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  • Writer's pictureLaura Rocha

Who Cares What You Wear To The Party?

Concert outfits aren't built to last.


Ahead of her 42nd birthday, Beyoncé asked her fans through Instagram to wear their “most fabulous silver fashions to the shows 8.23 - 9.22. We'll surround ourselves in a shimmering human disco ball each night.” Taylor Swift announced the upcoming release of the concert film of The Eras Tour with AMC Theaters, including in her caption that “Eras attire, friendship bracelets, singing and dancing encouraged 🫶 1, 2, 3 LGB!!!! (iykyk).” Harry Styles’ fans dropped colorful feathers all over the world for two years during LOVE On Tour, a tradition started because the British singer wore an assortment of feather boas at the Grammys in 2021. Concert fashion (which has been a thing since tours have been a thing) is a way to mark yourself as part of a tribe. But how does playing dress-up for tours relate to personal style? And what is it about the ritual of dressing up to go to a live music show that makes us take chances that we wouldn’t in our day-to-day lives?

Margot, a 29-year-old marketing executive based outside of New York City, has seen Taylor Swift at The Eras Tour four times. The first Eras show she went to was in a city she had to fly to, so she needed an outfit she could easily take in a carry-on bag: “It was a Midnights-inspired outfit that wasn’t too overdone. I bedazzled a pair of shorts and wore a star mesh shirt.” But for the shows that were within driving distance from where she lives, she had more flexibility: “[for] one of them my boyfriend and I did “Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince.” We got crowns, I made us sashes, and mine was in the Miss Americana movie font and his was in the reputation font.” Making the sashes was a complex process, and Margot was worried her outfits wouldn’t be ready in time: “Like, I’m stressing myself out for nothing, but it’s really fun.”

For the third show, she went with her mom and her sister, and they dressed up as the line from “Death By A Thousand Cuts”: “I ask the traffic lights if it will be alright / They say I don’t know.” They wore stoplight t-shirts with a word for each color: “One of them had a bedazzled I [on the red circle], the one in the middle had a bedazzled DON’T [on the yellow], and then the one in the end had a bedazzled KNOW [on the green]. Taylor Nation did respond to my photo — they responded to me on Instagram, so I was very excited.” A huge factor that encourages fans to dress up for tours as big as the Eras tour is the possibility of being noticed. When Taylor Nation (Swift’s management team, and the fan club to end all fan clubs) shares your Instagram story, it’s like getting a gold star from Taylor herself.

Margot went to one more show — “...cause I’m crazy,” she says with a cheeky tone. “[For] this one I had bought this jacket that felt very “Getaway Car” vibes. She pauses. “Are you a Swiftie?” she asks me, just to make sure we’re on the same page.

Margot doesn’t just go to Taylor Swift concerts. “I just went to the Jonas Brothers concerts, which is why I have no voice,” she says, the raspiness of her voice crackling through my speakerphone. She does recognize that people don’t put the same effort into dressing up for acts smaller than Swift: “I feel like being a Taylor Swift fan forces you in a way to be on a different level of commitment for concerts.” Even if you never wear the pieces again: “The stoplight t-shirts I’m probably never gonna wear again, but the mesh shirts are really cute if I ever do go out, and same with the blazer. I don’t think any of these I would wear to work ever, but some of the pieces I’ll probably never wear again like the bedazzled shorts.” Part of the problem with the bedazzled shorts is that, since they were also a DIY, they ended up being a bit scratchy and not comfortable or practical at all. Yet the sentimental value remains: “I will keep everything.”

And while she doesn’t think dressing up for concerts has taught her anything specific about her personal style, she has expanded her understanding of what dressing up can look like: “I wouldn’t consider how I dress for concerts something that I can carry over into my everyday life — just ‘cause I’m not like a crazy adventurous dresser, if you will. But I will say over the years of being a Taylor Swift fan, I commit more and more to my outfit for every tour. It doesn’t influence my everyday life, but it does influence the concert attire version of myself.”

