You know that feeling when you get brand-new clothes and you just want to show them off to everyone? Taylor Swift is like that, but with her lyrics.
The country-turned-pop-star has always been savvy with her onstage costumes and paparazzi-shot street style, and it’s no different when you turn to her music (imagine a YouTube “haul” video, but with lyrics).
Whether she’s singing quite literally about the wedding dress at the end of 2008’s “Love Story” or metaphorically about the wine-stained dress in 2014’s “Clean,” we can’t help but think that Swift finds some songwriting inspiration from her closet. And while all of Swift’s fictional dresses in her lyrics my seem like a coincidence to some, each one is a device in her storytelling, helping her listeners paint a more vivid picture.
Let’s dive in. Here are 10 times Taylor Swift has sung about her flowing frocks:
The lyric: “I talked to your dad/ Go pick out a white dress”
The song: “Love Story” (2008)
How it fits: You know how the story goes: Romeo and Juliet have a forbidden love. Swift’s take on the Shakespearean tale has you thinking that her two characters will never get together because of petty family drama… until the twist ending when Romeo tells Juliet, “I talked to your dad/ Go pick out a white dress.” Without saying that the warring families have reconciled and that they’re getting married, the “white dress” says everything. In this case, the “white dress” not only means a wedding, but it also means a truce — white is the color of surrender. The families are surrendering to each other, while Romeo and Juliet are surrendering to love.
The lyric: “Say you’ll remember me/ Standing in a nice dress/ Staring at the sunset”
The song: “Wildest Dreams” (2014)
How it fits: The “nice dress” in “Wildest Dreams” doesn’t have any other descriptors than “nice,” but ironically, its sole purpose is to create an image for a memory. The lyrics in this song are hazy and blurry, as if Swift is recalling pieces of a dream — a romance lost. She’s asking her lover to remember their time together, even if that memory has already started to fade.
The lyric: “You’re still all over me like a wine-stained dress I can’t wear anymore”
The song: “Clean” (2014)
How it fits: The wine-stained dress is something of ruin. It’s a state of life you can’t go back to. No matter how much you try to rub out the stain or penetrate it with Scrubbin’ Bubbles, there’s no way the dress will be wearable anymore. And much like the relationship, it’s useless after it’s been soiled.
“Little Black Dress”
The lyric: “When you think happiness, I hope you think ‘that little black dress’”
The song: “Tim McGraw” (2006)
How it fits: In the early stages of Swift’s career, she equated her LBD to happiness. We have a feeling she wouldn’t make the same comparison today. However, memories are filled with outfits and music, small details that burn into your brain of a specific moment. For Swift, that’s Tim McGraw and a little black dress. Perhaps it isn’t Tim McGraw and a little black dress for you — maybe it’s All-American Rejects and a hoodie and jeans. But you know what she means, right?
“Girl in the Dress”
The lyric: “The girl in the dress cried the whole way home, I should’ve known”
The song: “Dear John” (2010)
How it fits: “Dear John” is all about getting dumped by an older guy who should’ve known better. The “girl in the dress” is a naive one — one who lets disappointment sink in too deeply, one who processes her emotions later, one who won’t let you know that she’s hurt until you hear it in a song a year later. She thinks she can protect her heart, but love has a weird way of letting her down. The dress in this circumstance represents innocence.
The lyric: “And it was like slow motion/ Standing there in my party dress”
The song: “The Moment I Knew” (2012)
How it fits: Who leaves a pal hanging at a party? In this Red bonus track, a guy leaves Swift high and dry and she has a breakdown in front of all her friends. The “party dress” signifies the importance of the event where he abandoned her like a jerk. He was supposed to be there!
The lyric: “Spinning like a girl in a brand-new dress”
The song: “Holy Ground” (2012)
How it fits: “Holy Ground” is all about the magic of seizing the night — even if you know it’s not going to last. “Spinning like a girl in a brand-new dress” epitomizes the naivety of a little girl (I envision a flower girl at a wedding with boundless energy) who just wants to dance the night away. Children often have no worries, and Swift wanted to channel that carefree feeling in “Holy Ground,” where she sings about spending time on the dance floor without a single fret in the world.
The lyric: “And I don’t know why, but with you I’d dance/ In a storm in my best dress/ Fearless”
The song: “Fearless” (2008)
How it fits: If Taylor Swift is willing to get her best dress wet in a rainstorm, you know that she’s really falling headfirst for someone. The “best dress” in this lyrical situation signifies the lengths she’s willing to take to be with someone, the sacrifices she’s willing to make. You don’t just ruin your best dress for anyone, right? There’s a risk involved, and you have to be fearless.
“Little Black Dress” (again)
The lyric: “After everything and that little black dress/ After everything I must confess/ I need you”
The song: “Other Side of the Door” (2009)
How it fits: At the end of this Fearless bonus track, Taylor lists out a bunch of memories from a relationship with a dude. There’s a faded photograph, the “conversation with the little white lies,” and then there’s the “little black dress.” The black dress is obviously a color contrast from the white lies, and while it seems a bit generic, at least it rhymes with “confess”…
The lyric: “Today was a fairytale/ I wore a dress/ You wore a dark gray T-shirt”
The song: “Today Was a Fairytale” (2010)
How it fits: The basicness in “I wore a dress” might seem like it was a product of Swift’s greener level in songwriting, but it actually represents the simplicity in her budding relationship. Later on in the ditty, she sings, “You told me I was pretty when I looked like a mess.” (Weird thing to say to someone, but OK). If her lover appreciates her just when she’s wearing a plain ol’ dress, then she knows she’s picked out the right guy.