Beyoncé has entered her soft girl era.
She kicked off her Renaissance World Tour in Stockholm this month and it’s clear Beyoncé is entering a new chapter. The choreography is less intense, less technical. Her clothing isn’t being worn as armor. It’s still feminine but it’s not overtly sexy. Her look is less marching band majorette and more like a ’70s pop star in her prime.
Fashion is very much a part of the performance for Beyoncé, on and off the stage. The way she wears fashion, the designers she works with and the silhouettes she chooses inform her storytelling. In her latest stage costumes, Beyoncé is telling the story of a woman who is ready to let loose: She’s done the work, now it’s time to live a little.
She opened her show in Sweden wearing a custom Alexander McQueen catsuit with padding on the shoulders and hips, a nod to her previous concert bodysuits. Beyoncé worked with David Koma, a Georgian designer based in London, for an aquatic tie-dyed bodysuit and matching skirt. Courréges creative director Nicolas di Felice designed a shimmery silver bodysuit with a mirror in the center, a take on his fall 2023 collection.
Beyoncé also tapped Mugler creative director Casey Cadwallader, who referenced one of the house’s most recognizable pieces, the Robot suit from its fall 1995 couture collection. Cadwallader also reimagined Mugler’s “Les Insectes” spring 1997 couture designs for Beyoncé, fashioned this time as a bumblebee.
Beyoncé used Sandro Botticelli’s 15th-century painting, Birth of Venus, as a reference in two separate outfits. In the first, Balmain’s Rousteing, who Beyoncé worked with on previous tours as well as on her Coachella performance in 2018, designed a custom pearlescent bodysuit, a take on a piece from his fall 2023 collection.
In the second outfit, Loewe’s designer J.W. Anderson, reimagined his glove-print dress from his fall 2022 runway as a gold sequin catsuit, printed with its own version of gloves to match the pair Beyoncé wore, complete with long, red fingernails. Anderson also designed a pair of glittery billowing cargo pants — a first for her on stage — worn with a matching long-sleeved top and gunmetal breastplate.
The differences are subtle from the last time Beyoncé was on a solo concert tour. Beyoncé is no longer dressing to be her most efficient self as a dancer on stage. Instead, she is wearing pieces that are more structured and less conducive to vigorous movement.
During the Formation World Tour in 2016, for instance, Beyoncé relied heavily on leotards designed with exaggerated or puffed sleeves. She wore Balmain bodysuits with Victorian-era lace and ruffles that Olivier Rousteing created, a Michael Jackson-esque, military-style Roberto Cavalli bodysuit, a Victorian-Gothic DSquared2 bodysuit worn with lace tights and combat boots.
She was fighting for love and it showed on stage. There was an underlying yearning weaved through each of her tour looks as she sang the story of heartache and redemption from her sixth studio album, Lemonade.
Beyoncé’s largest world tour to date, The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour from 2013-2014, saw her perform 132 times, relying on varying versions of the sequin bodysuit to make the “Diva” appear larger than life on stage, like modern-day royalty.
This tour’s looks, like those billowing cargo pants, are introducing us to Beyoncé, the showman. The Formation Tour looks had a Southern gothic feeling of mourning, and The Mrs. Carter Show Tour looks featured pageantry.
Peter Dundas, the creative director at Pucci in 2013, created five looks for her, including a double-breasted black leather blazer worn with an oversize fedora and a silver sequined band jacket worn with pink mini shorts. Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci designed a white sequin bodysuit with a pearlesque peplum, and a black bodysuit with sheer long sleeves, matching capelet and leather baseball hat with cat ears.
Alon Livné created a flowing red halter dress with a high-split in the front. The Blonds created a gold-tone sequin bodysuit that appeared to show breasts and nipples and her body crystalized in honey. Koma printed a French horn on the bodice of a sleeveless bodysuit worn with a leather peplum. There was a blue crystal catsuit created by Vrettos Vrettakos.
Beyoncé’s I Am… World Tour in 2009, her third time headlining on the road, introduced fans to Sasha Fierce, the singer’s alter ego. The looks focused on leotards and body-conscious tops that allowed for vigorous movement in the highly technical dance performances we now associate with her stage presence.
“Sasha Fierce is the fun, more sensual, more aggressive, more outspoken side and more glamorous side that comes out when I’m working and when I’m on the stage,” Beyoncé said. “I have someone else that takes over when it’s time for me to work and when I’m onstage, this alter ego that I’ve created kind of protects me and who I really am.”
For the tour, Beyoncé worked with Manfred Thierry Mugler, the French designer behind Mugler, who created 10 looks for the singer and also dressed her background dancers and 10-piece band. Mugler worked as the tour’s creative director, bringing Beyoncé’s dreams to life via the costumes, lighting, and set design. He told Women’s Wear Daily he wanted the costumes to reflect” “the duality between being a woman and a warrior.”
Her looks on stage oscillated between soft and hard: a wedding gown when she sang “Ave Maria” and an armored bodysuit when she sang “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).”
When Beyoncé announced her seventh studio album, Renaissance, in the July 2022 issue of British Vogue, editor-in-chief Edward Enninful wrote she was “poised for her next evolution, one that promises vision, grace — and something a little bit extra.”
Her Renaissance World Tour delivers something better: a very grown and a very sexy Beyoncé.
She’s 41 years old, a wife and mother of three. Beyoncé has won the most Grammy Awards of any artist and sold millions of albums globally. She’s not the same woman physically or emotionally we saw on previous tours. Not only does the costuming reflect this on stage, but so does her attitude. She’s lighter on her feet, sillier, and definitely softer. Beyoncé’s no pushover, but she’s no longer leading with her hard edges. Perhaps because she’s at the beginning of a personal renaissance.