How Taylor Swift became a symbol of fast fashion

Her rejection of high fashion is a rejection of her supposed privilege

There is a lovely lady who frequents my gym and earns herself some nudge-nudge and wink-winks each time she passes by. “She looks like she’s going to a Taylor Swift concert,” say the other girls. The said lady has a penchant for a little shimmer, shine, sequins and colour in her gym wear—more often than not, all at once—while the rest of us mortals don more forgiving black.

She probably did end up going to Swift’s ‘The Eras Tour’, which has boosted the UK and Europe’s economy as much as the Euro Cup and the Olympics. As did Prince William, Emma Stone, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Salma Hayek, Stella McCartney and dad Paul McCartney, Tom Cruise, Hugh Grant, Katy Perry and Selena Gomez. It hardly matters whether I like Swift’s music or not (I don’t), she remains the most played singer on Spotify and is the only person ever to have won an album of the year Grammy four times. But what is it about her style that is so instantly recognisable and immediately dislikable?

Swift, most certainly by design, is a rather girly dresser. Blonde, blue-eyed and leggy, she’s a modern-day Barbie without the excessive pinks and ruffles. Swift’s signatures are her bangs and her red lips that make her seem as if she is your girl next door. But she’s made a sartorial style of wearing so much high-street fashion, in a bid to win some America’s sweetheart-stripes, that she has become the flag-bearer of a fast fashion-wearing billionaire.

Taylor Swift during her Eras Tour in Dublin | Getty Images Taylor Swift during her Eras Tour in Dublin | Getty Images

Swift’s music is rather teen-like—about a young woman coming of age, dealing with love and heartbreak—and is mostly autobiographical. Her fashion choices echo what an average white girl would wear in America. Most other female artistes in her league—Beyonce, Gomez and Jennifer Lopez—are women of colour. Their clothing choices are a celebration of achieving success in a world where ethnicity becomes a calling card. Swift’s rejection of high fashion (in her daily life mostly; at concerts, she’s happy to wear shimmering itsy-bitsies from Versace, Roberto Cavalli and gang) is a rejection of her supposed privilege. Swift wants to show her young fans they can relate to her, she cannot be a sophisticate.

She dresses like her young fans do, and shops where they do, too. Zara, Urban Outfitters, and J Crew feature prominently in her wardrobe. She has worn luxury labels like Alaia and Prada, but dresses them down to make them look common. An inelegant, quotidian aesthetic is integral to her public persona. It is otherwise unfathomable that a 34-year-old billionaire, possibly among the most famous women in the world, would not hire better stylists. The downside is she has become a symbol of fast fashion.

Swift has also been criticised for being an anti-environmentalist for using her private jet way too often, leading to 8,000 tons of carbon emissions in 2022. While she may be downplaying her wealth—unlike her other pop-star sisters—her lack of sensible dressing is disturbing. In an attempt to be more responsible, Swift has been donating to several charities, especially food banks.

It is interesting to note that London’s Victoria & Albert Museum is displaying some of Swift’s personal items for the summer. It is a free exhibit, so one can’t even accuse the museum of cashing in on the touring singer’s hype. It will hopefully encourage younger patrons to come and see up-close Swift’s cowboy boots, dresses, costumes and awards.

But unfortunately for the sweet lady at the gym, and for the rest of the world, dressing like a flashy young teenager is no fashion role model to follow.