We’re Witnessing a Katy Perry Fashion Style Comeback

Photography via Getty Images

The singer has always been mother, tbh.

Katy Perry’s style evolution has entered the chat. The singer and American Idol judge, who for years looked like she stepped out of Candyland with her ice cream cone bras and candy cane leggings, has been slaying lately. Having upgraded her closet from cartoonish costumes to fashion forward looks from Schiaparelli, Vivienne Westwood and Coperni (including *thee* viral glass bag), Ms. Perry is no longer playing when it comes to style.

Many a Katy Perry Stan has pointed out on TikTok that Perry’s fashion renaissance has been a long time coming. And with the star gearing up to release new music with her forthcoming album KP 6, it’s not shocking that the singer is also entering a new style era.

Perry has always had a distinct aesthetic. After first entering the scene with her 2008 hit “I Kissed A Girl,” Perry became known for her retro ‘fits, donning vintage rompers, high-waisted pinup shorts and babydoll dresses in shades of sorbet. With her raven tresses and signature red lipstick, Perry was a kind of retro manic pixie dream girl, a cross between New Girl’s Zoey Deschanel and Lily Allen.

This early era of Katy Perry’s style also introduced fans to what would become Perry’s enduring quirkiness, and something that has persisted throughout her career. Take, for example, this sequined Jean-Charles de Castelbajac dress, emblazoned with President Barack Obama’s face, that she wore during the 2008 MTV Europe Music Awards.

As her star rose in the late 2000s to early 2010s, the singer favoured soft, feminine silhouettes on the red carpet, turning to designers like Marchesa and Dolce & Gabbana and favouring flowing fabrics like chiffon, tulle and silk. This aesthetic was in line with an emerging ingenue who was finding her style as her star rose.

In the summer of 2010, Perry released her third studio album, Teenage Dream, which was not only a defining moment for many millennials, but also for Perry’s style. We’re talking about Perry’s rainbow hair era which saw the signer cycle through electric blue and lilac wigs. Whether Perry was donning pastel clothing or wearing actual candy, she was, as UMusic notes, creating a  “technicolor dreamworld,” always with a slight retro twist.

And then, in 2017, that all changed. After an extended break, Perry returned with Witness and a divisive blonde pixie cut. This era of Perry’s style career saw the pop star take on a more contemporary and structured look, donning looks from designers Roberto Cavalli and Naeem Khan on the red carpet, with some to-be-expected quirk — like the bejewelled basketball corset she wore to perform at the 2017 VMAs.

In November 2020, Perry teamed up with Australian stylist Tatiana Waterford, and that’s when her more elevated style first started taking shape. In January 2021, Perry performed during the U.S. presidential inauguration celebrations wearing a sleek all-white caped look with an exposed corset from Thom Browne. It was classic, structured, patriotic (those blue and red buttons!) and pitch-perfect for the event. With subdued hair and makeup by artist Michale Anthony (who still works with Perry), the singer presented a strong figure and let her vocals — and the historic moment — shine.

Since 2021, Waterford and Perry’s collaboration has only gotten better. While people may have some opinions on whether American Idol is still relevant, the fact is Perry has been using the show as a runway to flaunt her new high fashion wardrobe, one that’s characterized by sculptural silhouettes, luxurious fabrics and avant garde designers— while still maintaining a bit of fun.

This month, Perry stepped her sartorial savviness into overdrive while on the Idol circuit. On April 1, the singer shared photos of herself wearing a brown velvet Schiaparelli halter gown featuring a pair of gold lips at the neckline. Perry paired the artful gown with the brand’s signature gold earrings, in the shape of — what else? — an ear.

The same day, Perry posted photos of herself in (and then struggling to get out of) a crimson bouclé Bottega Veneta dress with a drop waistline and accentuated shoulders. Perry and Waterford paired the gown with some of Perry’s signature quirk, adding matching opera gloves featuring appliquéd flowers from the brand’s Spring 2023 collection.

And most recently, Perry took to the judges table in a Schiaparelli-inspired confection, donning a custom two-piece set from Kate Barton featuring a metal breastplate.

Since taking her on as a client, Waterford has helped seamlessly transition Perry into this modern and more mature era,  maintaining many of the retro elements the “California Girls” singer has long favoured but iterated in elevated fabrics with expert construction. Perry has left behind her old interpretation of quirkiness, displayed through garish prints and outlandish accessories, in favour of a more grown-up kind of whimsy, communicated through the art of fashion houses like Schiaparelli. 2024 Katy Perry wears interesting looks in a way that allows her, not her over-the-top outfits, to take centre stage.

After almost two decades of often appearing like a caricature of herself, this fashion forward Katy Perry looks, dare we say, cool? Talk about a “Dark Horse.”

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