To properly appreciate the fashion choices of the incomparable Lorde, one must first experience her music. The two are entwined in a relationship that reflects whatever vibe she’s currently on, and her steady evolution through youth as Ella Yelich-O’Connor, the person, and Lorde, the savior who doesn’t want to be. In her long awaited third album Solar Power, she brings us to the sunny beaches she escaped to for so long, where she skips to the beat of her own ‘strum.
Her music is fundamentally emotional, where she always aims to encapsulate specific feelings, whether brooding nostalgia, wild bliss, hopeless lust, or waning heartbreak. And for her, it’s intrinsically linked to color, due to her synesthesia, or more specifically, chromesthesia, a neurological condition where the senses blend and sound involuntarily evokes an experience of color. She recently revealed the colors she associates with each album; her first album, Pure Heroine contains depths of green, Melodrama indigos and violet, and Solar Power, of course, is golden. Naturally, this translates to her fashion. Her strong sense of style leans into the phases she grows through, as with all young women between the ages of 15 and 24, including her fans who are growing up beside her.
Lorde’s debut in 2013 began a long era of the grunge-goth style she’s most recognized for. At only 16, her hit song “Royals” reached the number one spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 (and has since been certified diamond), she won two Grammys, and her album Pure Heroine was nominated for Best Pop Vocal Album in 2014. Critics called her Sophomore album a “game changer,” as it paved the way for the alternative-pop genre to blossom in the 2010’s, it’s lasting influence still present on today’s charts. It discusses social status, materialism, “Glory and Gore,” and the wisdom found in teenage experiences. The lead single, along with hits “Team” and “Tennis Court,” became anthems for angsty Tumblr-era teens, who wore winged eyeliner, Doc Martens, and accessorized minimalistic American Apparel outfits with a tattoo choker.
Lorde’s look was mainly set in black, in draping capes, net-mesh tops, witchy long skirts, sporty Adidas stripes (so 2015), and menswear. She wore rich textures of velvet, lace, and silk, and subdued, regal metallics. The “Pure Heroine Tour” told a story through her costume changes, forwarding it’s three-part set that represented her youth in suburban life, then the abstract emotion she felt as it began to change with fame, and ending in present day. She changed through an oversized suit, a red look complete with a cape and gold crown, metallic jumpsuit and another cape, and a final gold robe. During the reign of Pure Heroine, Lorde was authentically cool and relished in her own mystery (such a scorpio).
March 2017 kicked off Lorde’s next musical era with the single “Green Light,” and marked her first release with producer Jack Antonoff, who’s now a staple of the genre. The title references a streetlight which allows her to proceed into her future, fully and fearlessly. The music video was shot on 16mm film and directed by Grant Singer, and followers her as she dances through the midnight streets of Los Angeles. She wore a fuchsia mini dress, speculated by Racked to be vintage Giorgio di Sant’Angelo purchased from Sielian’s Vintage Apparel in West Hollywood, with Adidas Superstars. A-lister stylist Karla Welch styled the video, among many iconic Lorde looks that would fill the Melodrama fantasy.
Lorde told Vevo, “I was very aware that this is the first thing that people had seen from me in three years. I was picking up where I had, which was I always had dark lipstick on and in a weird kind of outfit. And this time, I was like, I want to look the way my friends see me. I want to feel like I could be any one of the young people who listen to my music.”
To a party beat she sings of “brand new sounds” in her mind this time, a metaphor for the over-saturated emotions that fill the album, and inspiration found as she embraces a new phase of dignified youth.
Melodrama is exactly what the title suggests. It’s vivid with cathartic partying (“Are you lost enough? Have another drink, get lost in us”), summer lust she compares to a masterpiece hung (down the back of) The Louvre, ego-death heartbreak, and intimate yearning to reach a perfect place — whatever that is. The album seemingly celebrates growing pains, in a way that’s self aware of a transitional period with fleeting but full experiences. The “Perfect Places” music video, shot in Jamaica, consists of several outfit changes, from a flat Jacquemus straw hat, sweet tulle dress, blood red trench coat, and simple shirtdress. She breaks free of her past of black and white and displays how dynamic she can be, announcing, “I’m nineteen and I’m on fire.”
