HIn Khloé Lewis’ closet is a shimmering lavender evening dress with a single puff sleeve, a bedazzled mini dress with a matching cowboy hat and a pink shirt. She wore these items on Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour, Beyoncé’s Renaissance World Tour, and the barbie film, respectively. For Lewis, a 29-year-old public relations professional, dressing up made the experience even better.
“It’s always fun to have a reason to dress in something that’s outside of our norms,” she told TIME.
Lewis is not alone. This summer, concert and moviegoers showed up with themed badges. For Barbie, attendees donned all shades of pink, from shocking magenta to more demure hues of bubblegum. During the Eras Tour, Swifties paid tribute with glitter, bright colors and friendship bracelets. Meanwhile, fans wore disco-inspired club outfits in silver and black, accessorized with rhinestone-encrusted cowboy hats and boots, to Beyoncé’s Renaissance Club. And with Swift and Beyoncé both releasing concert films, it seems the costume party of 2023 shows no signs of stopping.
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Fashion historian and assistant curator of fashion at the Cleveland Museum of Art Darnell-Jamal Lisby agrees, saying the outsized display of themed clothing this summer may be a reflection of the freedom people craved after the pandemic.
“After the pandemic, people want to be free to be their authentic selves,” Lisby told TIME. “People want to have fun and experiment because it’s something within their control and something they can use to communicate with each other and within themselves about how they feel and how they are connected.”
For Dalvin Brown, a 30-year-old journalist who first saw Beyoncé on the show Renaissance tour, this connection happened both in person and online. Brown, who wore a rhinestone bodysuit with a masculine motif, a studded cowboy hat and a leather jacket, went viral online for his striking look, captured and shared by Beyhive fans at the concert. Brown says the influx of interest in dressing up was accelerated by the pandemic, but also by the internet, where social media quickly spread trends and fast fashion from online retailers, making it possible to create a look almost effortless.
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“Access to fast fashion and the Internet creates this world where if you want to experiment with the way you dress, you can,” he told TIME. “There’s a lot of inspiration online and you practically get permission from the Internet because there are so many people expressing themselves in really creative and wild ways.”
The element of connection was a vital part of Anna Belkin’s decision to dress for all three barbie screenings she went to in the space of two weeks. The 34-year-old lawyer wore a pink jumpsuit for an opening night visit; For the second screening, she went with her parents and helped her mother find a pink scarf, while her father wore a shirt that read “Wednesday Breaks the Patriarchy” in pink letters. For the third showing, which was part of a bachelorette party, she wore pastel shades to complement the bride-to-be’s outfit. Belkin says dressing up was a way to share the experience with the people she loved. She was also pleasantly surprised by the camaraderie it sparked with her fellow moviegoers.
“Part of the joy of dressing up was being fully a part of the experience,” she told TIME. “It was really nice to walk around in public, where everyone, complete strangers, were like, ‘Hi Barbie!’ It’s nice to be part of a bigger project, even if it’s a movie about a doll that’s literally sanctioned by the company that makes it, and to feel like you don’t not only appreciate art, but that you are a part of it. art. »
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For Jezz Chung, 32-year-old author, artist and performer, dressing for the Renaissance Tour and the barbie The film was an enriching experience, rooted in the queer community and fun. Chung, who is autistic, said their outfit was an important part of their sensory experience of the concert. Before attending, Chung hand-applied gemstones to a pair of pants, savoring both the feel and look of the outfit. Getting dressed, especially during tumultuous times, can be an everyday but significant way to save space, Chung says. A brightly colored outfit or a few sparkling rhinestones are a way to express themselves and present themselves however they want, regardless of social conventions.
“Dressing up is a way to maintain a kind of agency over our bodies and our lives, to shape who we are in this world and how we can present ourselves,” they told TIME. “There’s a deep history with people of color, queer people, all kinds of marginalized people turning to beauty and fashion, whether it’s clothing or makeup or art, to practice a feeling of profound liberation.”
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