Fans prepare for their concert months in advance. For example, Kate is 28 years old and is a healthcare worker based in Ontario, Canada, who is going to the May 9th Eras Tour show in Paris, and she’s making her own outfit for the show. “I’m doing crochet granny squares based off of all of the different eras, so there will be at least two, I think, for each era, so a [corresponding] color and a symbol that I’m crocheting into a dress.” The aesthetic of the dress is somewhat inspired by the Eras Tour poster. “I got on the side of TikTok where everyone is making their own thing. I’ve seen a girl who had like a skirt and each era was a different color and with the lyrics and stuff, and I’ve seen people do a whole bunch of different things, and I was like, I kind of want to make something!”

Crocheting clothing for herself and her loved ones is a new thing for her. It’s a new hobby she picked up while on maternity leave, and she made a scarf and hat for herself, and a blanket for her son. She describes the way she dresses on a day-to-day basis as “very casual, bordering on Adam Sandler.” We spoke in mid-August, and at that point, Kate had started the process by easing herself into making the granny squares and figuring out how to best represent each era. She expects the whole process will take her “at least until Christmas,” but her goal is to have it done by March.

Gina is 25 years old and is a retail sales associate and design consultant-in-training based in a small town two hours south of Toronto, Canada, where there are a lot of great, small boutiques. She saw Harry Styles last year and put together an ensemble she was very excited about. She used the concert as an excuse to buy a cool pair of pants: “[They were] made from deadstock fabric, I think it actually used to be like a tablecloth or something. They’re a white base and they have pink and green tulips, and yellow tulips, and, I’m just looking at them now, and red splotches all over them, so they ended up being just like such a specific piece that was just very joyful.” She wore them with a white bra top, with a linen shirt over top, and glued sparkly gems on her face for a finishing touch.

While Gina does love to dress up for events and occasions, the Harry Styles concert outfit stands out from the rest: “I’ll get cute for an event, for sure, but I definitely didn’t get as excited or put as much importance on my outfit as I did for Harry Styles — and, even then, I spent all summer thinking about what I was gonna wear [...] I think it was the grandeur of finally getting to see him in person and wanting to make it really special, and also knowing that the majority of the audience at Harry Styles was going to be femme, queer presenting, and full of cis women, and everybody was going to be so excited about it and going all out for it. You kind of felt like you had to contribute, in a way.” And even so, she felt like others around her spent even more time and money on their Harry Styles outfit: “I’m not one to drop a ton of money on just anything, but I definitely did [...] the pants were $70 and everything else was kind of thrown together. But I didn’t put as much thought into my outfit I think as other people did.”

The pants don’t seem like a far-out departure from the rest of her closet: “I’ve been trying to figure out what terms to use for my style for so long now. I tend to go for a base of classics, but I do like to employ a little bit of whimsy in what I wear. I’m a really big floral print and big earring girl, I love dresses, I love skirts, and I love playing around with proportions whenever I can.”

However, she hasn’t been able to wear the tulip pants again, despite the fact that she bought them with hopes of getting good use out of them, and she doesn’t really know why: “I’m definitely guilty of Oh, I’ll wear that! and then I can only think of that. I think it’s also [that] I live in a small town currently, and loud clothing definitely draws looks. I don’t regret spending the money on them, but I definitely bought them thinking that I would wear them again and I just haven’t. They’re a really big proportion and the fabric is kind of stiff, so they’re just like… a little hard to style on a random Tuesday, but I’m hoping that that will change.”

But where do these pieces go? Why are they thrown to the annals of our closets? In a world where every piece of fashion seems to get sucked up by the Shein machine, what are the ethics of one-time wear? That’s the thing: whether it’s imitating what the people we go see wear on stage, or finding our own sartorial expressions of obsession, concerts create an environment where people feel confident enough to wear what they want. A pure form of self-expression that the tyranny of casual or business-casual dress codes won’t allow for day-to-day life. But what would happen if we stopped following the rules in the name of authentic self-expression — or capitulated to the expectations of celebrities? 🌀


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