tour outfits

Wardrobe Woes: Do Celebrities Sacrifice Sustainability for the Sake of Aesthetics?

Celebrity tours take years of planning, prepping, and perfecting. Every detail of the set, song list, and choreography is ruminated on by teams of hundreds, working to bring to life a performer’s elaborate vision. Millions of dollars are spent in making the fantasy come to life, while billions are anticipated in return.

Fans rush to purchase tickets months in advance, sometimes breaking the site in the process. We’re looking at you Ticketmaster. As the excitement grows, guests often flock to notable fashion websites in search of the perfect, one-time-wear, outfit for the event.

The world is no stranger to the phenomenon of celebrity. Oftentimes, these multi-million dollar concerts are an opportunity for devoted fans to see their faves up close and personal. Celebrities are worshipped for maximizing their fans’ experience with firework shows, world-class sound systems, dazzling pyrotechnics and an array of intricate costumes and tour outfits, each one more extravagant than the next, all during a three-hour performance. However, lugging these items around the world can prove to be costly.

Dozens of trucks and trailers are required for the movement of these productions. Think about the linoleum floor placed atop the stadium’s turf, stage pieces, jumbotrons, chairs, custom lighting, amplified speakers, and other special effects like confetti cannons. In a 2023 article published by the San Diego Union-Tribune, the newspaper identified the costs associated with concerts and festivals post-pandemic. The article, detailing just how expensive concerts and music festivals are to produce, noted that heavy inflation and increasing demand for entertainment has caused the cost of producing a concert to skyrocket.

The costs of costumes for performers and their backup dancers is no exception as producing garments has increased in expenses since 2020. In addition, the effort to transport and produce the garments is astounding and at a great cost, financially and environmentally.

At what point (if at all) does gluttonous concert culture intersect with sustainability?

The First Look, and the Second, and the Third, and the Fourth…

Objectively, the volcanic eruption of cheering fans when the stadium darkens, the pounding hearts as people scurry to their seats, and an ultra-famous celebrity first taking the stage wearing a breathtaking, custom outfit is undeniably a surreal experience.

During her Eras Tour, Taylor Swift changed an average of 13 times throughout her performances.

Nothing can match the surprise of that first look. But, is it really possible fans feel the same way about the eleventh?

During her Eras Tour, Taylor Swift changed an average of 13 times throughout her performances. This number does not include minor additions or subtractions to pieces like a bedazzled Versace blazer layered onto a bedazzled Versace custom bodysuit halfway through her song, Lover.

Taylor’s method is simple; she leaves the stage after every era and emerges minutes later with a completely new outfit that matches the vibe of the current. Swifties argue that she could never wear a flowing gown during Reputation and so, we acknowledge that costume changes are necessary as they can enhance the fantasy playing out on stage. However, in this case, are these costume changes excessive?

Yearly, 92 million tons of material are sent to landfills which stimulates responsibility for 3% of global CO2 emissions, and 20% of global water pollution.

Musicians like Beyoncé and Harry Styles also carry out numerous outfit changes throughout their shows, revealing expertly designed fashions tailored to fit the stars personal style, and music genre. However, as concertgoers praise the celebs’ tour outfits, should we be asking ourselves if this fashion excess is unnecessary, unsustainable, and unimportant to the quality of entertainment?

Unless their wardrobes are upcycled, thrifted, or made from natural materials, it’s impossible to classify these celebrities’ fashion choices as eco-friendly. And considering the intensive labor involved in the production, fitting, and transportation of all these garments, it cannot be guaranteed that the minimization of environmental waste and worker safety are prioritized.

In the past 15 years, the number of times a garment is worn before getting thrown away has decreased by 35%.

As many know, the fashion industry has a history of harmful production tactics that lead to abundant waste.  Yearly, 92 million tons of material are sent to landfills which stimulates responsibility for 3% of global CO2 emissions, and 20% of global water pollution. Unfortunately, these trends are only getting worse. In the past 15 years, the number of times a garment is worn before getting thrown away has decreased by 35%. On average, today’s consumer wear’s a clothing item only seven to ten times before throwing it away.

Reflectively, stage costumes and productions have gotten more elaborate and voluminous over the years. Especially after the pandemic, concertgoers are ravenous for unforgettable, group experiences and entertainment and celebrities are capitalizing on this consumer need.

Is It Really The One If It’s 1 of 13?

