It is fascinating to see how a creative person is able to keep reinventing their work after each project. The styles might change but the essence of the artist remains.
Some artists are like books with chapters in their life. Picasso went through a Blue Period after his good friend Carlos Casagemas committed suicide in France. For about four years, the work of the painter was essentially monochromatic, focused on blues and blue-greens. The colors illustrated the sadness he was experiencing during that period of his life, but didn’t limit his creativity nor his desire to keep expressing himself as an artist. For Gucci, the Tom Ford Era was perhaps one of the most scandalous with hypersexual campaigns and gothic design details. In the middle of the 90’s, with the peak of supermodels, and a desire for obscure design elements, the Gucci runways from this era are a whole different concept apart from Michele’s Era, or Ray’s Era at Gucci.
Eras are all about grouping characteristics that become meaningful for a specific period of time. Perhaps a teenager has a blue hair era, a rebel era, a heavy metal fan era, or a passion-for-cooking era. Eras are moments in time that help us collect memories as part of a chapter in our lives.
We can see Political Fashion through an “eras” perspective. The way we dressed 10 years ago may have notable differences from the clothes we are wearing today. Not just because fashion has changed, but because we have changed and we are in a different moment of our lives. We are in a different era.
Everybody lives and experiences their own eras with the time and resources they need to deal with them and overcome them. For some people, eras are represented by their relationships, and once these relationships end for good because there was something broken, another era starts, one where there is grief, sorrow, and loss, but also a need to move through these emotions and begin a new chapter in life. Begin a new era.
Today, in Political Fashion, we will talk about an artist who has leveraged the concept of eras to share her personal and professional growth and wide range of styles as an artist. Recently, she has embraced these chapters of her life with a tour that celebrates different eras of her career with music styles, clothing, and visuals that are emblematic of each era. Her name is Taylor Swift.
Taylor Swift started her career as a country music artist. Her guitar, her blue eyes, her cute white dresses, and her captivating lyrics were enough to attract a young audience to follow her career and her music. The writing style of Taylor Swift describes factors that can be smelt, touched, shared, and perceived; this is perhaps one of the most consistent characteristics throughout the eras. “We're dancing around the kitchen in the refrigerator light”.
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Early Years. Fearless & Speak Now
As a young country singer, her makeup was minimal and her hair was long and naturally a little bit messy.
Her lyrics talk about her experience trying to understand life and experiencing love. In many ways, Swift open the doors for us to figure out together love and life through her music. Fairy Tales and romantic comedies are a huge influence in her early work. Love Story is literally a desire of her romantic life to be similar to the stories you read in books. You Belong With Me is the typical comedy of the nerdy girl versus the pretty cheerleader.
With innocent lyrics and storytelling narratives like White Horse, and You Belong With Me, young people identified with Swift’s authentic way of telling stories and singing and dancing to her feelings. In contrast with the teenage celebrities we encounter now on social media, Taylor Swift’s early years were very transparent and effortless. Far from curated filtered photos, rehearsed speeches, and the impression of having a perfect life, Swift opened herself with songs like Teardrops on my guitar, singing with minimal makeup, and a juvenile sight that helped her to connect with so many fans.
That you were Romeo, you were throwin' pebbles. And my daddy said, "Stay away from Juliet" And I was cryin' on the staircase beggin' you, "Please don't go". -Love Story, T.S.
Perhaps looking back at the first years of Taylor Swift’s music, there are not a lot of memorable fashion moments as she didn’t start her career making fashion statements nor did it seem as something she wanted to focus on, during this period. So maybe this is the reason why this eras seemed like some of the most genuine eras in her career. She doesn’t have everything carefully planned, there are no Eastern eggs to find, nor deep visual metaphors to carefully analyze in her music videos and performances. These lyrics are the thoughts, dreams, and concerns of a teenager recorded in a studio and released to be listened to all around the world. With the recent re-recording of Fearless, these songs prevail and are very relevant in music charts, even though they were written over a decade ago!
