How to Decode Taylor Swift's Style, From Backward Outfits to 'Reputation' Red Herrings

“Taylor Swift Style is the definitive Swift style Bible,” Chapelle tells me. “It tells the fashion story behind every single Taylor Swift album and her musical and sartorial evolution, and it’s based on my own content archives and extensive research, accompanied by over 200 photographs of Taylor’s most fashionable moments.”

Like Swift herself, Chapelle is thorough and eagle-eyed…some might say a fanatic. She writes long, thorough captions to help followers interpret Swift’s clothes and patiently answers questions about all things Taylor from an educated, not a stan-crazy perspective. Most helpfully, she finds affordable dupes for many of Swift’s items. Have I purchased boots worn by Taylor and identified by Sarah? No. But I asked for them for my birthday.

Just before the release of TTPD, Chapelle and I caught up over Zoom. And Tree Paine, if you’re reading this, please take her words seriously. She knows what she’s talking about.

Glamour: What is your process? Do you have Google alerts when Taylor gets photographed? How does a person run a Taylor Swift style account and identify all this stuff?

Sarah Chappelle: I follow a lot of really awesome update accounts. There’s Google alerts, there’s tweets that come through, and even good old-fashioned Swifty group chats. In terms of my process, I’ve been running @TaylorSwiftStyled for almost 13 years now, so I have it down to a science and an art. There are a lot of brands that she continues to return to…so when she’s out and about, it’s easy to decipher, like, “Oh, that fit and flair cut and that particular color looks like a Reformation dress.” Or, there’s a certain cut of denim or trendy silhouette that indicates it’s probably Free People. And so begins the process of combing through all of these different retailers’ websites until I find the exact match.

What I hope is the extra something that I bring to the table is the power of the caption and being able to contextualize what a clothing choice means in the Taylor Swift cinematic universe. What does this bag represent? Maybe the last time she carried it was like 2014, and that’s a worthwhile thing to bring up. She’s the type of person who loves to repeat things and recycle accessories. That repetition is something that fans resonate with because it’s like, “Ah, someone else who gets their cost-per-wear down by re-wearing and repeating pieces in their closet like a normal person.” It’s sad that’s notable as a celebrity, but the fact of the matter is that yes, it’s notable.

So then, how do you think she gets dressed in the morning? I wouldn’t put it past her to be sitting there with a grid of: “When was the last time I carried this bag?” Or do you think she has someone in charge of that?

I suppose it’s an open secret that most celebrities, even in their daily lives, are intentionally styled, and Taylor does have a style team. However, I do think Taylor has uniquely positioned herself as the arbiter of her public image and somebody who cares very deeply about the intention in which she shows up in the public eye. As a medium of communication, her fashion is a tool that she likes to wield and utilize. Whether that means distinguishing eras over the course of her career or sending red herrings to fans to drive them into a frenzy. We now know that the usage of green earlier this year, pre-Grammys, and even the Jimmy Choo, Jean Paul Gaultier collab boots that she wore that had snakes on them, were an intentional misdirect hinting at Reputation TV. Which was very tricky of her.

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