How Taylor Swift’s new style era pays tribute to the tortured poets before her

She’s a poet and she knows it.

As Taylor Swift’s music has evolved, so has her style — from cowboy-booted, curly-haired country sweetheart to crop top-clad pop phenomenon.

But while she’s previously drawn fashion inspiration from fairytales (for 2010’s “Speak Now), 1950s housewives (2012’s “Red”) and wood nymphs (2020’s “Folklore”), to name a few, Swift’s been looking somewhere more literary for her outfits leading up to the release of her new album, “The Tortured Poets Department” — the wardrobes of the great wordsmiths who came before her.

RHYME & REASON: The puff-sleeved Alaïa shirtdress Taylor Swift chose for a January dinner date in NYC was perfectly in line with her poetic aesthetic. GC Images
Emily Dickinson (pictured circa 1846) appears to be one of the fellow female wordsmiths Swift’s pinned on her style mood board Getty Images

“There’s definitely a ‘literary academia’ style that’s going on,” says Sarah Chapelle, the brains behind the popular Taylor Swift Style Instagram and blog; her book about the singer’s style evolution, “Taylor Swift Style: Fashion Through the Eras,” is out in October.

“Though we don’t have as many visuals to go on as we have in eras past,” she tells Page Six Style, ”the ones we do have are telling a very cohesive story, which is clearly pointing to being inspired by female poets of the past.”

The 14-time Grammy winner began dropping hints about the direction of her next musical era late last year, stepping out in a series of preppy street style looks built around checked coats, pleated skirts, stacked loafers and cashmere sweaters that could’ve been plucked from Sylvia Plath’s closet.

IT’S LIT: Many of Swift’s recent street style looks — like this checked Stella McCartney coat-and-miniskirt combo from December — feel Sylvia Plath-coded. GC Images
The late “Bell Jar” scribe, pictured in 1955, favored preppy pieces — and red lipstick, just like Swift. Jane Baltzell Kopp

“Taylor, I feel, is somebody who’s a little bit of a history nerd,” Chapelle says. “She’s obviously referenced being inspired by other literary works in the past, so I feel like there’s a baseline here … as she enters this world of an album that, I suspect, is a little more cerebral. She’s already advising fans to break out our dictionaries!”

Plath shared more in common with Swift than a way with prose and plaid; the late “Bell Jar” scribe was also famously fond of scarlet lipstick, with husband Ted Hughes once recalling in a poem, “Red was your colour … Your lips a dipped, deep crimson.” She shared the songstress’ appetite for era-by-era experimentation, too, writing in her journals, “Why can’t I try on different lives, like dresses, to see which fits best and is more becoming?”

But Plath’s not the only fellow poet Swift’s seemingly pinned on her style mood board lately. It can’t be a coincidence that to announce her new album’s impending arrival at February’s Grammys, she chose to wear a corseted Schiaparelli Haute Couture gown in a color synonymous with Emily Dickinson (her sixth cousin three times removed, as geneology company Ancestry recently revealed).

Swift wore flowing white Schiaparelli Haute Couture to the 2024 Grammys. FilmMagic
The pop star’s distant relative Emily Dickinson was known for dressing “wholly in white,” and wrote the color into many of her most memorable works. Bettmann Archive

The Amherst author was known for dressing “wholly in white,” and her sole surviving garment — an ivory shirt dress with lace trim and mother-of-pearl buttons — suggests as much. Swift wears a similarly billowy white button-up on the cover of one of the vinyl versions of “The Tortured Poets Department,” striking a pensive pose on a seaside cliff in the austere black-and-white snap.

Seeing as she once dedicated an entire poem to a stopped clock, Dickinson would’ve surely also appreciated Swift’s choice of jewelry for the Grammys: a Lorraine Schwartz choker fashioned from an antique wristwatch set to midnight, a nod to the title of her 2022 studio album.

“She’s wearing this vintage accessory to note that her previous era is coming to a close, in order to usher in the new one,” Chapelle hypothesizes.

Dickinson’s sole surviving garment — an ivory shirt dress with lace trim and mother-of-pearl buttons — is displayed at the Emily Dickinson Museum in her hometown of Amherst, Mass. Emily Dickinson Museum
WELL VERSED: Swift wears a similarly billowy white button-up on the cover of one of the vinyl versions of “The Tortured Poets Department.” Instagram/@taylorswift/Beth Garrabrant

That dazzling diamond timepiece isn’t the only horological accessory Swift’s reached for recently, however.

She’s also been spotted wearing a gold Tilly Sveaas T-bar necklace inspired by the classic watch chain — a piece “inspired by the past and created for the now,” as the jeweler told Page Six Style.

Traditionally worn to secure the wearer’s pocket watch, such chains were particularly popular in the Victorian era; 19th-century portraits of poetry power couple Elizabeth Barrett Browning and husband Robert Browning (the Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce of their time, you might say) show the pair with the telltale chains peeking out from their waistcoats.

TIME TRAVELER: Swift wore her Tilly Sveaas T-bar necklace — a piece inspired by the classic Victorian watch chain — while in Sydney for her Eras Tour. MTRX / BACKGRID
Famed English poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, pictured here circa 1860, secured her pocket watch with a similar chain. Getty Images
As did her husband, fellow poet Robert Browning. Bettmann Archive

Swift’s even made corsets her sartorial signature in the months leading up to her latest album drop —sporting boned bustier tops everywhere from the streets of NYC to football stadiums.

But while past-century women poets like Browning and Dickinson were made to wear traditional tight-laced styles to conform to the wasp-waisted beauty ideals of their day, Swift’s decision to don modern versions of the corset takes the long-controversial garment out of context.

MAIN SQUEEZE: Swift — seen here in a Versace top during a night out with Travis Kelce in October — has made corsets her sartorial signature in the months leading up to her latest album drop. GC Images
She selected a Dion Lee version for February’s Super Bowl. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

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“Corsetry was once something worn only under clothing — it was an intimate,” Chapelle says.

“Taylor’s work is nothing if not intimate, and she’s played her whole career wearing her heart on her sleeve. This just feel like a more sensual, womanly example of wearing something meant to be on the inside on the outside — showing that kind of vulnerability.”