Every time Taylor Swift has shared hidden meanings in her style

One thing Taylor Swift will do—and in fact, is an expert at doing—is leaving people guessing. Aside from being a force in music and popular culture, the performer is known for cultivating a sense of mystique, which permeates everything she does, from her songwriting to her choices in clothing. More often than not, the clothes she wears for public appearances give hints that pertain to her upcoming moves—oftentimes, album releases—through cuts, finishes and colours.

If you’re reading this and wondering if this writer suffers from a case of celebrity delusion, allow me to point out a past example. For the 2022 MTV VMAs, Swift’s unexpected choice of a sparkling Oscar de la Renta mini dress resembled the night sky and ended up being a nod to her Midnights album, which was announced on the same night. Keep reading for seven other times Swift has hinted at a new Era, or provided a hidden message, through her fashion.

2016

In what would become one of Swift’s most-famous red carpet turns, the performer attended the 2016 Met Gala in a sparkling Louis Vuitton mini-dress with gladiator heels and a peroxide-blonde bob, seen for the first time on the cover of US Vogue a month earlier.

Tuned-in Swifties will know the events that spurred on Reputation’s subject matter hadn’t yet taken place, but it was clear Swift was trying on a darker, more mysterious look on for size, which would come to define the visuals for her sixth studio album the following year.

2018

The 2018 Billboard Music Awards marked one of Swift’s first public appearances after keeping a low profile while promoting Reputation. This light-pink embroidered Versace dress was a departure from the gothic-tinged style she favoured at the time, delighting and briefly mystifying fans. But when Lover and its hot-pink visuals were first teased the following year, everything clicked into place.

2021

Swift’s Folklore and Evermore albums, released in 2020, featured a down-to-earth approach and incorporated themes of country and indie folk. Both records became salves for fans during the pandemic, and when Swift attended the Grammys in 2021, she kept to her naturalistic theme in a floral Oscar de la Renta dress from the brand’s autumn/winter ’21/’22 collection. It was available for sale at the time Swift wore it, and sold out, naturally.

2022

By now, the word ‘Bejewelled’ is a core term in the Swiftieverse, but at the 2022 MTV VMAs, people thought she was dazzling just for the sake of it. On the night Swift appeared at the ceremony in this glittering crystal-adorned dress by Oscar de la Renta, she announced the release of her tenth studio album, Midnights—a record dedicated to all things after-dark, with explicit mentions of the stars in the night sky.

2023

At the 2023 Grammy Awards, Swift was still in the thick of her Midnights era and pertaining to her sparkle obsession. You might notice a purplish undertone in this outfit, which worked in synchronicity with the re-release of her album Speak Now months later; Swift famously wears a purple dress on the cover, and given her history of nodding to album releases with fashion, this could’ve been perceived as a nod to her next big drop. (But there’s also a chance she just loves indigo, and wanted to take the hue for a spin.)

2024

Before anything, Swift’s 2024 Golden Globes look was a fashion flex; her sequinned green Gucci dress was one of the first looks by the brand’s new designer, Sabato De Sarno, to ever hit the red carpet. But keen-eyed fans noted that the dress’s bright-green hue was the same colour as the ‘snake’ emoji; the green snake icon was a formative component in the conceptualising of Swift’s sixth studio album, Reputation (more context on that hidden meaning here).

Reputation is widely speculated to be Swift’s next album re-release, and if we’ve learned anything from Swift, it’s that her fashion can precede big announcements, so time will tell.

2024

The 2024 Grammy Awards marked the first time Swift wore Schiaparelli, choosing a white dress and black gloves from the historic couturier. She wore a stopwatch around her neck (stopped at midnight, no less), as a nod to Midnights. But by the end of the night, her classic choice of black-and-white had taken on a different meaning and even ushered in a new era; on stage, Swift announced a new album, The Tortured Poets Department, which features a roster of black-and-white visuals. If there’s anything Swift is guaranteed to give us, it’s dedication to a theme.

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