Taylor Swift on the December 2012/Jan. 2013 cover of Harper's Bazaar
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Taylor Swift loves dresses. She's loved them since she was a teenager, when she tore out a picture of Gwyneth Paltrow's pink Ralph Lauren Oscar gown from a magazine and walked around the stores at a local mall asking if they had anything like it. "I was 15 and going to prom for the first time, and I saw that picture of Gwyneth in the pink gown," she recalls. "I went all over the mall and showed it to all the store owners and said, 'Do you have anything that looks like this?' And no one did." She guffaws."So there's that. That's a sad story for you."
So while Taylor failed in her quest to look like the 1999 Oscar winner, when it comes to dresses she is unwavering. "There's just something so feminine about a dress," she says, currently sporting a bathrobe in a Nashville photo studio. "Whether it's a summertime dress that makes me feel carefree, an evening cocktail dress that makes me feel fancy, or a vintage dress that makes me feel like a '50s housewife—which I enjoy feeling like, for some reason—I just really like dresses." How many does she own? "Hundreds. Because I'm in a predicament where I can't wear a dress twice or else it's pointed out in magazines, so"—she starts laughing—"unfortunately I have to shop for dresses all the time."
Today, though, it's all about pants. Taylor hardly ever wears them, consenting to jeans in the winter only for survival reasons. That said, "I think doing something that's different, that's out of your comfort zone is important," she says of posing for Bazaar in les pantalons. "Personal growth, let's call it that."
Pants are not only supremely in style, but they are also a metaphor for Taylor. There are few young women who wear the pants more than she does. At 22, she is the highest-paid entertainer under 30; in the past year she earned $57 million, according to Forbes. She has more awards than she can count (including the MTV? Video Music Award that Kanye West wanted to re-gift), she is her own manager, and, as we know, she writes all of her songs. Taylor is so astute that she walked away from an unbeneficial development deal at 14.
"When I'm in management meetings when we're deciding my future, those decisions are left up to me," she explains. "I'm the one who has to go out and fulfill all these obligations, so I should be able to choose which ones I do or not. That's the part of my life where I feel most in control."
Taylor runs the show moneywise too, aided by her father, Scott, a financial adviser. "I don't tend to spend a lot of money on the big things, like cars or jewelry. I'll rent a house on the beach or something, bring my girlfriends." (She also had a lot of beachtime this past summer on Cape Cod, at Conor Kennedy's family compound in Hyannis Port.) But Taylor is very loyal to her girl tribe, which includes Emma Stone and Selena Gomez. "We never talk about fashion, about career, about our ambitions or our projects," she says of her pals. "We just talk about relationships, feelings, love, and boys."
Relationships—yes, she's had a few, though Taylor is happy to cede some control when dating. "It needs to be equal. If I feel too much like I'm wearing the pants, I start to feel uncomfortable and then we break up." Relationships are "the ultimate collaboration," she adds, but sometimes "it's wonderful to hand over the reins to your boyfriend when you control so much of these big, high-pressure decisions, you know? That is a huge defining factor in who you choose to be with."
Who Taylor chooses to be with is one of the world's great preoccupations. "What I had to learn to do, in order to maintain a general happiness in my life, was to stop reading everything," she says, getting fired up. "And then it gets really bad if you go through a breakup and those blogs have these polls asking, 'Who should they date next?' And you're just sitting there staring at the laptop bawling." She pauses. "But you can live in a normal world where a breakup is just a breakup if you don't expose yourself to what's being speculated about yourself. That's where I live now."
She is, however, about to be living on a plane. Taylor is deep in promotion for her new album, Red, which is "about the tumultuous adventures and misadventures and love and loss that I've experienced in the last two years." She's already had one number-one single, so next, the inevitable tour. "I'm not used to being in a place more than two days in a row," she says, adding, "I don't know if I have a vacation for another year. You get really good at maintaining phone relationships with people you love, because you're just not going to get to see them all the time."
There is nothing Taylor controls more, though, than her songs—a narrative of her life with a hook, a chorus, and just enough mystery to keep people guessing. And those tricky relationships will continue to be her main source of inspiration: "Some combinations of people are toxic, you know? You have to find the right one that isn't just going to explode into fiery ash and destruction."
But unlike the rest of us who sit at home and eat our feelings, Taylor focuses on writing. "Despite all of that and how unpleasant it is, as a writer you get a lot from it. It's a crazy justification system. You know that guy you really wish you could erase from your memory? But then the answer is track six, eight, 12, and 13."
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