The lights, the party, the ballgowns: how outfits are used in the Eras Tour to define a whole discography
I remember when (we broke up) the first images of Taylor Swift’s outfits for the Eras Tour were released: I, and many others I know, audibly gasped. The first couple outfits that appeared on my Instagram timeline were the red and black, serpentine, one-legged, Reputation bodysuit, the extravagantly camp, pink sequined Speak Now ballgown and at least one of the flowy, ethereal Folklore dresses.
The thing is: they didn’t even need a description of what album they were trying to represent – we just knew.
In collaboration with her long-time stylist Joseph Cassell and many notable designers, Swift has used the Eras Tour (which, as of writing, is approaching its 21st show) to emphasise the themes of evolution and growth, which are nothing new to Swift, with her transformation from the country girl next door during her 2006 debut to her bejewelled aesthetic in her most recent Midnights album.
The show begins with a televised clock striking midnight and Swift emerging from the stage a minute in, singing “Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince”. She’s in a glimmering silver, blue and pink Versace bodysuit and silver, knee-high Louboutins, this is later accessorised with an oversized black, bedazzled blazer: we are in the Lover era. Sure, you could figure this out by the six Lover songs that are performed, but the outfit encapsulates this. It references the album’s colour scheme and overall theatricality with the oversized blazer, an item that was used constantly in Lover music videos and during Swift’s red-carpet appearances at the time.
As Lover-era-Taylor disappears into the stage, gold flying sparks rain down over the Lover house. Minutes later, Swift appears through the back of the stage with a gold fringed, Roberto Cavalli dress, with bedazzled knee-high boots and an equally bedazzled acoustic guitar: we’re being dragged head first into Fearless. In alternative shows, the dress has been replaced with another Cavalli gold fringed dress, equally as Fearless themed. The initial outfit references the gold fringed dress Swift wore for earlier performances of Fearless songs and also references the gold hue of the original and Taylor’s Version album covers.
A designer at Roberto Cavalli, Fausto Puglisi, expressed that every piece made for the show “must be eye-catching” and that they took an “artisanal approach to craftsmanship”. One of the reasons that these dresses are so Fearless coded are through the introduction of pop influences (the dress itself) mixed with country elements (the knee-high cowboy boots), which reflects the evolving nature of Swift’s music and style at the time (2008).
The third outfit change shows Taylor in an orange flowy, ruffled Etro gown accompanied later by a breath taking, moss covered grand piano – the witchy Evermore has begun. The piece contains a laced-up bodice, repeated embroidery and is accompanied by red, velvet boots. This compliments the enchanted sonic landscape of Evermore, as the dress allows Swift to float across the stage, almost magically.
The snakes are everywhere, Taylor’s footsteps echo across the arena, she’s wearing a one-legged, snake-embellished, Roberto Cavalli bodysuit – it’s Reputation and I don’t think any of us are ready for it. The old Taylors in cages during “Look What You Made Me Do” have already become Internet icons, emphasising the importance of fashion to the different Taylor Swift eras, as each Taylor is defined by her outfit, more so than even her music, as they are musically silent.
The snake bodysuit encapsulates the most important motifs of Reputation, from the snakes, to the colour scheme, to the use of leather and sequins, it is also very reminiscent of the Reputation tour outfits. The switch from the orange flowy dress of Evermore, to the black and red leather bodysuit of Reputation further defines this album’s cycle, as it shows the abrupt and urgent nature of these songs, especially after Swift’s year long hiatus following the playful, pop atmosphere of the 1989 album and tour.
The lights dim and a snake slithers across the screen, Reputation has made her mark and she is ready to leave.
In her place, purple glitter builds up across the stage and through a lavender haze, Swift is revealed in most possibly one of her most extra outfits to date – a massive, pink sequined tulle Zuhair Murad Couture ballgown. In other shows, this is replaced with either a pink and gold, crystal embellished Nicole and Felice ballgown, or an equally extravagant flowering, sequined tanned dress. And if it’s wonderstruck ballgowns: it’s Speak Now.
According to Murad, the pink sequined tulle ballgown required “over 350 hours of atelier handwork”, which can clearly be viewed from the front, bodice of the dress. Swift only appears on stage for one song, ‘Enchanted’, whilst wearing this dress, which only exaggerates how camp this piece is. Although ballgowns are referenced in both Fearless and Speak Now, the latter reflects this atmosphere more heavily, especially in the title track and the song ‘Enchanted’ itself. The sheer size of the dress could also reflect the enormous emotions expressed throughout Speak Now and the mark of the end of adolescence, which ballgowns tend to represent in media, through proms, fin de siècle balls and quinceañeras.
“Enchanted” marks the middle of the Eras Tour, with five eras done and five eras to go. With the extravagance of the song and ballgown, it almost gives the atmosphere of an act one musical finale (e.g. Wicked’s “Defying Gravity”, Frozen’s “Let It Go”, Les Misérables’s “One Day More”, to name a few).
And what a great time to leave you Swifties, it was enchanting to meet you. See you in part two!