In the first week of her Eras tour, Taylor Swift has already showcased some of her greatest fashion looks yet. Sporting custom designs from Versace, Roberto Cavalli and Oscar de la Renta, she has romped through 44 songs a night in diamonds and fringe, flowing chiffon and sleek leotards, even teasing a hallway of glass boxes showcasing every iconic music video look from her careers. Eras is a tour about celebrating her music legacy, but it’s also a sartorial treat, a celebratory rummage through her dress-up box.
By all accounts, the fans looking up at her are dressed just as well. Swifties aren’t known for doing things by halves, and just like Harry Styles ‘Love On Tour’, the fanbase have been taking their concert outfit choices very, very seriously. One such fan is Stefanie (AKA VigilanteStef) who went viral on TikTok after her and husband Adam dressed up for the opening night in Glendale as the lyric “he was sunshine/ I was Midnight Rain”, earning a nod of social media approval from Swift herself.
“Taylor does such a good job with visual representations of songs that I wanted to do my own take on it” says Stef. “My Husband and I have been to every tour since ‘Red’; we don’t normally dress up to this level, but I had a specific vision in mind and I felt like we needed to go all out for her biggest tour yet.
I was absolutely NOT expecting the viral attention it received, so it was pretty overwhelming. When we were in the parking lot getting our costumes on, people were shouting from their cars, ‘I saw your TikTok!’, or wanting to get a picture with us. One fan said that he saw our costumes and said it gave him the courage to make his Eras Tour jacket and wear it to the show. I’m amazed by the power Taylor Swift has to form connections like that.”
Though Stef admits that her crafting efforts “max out at bedazzling” and that the base costume was actually a pre-made Halloween shop purchase, the whole project cost her around $150 dollars, and several hours of gemstone application. Across TikTok, Twitter and Instagram, there are countless more videos and images of fans painstakingly applying sequins and fringe, or painting incredible images of Swift and her albums onto denim jackets. So why go to all this effort?
The answers are fairly obvious; just like their idol, Swifties love to be creative, and social media gives fans plenty of opportunity to share the fruits of their labour and get hyped for a tour, maybe even getting noticed by the artist herself. On previous tours, Swift has been known to send her team to pick out people with particularly inspired costumes, upgrading their tickets or inviting them backstage.
Outside of attracting an artist’s attention though, there is an even stronger desire to communicate visual belonging amongst fans who may become new friends. No Swiftie wants to be mistaken as someone who has merely tagged along for the ride; they fought hard for these tickets, and you’d be sorely mistaken if they weren’t going to get the absolute most out of this experience, whether it be generating content or simply getting a nod of shared approval. Whether it’s celebs going big for Halloween or the ever-increasing popularity of Comic Cons and Cosplay, we’re all getting far more used to the idea of embracing our fandoms by visually embodying them, picking out the elements with which we most identify.
Though Swift’s fan base definitely isn’t all just young women, there’s also potentially a gendered element at play here too. There aren’t many spaces left in society for women and girls to dress up and go all-out on their own terms, relatively free of the male gaze. Swift, an artist who is possibly one of the very best for building worlds with her fans, is the perfect artist to inspire you to dress up. For young or lifelong Swift fan especially, these nights out are up there with the prom as one of the biggest fashion nights of your life; maybe even up there with your wedding, as one fan proved.
Outside of wedding dresses, there has been no shortage of inspired looks. Some fans have gone fairly literal with ringleader costumes, cheerleader outfits or ‘junior jewels’ pyjama looks taken straight from Swift’s music videos, while others, like Stef, have personified specific lyrics through T-shirts and fancy dress. My personal favourites have been the ones who have gone straight for the memes; Swift after getting Lasik surgery, a real-life ‘Willow’ tree, even one fan who sported a cape made out of Swift’s herstory-making dominance of the Billboard 100 chart. Topped off with the traded bracelet exchange that some fans set up late last year, this opportunity for tiny in-jokes is one of the most fun things about fandom.
Though Swift herself is the queen of official merchandise, this increase in costume appreciation also seems to nod to a desire for individuality. Eleanor, a Paramore stan who watched from home in the UK as the band supported Swift on the opening nights of Eras, is one of the premiere alternative merchmakers in the UK, giving fans an opportunity to sartorially embrace the lyricism of their favourite bands. For her, it’s no surprise that there has been an uptick in the demand for DIY or fan-made alternative merch; why buy the same expensive mass-marketed hoodie as everyone else when you can have something that caters for your specific favourite era or reference?
It definitely comes from disappointment from the official stuff, I would say,” she says. “If it feels like the design is lazy, or there’s not enough choice in the whole spread — sizing, being to everyone’s taste — I think fans have the inkling now to shop around or make something else. At my end, I really love being a part of this visual continuation of the music; it’s my interpretation of how the songs look and feel. You feel like you’ve hit the mark with other people when you put something out there and they’re like ‘yes, this is how I envisage that song too’. The community around the music gives it this extra life, in so many different shapes and forms.”
So, given that UK swifties are still awaiting our very tour dates, how can we best get prepped for our very own bejewelled moment? Whether you’re a low-key cardigan-sporting ‘Folklore’ fan or an old-school cowboy boots and ballgown gal, there is no shortage of TikTok shopping guides or DIY tutorials out there for fans to follow, as well as amazing alternative merch sellers like Eleanor. In our opinion, the best way to approach the tour is to make use of what you already have, or what you stand a reasonable chance of wearing again. Some fans have already joked that cheap Shein gemstones and glitter will be to the Eras tour what feather boa fragments were to Harry Styles; cute but often single use, and not necessarily from ethical sources. It’s also worth being mindful of warmth and sensible footwear; while our American friends can normally count on sunshine, some of those puffball ‘Lover’ dresses or ‘Reputation’ leotards aren’t necessarily going to translate in rainy Sunderland (or whatever stadiums TS ends up playing when she does come to town).
Given that concerts can result in very heightened emotions and competitiveness, it’s also worth keeping your fellow fans in mind. Though Stef’s ‘Midnight Rain’ virality brought a lot of support, she did also face a lot of “not so nice” comments about the size of her costume, fans fearing that she would be obstructing other people’s view.
“It’s an understandable concern, so I switched my hat out for a headband when the concert started so the people behind me could see,” she says. “I deleted most of the mean comments, but if Taylor liked my costume it didn’t matter what the haters thought. Taylor shows in little ways during the show that she loves us and cares about us and I feel like we can show her that love back by dressing up, whatever your interpretation is and your comfort level is.”
Already dreaming of attending again, Stef has already got her sights set on a fresh couple’s costume idea: a “Peter losing Wendy” vignette inspired by the song ‘Cardigan’. But she also touches on the importance of keeping things in perspective, of not letting the pressure to dress up get in the way of comfort or concert enjoyment. Taylor herself has seemingly liked tweets about not going overboard unless it’s fun for you, and there’s no guarantee that a killer outfit will secure a meet-and-greet (if indeed meet and greets are happening on this tour at all). But if it makes your night to dress like a Mirrorball, Willow tree or even Meredith the cat, more power to you; fandom is whatever you want to make of it, and Eras seems like the perfect environment to live your wildest creative dreams.