Losing him was blue, like I'd never known. Missing him was dark gray, all alone. Forgetting him was like trying to know somebody you never met, but loving him was red. -Red. T.S.
In several interviews, Taylor Swift said that she was very tempted to explore pop rhythms by contacting producers and musicians with experience in this genre. She knew her country music was doing very well, as she appealed to a young audience, which was unusual for most country singers. This experimentation was mostly out of creative curiosity. So Swift released I knew you were trouble, and we are never ever getting back together. The signature storytelling of Swift was there, but the rhythms started to walk away from her country origins. The album was still labeled as country, although the sounds didn’t fit entirely into this genre.
During a Red era we see a more comfortable Taylor Swift presenting herself in interviews, talking about her work, and finding the need to stand up for herself whenever she felt the need to do so. The biggest hits from this album are about broken relationships, and Swift wears red outfits throughout the promo of this work, and the tour that came after. Red as a feeling of anger, frustration, and passion. Red in her lips, emphasizing the power of her voice when singing about relationships and the people involved had mixed reactions. Red as a shield to gain confidence and overcoming the situations that inspired her to write All too Well and the Last Time.
Clothing Portraying the Eras
Taylor Swift may not be the edgiest artist in terms of fashion choices. She doesn’t arrive at the Grammys inside of an egg carried by dancers wearing latex, and she doesn’t perform with whipped cream cans in her bra. However, this doesn’t mean that she is not innovative and doesn’t have a signature style. In fact, it’s delightful to see how Swift delivers outfits that her fans can easily replicate to wear at her concerts, or simply as a source of inspiration for their everyday lives.
The Red era was all about variations of black, white, and red. Black shorts, graphic t-shirts, red lips, and a black hat. Her music videos and her juvenile lyrics and dance moves became the soundtrack of a generation. A generation that is close to their 30’s and sings to the lyrics of “22” with the same passion as when the song was just released.
1989 (the year Taylor Swift was born), is a reminiscence for the artist as she explores more pop-focused rhythms aligned with mainstream music but with the lyrics and storytelling that are so emblematic of the artist. This is the moment when Swift embraces herself as a pop artist. She was no longer a slightly shy young girl with curly long hair. This mature version of Taylor was accurately represented in her edgier clothing choices as well.
It was during the 1989 era that Swift's relationships became a very public conversation. With so much noise about her relationships, timeline and what boyfriend inspired what song, a very hyperbolic interpretation of Taylor Swift as a person was taking place. One where she traveled around the world, conquered famous men, broke their hearts, collected their love letters and used them as inspiration for writing songs. Her relationships were the main headline of several articles on magazines and websites, even in those media channels aimed to be focused on music. Now, Swift has stated that she finds this media perception of her very unfair, as there are several male singers who write about their relationships, such as Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars, or Justin Bieber, and are not being as criticized as she has.
This hyperbolic interpretation of Swift’s relationships and personal life was the source of inspiration for her major hit Blank Space. The artist said “she wanted to interpret the person that they are saying she is, at least just for one song”. The lyrics and the music video are very dramatic, perhaps even a little bit silly. The mass media claimed that Swift saw men as bullet points in a to-do list, and she wrote a song about it. And the song stayed in the US 100 Billboard List for seven weeks.
Got a long list of ex-lovers. They'll tell you I'm insane. Cause you know I love the players, and you love the game. -Blank Space. T.S.
This is an era where we see Taylor Swift wearing more sophisticated clothing. The laced and silk gowns she wore for her Blank Space music video, the bob cut, and the Bad Blood leather clothing elevate her to present herself as a true pop star.
And her career grew, and her songs became part of commercials, and advertisements that got her major, mainstream visibility. Many see this era as the peak of Swift’s career since some of her biggest hits came from this album. But her personal life, the way she presented herself to her fans, and to the mass media, and the way she responded to criticism were all factors that influenced her upcoming work.
This is Part 1 of Taylor Swift’s political fashion journey throughout her eras. Come back for Part 2!