Her fashion in this period is whimsical, disco-inspired, dripping in jewel tones and sequins, and “very, very, very pretty, which I think is interesting,” said Welch, speaking about her ballerina Met Gala look. She dressed Lorde’s Melodrama tour where she pulled much of the clothing from Instagram brands, noting their shared non-concern for elite labels. “Actors are a vessel for their director; musicians are their vessel,” she told the Los Angeles Times in 2017. “They’re hyper-creative, so it’s a different type of pressure. Lorde, for me, is like a Picasso. It’s a gift creatively to get to work with someone like that.” She described their collaboration as “beyond cerebral,” in Vanity Fair, saying “the placement of where an earring should go is like, a process.”
With her second masterpiece impressing critics even farther than Pure Heroine, and a long and glamorous run of world tours, music festivals, and red carpets, Lorde retreated to her private life, where her real world exists.
Finally, last week, Lorde delivered a pocketful of sunshine with Solar Power, after a hiatus away in whatever her natural habitat is. She’s talked about her time spent time in Martha’s Vineyard and her home of New Zealand, and finding peace in nature. She traveled to Antartica, which inspired a climate-conscious sentiment throughout the album (her outfits either vintage or made sustainably), and is also where she decided its name. She wrote to fans in June that she envisioned the project to soundtrack their drives to the beach, then linger “on your skin like a tan as the months get cooler again.” The album is reflective, a bit more mature, but not without a minor twinge of self doubt, though this time met with self-compassion and a hopefulness that the sun will show her, and her fans, “the path.” She sings to her since-passed dog Pearl, rejects the glorified lifestyle of a popstar, criticizes an ex from hindsight, and wonders what her adult future may hold.
This summer, the singer-songwriter committed to happy hues of yellow, which so happens to be Pantone’s 2021 color of the year, orange, and soft green in her looks. The Solar Power album cover shows her leaping in just a bikini bottom and yellow rash guard, which she says depicts a joyful, playfulness, though still “feral, and, I don’t know, sexy.” That’s a mood — is that what it means when your mood ring turns yellow?
Lorde’s been living in bright but simple two pieces, like the one she wore in the title track’s music video by sustainable designer Collina Strada, made of satin deadstock. And speaking of “Mood Ring,” the “satirical” track that centers wellness culture and new age spirituality, where burning sage and crystal cleansing are earnest attempts to soften the weight of the world, she wore a glossy sage two piece by Paris Georgia in the music video. She transformed to sun-bleached blonde and sings, “Can’t seem to fix my mood / Today it’s as dark as my roots / If I ever let them grow out.”
Today she describes her current style as “meticulous construction and sandals,” and between her affinity for draping silk shirt dresses, paired with the casual shoes or none at all, and her wild mane now tamed to long middle-parted waves, Lorde’s “Solar Power” line rings true: “I’m kind of like a prettier Jesus.” Her Jesus-chic vibe was especially present for her first live performance of “Stoned at The Nail Salon,” alongside Antonoff on Late Night with Seth Meyers.
For the cover of her zero-carbon “music box” merch item, a physical representation of the album that replaces wasteful CD plastic, she wears a flowing yellow gown on the beach. On Instagram live she shared that it was a vintage Celine number by Phoebe Philo. “It’s my own dress. I bought it on eBay and I was waiting for the perfect moment to wear it.” We’ll have to wait and see what vintage gems she brings to the “Solar Power Tour” stages, or perhaps something from an archive for September’s Met Gala.
In “Liability (Reprise),” one of the closing songs on Melodrama, Lorde cleverly promises, “You’re all gonna watch me disappear into the sun.” So while she’s still in this hemisphere, shining that bright, happy light she cultivated in hiding, it’s time to pause and soak in her rays. Before she throws her phone in the water again and we can’t reach her for another four years.
Take a look back at Lorde’s fashion evolution through the eras below.
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