Taylor wore a muted purple Alberta Ferreti chiffon gown while she performed folklore during the first show of her tour. folklore was one of the 10 eras in which she performed. She sang “The One” gracefully while her dress flowed in the wind, but logistically, her entire show lasts about three hours, and with over ten eras to perform, we’ve calculated that each outfit is worn for less than 20 minutes. A little brief, no?

Well, thankfully she’ll wear everything again at her next show, right? Not exactly. Taylor keeps her wardrobe fresh with multiple variations of each era outfit. In this wardrobe model, she’ll require a heaping amount of custom clothing for this 131 show concert tour.

There is little repetition and therefore little sustainability throughout Taylor’s tour. She must be aware of this.

Harry’s Brings the Heat (Literally) to Earth

Harry’s style has metamorphosed in recent years from prim and proper London lad to eccentric, retro, western funk. While we’re so happy to see him embrace his unconventional side, we’re keenly aware of the insatiable consumer corner this transition has caused him to turn.

Fans match Harry’s energy by storming the stadiums in one-time-wear feather boas, plastic heart sunglasses, or pleather cowgirl boots that fall apart before the concert even begins. Of course, these pieces can be sustainably acquired, but chances are, that isn’t the case.

Harry must recognize the tendencies of his fans which spark from his lead. Does he realize the influential power he has?

Social media has propelled the intensity of parasocial relationships, the one-sided emotional connection developed with fictional characters or celebrities. People get attached to characters with desirable characteristics and try to emulate them. These characteristics most certainly include fashion choices.

Renaissance Retrogression

Beyoncé is back, and everything in her international tour is bigger, better, and more boundless than ever. More shows, longer performances, and an infinite wardrobe.

Jimmy Choo alone, custom designed 41 pairs of bedazzled booties, tasseled knee-highs, shiny heels, and bow-tied platforms for Beyoncé to wear throughout her tour. Every few songs are sandwiched between momentary costume change intermissions, each outfit more extravagant than the last.

Beyonce’s silver gowns required 12 people and 700 hours to make.

One dress, for example, created by Tiffany & Co was handcrafted from around 150 feet of mesh ribbon and featured sparkling chains of bezel-set stones, creating a draping-like fabric. This special one-of-a-kind piece took more than 200 hours to create.

Another fashion designer, Iris van Herpen, reported to Harper’s Bazaar that crafting one of Beyonce’s silver gowns required 12 people and 700 hours to make. Time and dedication that’s definitely worth a pretty penny.

Couture pieces can range from $20,000 to $200,000

With most of Beyonce’s outfits being couture, meaning it’s designed and custom-fit only to her, it’s clear that 700 is only a fraction of the hours spent in the making of her wardrobe. Couture pieces can range from $20,000 to $200,000, so her bill’s sure to be jaw-dropping.

From a business perspective, the appeal of creating a custom look for one of the most famous superstars in the world to wear on her epic Renaissance tour is blatant. No matter how much time or money is spent on the development, a brand’s name on Beyoncé’s body is sure to reap benefits.

Our skepticism lies more with the celebrities themselves. Again, we’re asking if this is all really necessary to put on a good show.

If the Shoe Fits, Consumers Buy Three Pairs

Would peoples’ mentality of overconsumption, when it comes to fashion, be changed if these world-famous celebrities showed an ounce of wardrobe conservatism?

The effectiveness of marketing conducted by conservation organizations is rarely assessed, and therefore, celebrity influence in this market is not fully understood yet.

Celebrity influence has been heavily researched throughout other industries and it’s widely accepted that the objective of marketing (whether it be through a celebrity or otherwise) is to influence. So, while we can’t say for sure what impact celebrities would have on diverting their fans from buying new clothes, simply observing the ravenous energy of Swifties or the BeyHive as they swarm to Ticketmaster the second tickets go on sale, speaks for itself.

If consumers are willing to spend enormous amounts of money because they trust that their idol will sufficiently entertain them, they’ll likely respect their choice to support fashion conservatism. What if one celebrity announced they’re beginning the #NoNewClothes Challenge, for example? Would not one single fan take after them?

Influencing consumers to stop purchasing new clothes could do more for the environment than asking for monetary donations or other actions.

But the premise of these excessive wardrobes is, unfortunately, doing the opposite of conservation. Watching Harry strut his stuff in a different pair of couture polka-dot trousers every night only encourages consumers to buy this style, but from a much less credible brand that takes advantage of its workers and promotes environmental destruction.

Photo credits: Paolo Villanueva

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