Swift’s fashion choices are a masterclass in branding.
After a wildly successful year of breaking industry records, Taylor Swift has left the world wondering if there’s anything she can’t do. Predictably, the internet has a slightly out-of-pocket answer: Fashion is her flaw. According to many Swifties and non-Swifties alike, she can write “Style” and “Dress,” but she cannot style a dress. Or a skirt. Or a blouse. Or anything.
Some have even taken it as far as formally diagnosing her with an inability to serve. But before we pick apart every pleated skirt or misguided belt, let’s put ourselves in her inappropriately-styled Aquazzura heels (you know, the one’s she paired with a denim mini-dress, below): Maybe Taylor’s lacklustre fashion sense is a masterclass in branding and maintaining relatability.
As mentioned, Taylor Swift has had a really good year. In 2023, she released two re-recorded albums, produced the highest grossing tour of all time, became a billionaire, and was even named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year. This latest achievement had everyone discussing the photoshoot where the blonde superstar donned a Bardot bodysuit, a red lip, and her ragdoll cat, Benjamin Button.
While some took the opportunity to offer praise, others declared her boring and unfashionable. In fact, even the most devout stans can’t help but fantasize about a more fashion-forward Taylor, with this Swiftie photoshopping better outfits onto the star for an audience of ten thousand followers, and growing.
But Taylor Swift doesn’t need to be fashion-forward or trendy to make her mark on the world — that’s what her music and business acumen is for. And as she rises to new heights in popularity and economic status, nothing would be worse for her relatable image than a hard pivot towards a more polished, high fashion aesthetic.
To most fans, Taylor’s appeal lies in her ability to capture the heart of girlhood, a silly, playful space where one is invited to “try on” everything. We try on relationships and ideals, careers and ambitions, and, yes, we try on clothes. Lots and lots of clothes. And what could be more relatable than an outfit that doesn’t quite work?
Touring, awards, and other social engagements have made for a variety of cute yet, underwhelming, and — at times — shockingly affordable Taylor ’fits in 2023. Points were made when she: paired a cool coat with a truly basic outfit in the form of the denim trench coat over a long-sleeved russet dress; mixed aesthetics with biker shorts and frilly socks (above); and played it safe in a black bodysuit with baggy, mid-rise trousers (below).
Her fashion sense is unambiguously simple, neither minimalist nor fitting into any of the “cores” online. This didn’t change where new beau, Travis Kelce, is concerned, as shown through Taylor’s adorable Kansas City Chiefs sweatshirt paired with a pleated skirt.
Most of us can relate to this desire to both make a statement and fit in at the same time. And most of us can also relate to sometimes missing the mark. This belted Aritzia dress, for example, seemed to be the last straw for a Tiktoker who used the image to gently question Taylor’s styling capability.
But this is simply the other side of her relatable appeal.
Fans are comfortable guiding Taylor’s fashion sense in addition to seeing their own potential in her choices. Whether it’s criticizing her birthday look by listing off better options or lightly roasting her outfits with comparisons to the Ikea monkey, Taylor’s fans humble her with humour.
Alternatively, her usually affordable style allows them to recreate her outfits and purchase the same pieces she’s pictured with, like this Aupen handbag (above) and her affinity for Reformation boots. Even Travis has been pulled into the mythology of relatability, with fans likening their combined aesthetics to Luke and Lorelai of Gilmore Girls. And don’t get me started on the literal copycat styling techniques popular on TikTok right now where users mimic her Time Magazine shoot by wearing their house cats around their necks.
Through her fashion choices, Taylor Swift remains aspirational yet attainable without ever coming across as “above” the average fan. Her unpretentious nature combined with a few bold swings and misses like her Eras Tour movie premiere look make her more relatable than any polished and perfect celebrity could ever dream of being. And maybe that’s the point.