Oscar de la Renta. Versace. Alberta Ferretti. Roberto Cavalli. Elie Saab. Christian Louboutin. Zuhair Murad. Ashish. The list of the designers who have made looks for Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour, which began just over a month ago in Arizona and ends in California in August before heading overseas, is like a mini-tour of fashion weeks, replete with sparkles, chiffon and a message tee.
The resulting dress-up extravaganza has been greeted, not surprisingly, with heart-thumping enthusiasm. So many clothes! So much glitter! So fun! There are pages of stories online breathlessly documenting “Every Outfit Taylor Swift Has Worn on Her Eras World Tour” (as Elle Australia put it). And new styles keep emerging, enabling new coverage. As if sheer wardrobe abundance is an achievement unto itself.
It’s possible it is. The logistics alone are daunting: How do you change that much, and that fast, while in the middle of a performance?
Certainly it has raised the bar for the artists who are touring next, as we enter the Summer of the Diva: Madonna, who is embarking on a retrospective tour (just imagine the looks that one could involve), and Beyoncé, who set the bar sky-high in August when she dropped a teaser of sorts via the “I’m That Girl” trailer, which involved at least seven looks compressed into a few minutes, from cyborg goddess to cowboy dominatrix to killer Audrey Hepburn.
But it’s also possible to see in all these Swiftian clothes, all the wardrobe switcheroos, something else. It’s possible that they are, actually, not just a tour down memory lane but a more pointed piece of meta-commentary on the expectation that female pop stars constantly unveil new versions of themselves for our viewing pleasure, one-upping their old image with new wardrobes ad infinitum. And a message that Ms. Swift is, perhaps, calling time on the whole thing.
The promise of reinvention is a core American value: the belief that everyone has the right to a fresh start, that you are limited only by your imagination and abilities. It’s intrinsically linked to the promise of fashion, which likewise dangles the lure of a new you; of allowing you to try on different selves until you settle into one that feels right.
Yet it is also its own kind of prison, as Ms. Swift, who has made a habit of embedding meaning into her wardrobe choices, said in her 2020 documentary, “Miss Americana.”
“The female artists that I know of have reinvented themselves 20 times more than the male artists,” she says in a voice-over toward the end of the film, as various versions of her public personas flash by: teenage Taylor, with her gold ringlets, sparkly blue eye shadow and princess dresses; “1989” Taylor, with her ironed bob and glittery bodysuits; “Reputation” angry Taylor, with snakes crawling up her limbs.
This is necessary, Ms. Swift continues, because otherwise “you’re out of a job.”
At the time she was talking about her newfound political voice as well as her new album, “Lover” (now three albums and at least two Taylors ago: the earth nymph Taylor of “Folklore” and “Evermore,” and the dreamer Taylor of “Midnights”). But in many ways, what she meant is laid bare (so to speak) in her Eras Tour.