had her centre stage moment. Additionally, an ode to her more feminine fashion was paid as pink, floaty midi skirts pulled together her music and fashion from all of her eras.
Taylor’s hair was truly indicative of her music, overall style, and where she is in life. After a break from music following a tabloid grilling exacerbated by Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, Taylor returned with Reputatio’, a revenge driven record which showed that she wasn’t to be messed with.
Debuting a bleach blonde, choppy cut at the 2016 Met Gala, she took her pop presence to another level, straying away from a “bubblegum” pop image. Her tour outfits from this time were mostly black, further emphasising her music and fashion while reflecting the point she was trying to make to the media– she was not a naive popstar.
Swift has admitted that this was a trying time in her life, and her newfound happiness in love and life shone through in her 2019 record Lover. The album itself can be described as a pop of colour, and her fashion at the time truly reflected this.
Driven by pinks and rainbows, Swift appeared happier and healthier onstage, as her colourful fashion seemed to be reflecting her happy mental state.
Recently, Taylor has taken the music industry by storm by releasing the re-records of her previous albums Fearless and Red, whilst also treating fans to three brand new records, Folklore, Evermore, and Midnights have been released since 2020, with Swift truly embracing the cottagecore style.
Whilst Midnights has seen Taylor incorporate more purples, lavenders, and glitter into her style, harkening back to Speak Now, the superstar has recently been embracing comfortable yet quietly beautiful looks, as opposed to the over-the-top outfits that many artists often get lost in. Opting for cardigans, maxi skirts, and dresses, paired with her iconic red lip of course, it seems that Taylor has truly took inspiration from all of her ‘eras’ and found her own style. If Taylor Swift isn’t the prime example of personal fashion being ever-evolving, I don’t know who is.
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