P. Claire Dodson
December 23, 2017 5:58 pm
Ed Rode / Nashville Rising / Getty Images

As any lifelong Taylor Swift fan knows, the singer loves to use the same images over and over again in slightly different ways. She mentions things like boys, big cities, cars, dancing, rain, and dancing in the rain countless times on her discography. But one of her absolute favorite symbols is the dress.

Well, not The Dress, aka #DressGate, that polarizing color palette meme from 2015. Rather, it’s whatever dress Taylor happens to be wearing at the time. And she does indeed wear a lot of dresses. (Plus, the high-waisted-shorts-and-crop-top combos she’s been loving as of late don’t make for as catchy of song lyrics.)

Twitter user @wakeupmystar pointed out just how many “dress” references are in Taylor Swift’s songs. And it is a lot. In fact, there’s at least one “dress” mention on every album Swift has ever released, including her self-titled debut.

But the symbolism of the dress is that it’s an extension of Swift herself. Through that lens, we see each mention of a dress as one step in her artistic journey. Each “dress” also hints at what was going on in her personal life at the time. So let’s get all How To Read Literature Like A Professor on her music, shall we?

The dress motifs began with 2006’s Taylor Swift.

“When you think happiness / I hope you think ‘that little black dress.'”

On that album, Swift references a little black dress on the song “Tim McGraw.” It’s a song that feels more like a fairytale picture of a relationship. Swift is still idealistic enough to want the person in the song to remember her forever.

Next came Fearless in 2008.

“And I don’t know why but with you I’d dance / In a storm in my best dress / Fearless.”

In her song from the album of the same name, Swift again sings with the excitement and innocence of young love. Hey, not everyone would willingly wear their best dress out in the rain.

Then, on 2010’s Speak Now, the dress begins to reflect more personal heartbreak.

“The girl in the dress cried the whole way home / I shoulda’ known.”

On “Dear John,” allegedly written about her relationship with John Mayer (who is 13 years older than her), Swift uses the dress to highlight her fragility during the relationship.

But on 2012’s Red, the dress becomes a positive sign again.

“Spinning like a girl in a brand new dress / We had this big wide city all to ourselves.”

During the song “Holy Ground,” the dress once again represents the fun and optimism of a new relationship.

Then comes 2012’s 1989.

“Say you’ll remember me / Standing in a nice dress / Staring at the sunset, babe.”

In “Wildest Dreams,” Taylor is pleading to be remembered. It’s a solace at the end of a relationship; the hope that the person will always have a place for you in their heart. Years later, she’s recaptured some of her innocence from “Tim McGraw.”

Now, let’s fast forward to new Taylor, aka the Reputation-era Taylor Swift.

“Carve your name into my bedpost / ‘Cause I don’t want you like a best friend / Only bought this dress so you could take it off.”

The old Taylor is dead, and with her went a lot of that bright-eyed, dancing-in-the-rain mentality. She literally titled a song “Dress,” a nod to her frequent usage of the motif. But that song isn’t a sentimental pleading or a heartbroken lament. It’s not about the beginning of something great. It’s about sex.

Or at least, as close to sex as Swift is maybe ever going to get. According to some reports from fans who attended the Reputation secret sessions, Swift’s parents actually left the room during “Dress” because the lyrics made them uncomfortable. (Just wait until the music video comes out.)

If you can believe it, there are even more “dress” references in Taylor Swift’s songs.

The “dress” lyrics keep coming.

Phew. Looks like our girl Taylor is all grown up.

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