Few can pull off the bohemian look quite like Florence Welch. Donned in lace, silk, and vintage patterns, the now 35-year-old star always looks like she’s stepped barefoot out of a fairy utopia. And that’s precisely the point. Adding magic with every touch, the essence of Welch extends further than just her music. Citing the need for clothes that aren’t restricting and allow her to move and flow onstage, you’ll often see Welch with her striking red hair in a floor-length flowy gown that puts her right in the middle of her own Botticelli painting.
For over a decade, Welch has been serving looks like only she knows how. From powerful suits to pixie drapes to 70s glam, we unpack the style evolution of the iconic frontwoman of Florence and the Machine.
In the beginning, an upcoming Welch was trying to find her place in a world that was growing with intriguing pop female artists. Going against the likes of Lily Allen, Amy Winehouse and an early Katy Perry, Welch approached the pop world, and her early twenties, with something different to say. Finding herself nestled in the iconic ‘indie sleaze’ era, a time where looking as though you were on day three of a cigarette and vodka bender was a vibe, Welch briefly fell into the aesthetic of kohl eyes, tousled hair and band shirts. In fact, around this time she exclusively wore her male bandmates’ clothes on tour in order to fit the casual, boyish aesthetic.
When Florence and the Machine’s debut album Lungs dropped in July 2009, it propelled Welch into the world headfirst as a star. With its folksy hums and dramatic percussion, paired with the electricity that is Welch’s voice, Lungs established the band as a breath of baroque fresh air at a time where indie rock was really starting to ramp up. Tracks like the White Stripes-esque ‘Kiss with a Fist’ and the out-of-this-world ‘Dog Days Are Over’ were suddenly popping up in films and TV from the gothic Jennifer’s Body to the glimmering Gossip Girl. And not even a year later, the band would be asked to pen a track for the third instalment of The Twilight Saga, Eclipse, a franchise that excelled in its moody, indie prog-rock soundtrack.
For the next year or so, Welch embodied her newfound fame like a baby animal learning to walk. She tried on a bunch of looks but none of them really seemed to match her authenticity. No matter how hard she tried to fit in, something just never looked quite right, and there was the answer. Welch couldn’t fit in because she was born to stand out. She eventually ditched the trends that weren’t sticking, such as mini dresses, heavy eyes, and unnecessary accessories, and started slowly establishing her role as pop’s favourite boho princess.
By the time the band’s second album Ceremonials rolled around, a now 25-year-old Welch had been riding the waves of success from Lungs for the past two years. And in that time, she figured out what worked well and what didn’t. Ceremonials was a lot like Lungs although it contained a deeper and more cohesive image. The drums got louder, the songwriting got more hauntingly beautiful, and Welch was beginning to shape her style around the music.
Described as ‘chamber soul’, Ceremonials plays out like a theatrical show, which makes sense then that Welch began to look like she had walked straight off a Broadway show in 1920. Draped in magnificent gowns of glitter and silk, Welch became more vintage than modish, swapping her band tees for couture coats and her heels for boots. She played around with accessories still, but instead of just adding more layers, each piece made a statement. Making a statement seemed to be Welch’s new brand, and as Ceremonials absolutely took off (the album is hailed one of the band’s greatest, earning two Grammy nominations and appearing on several publications’ Best of 2011 lists), she only further stepped into her role as the greatest showman.
It became clear that the edge of Welch was the emotion she carried, finding a way to effortlessly turn her pain into something grandiose. To reflect that, she had to look the part too. Not only did she find her knack for floor-length dresses that suited her slender but powerful frame perfectly, she began experimenting with campy suits and art deco patterns to truly let herself stand out in a crowd. Perhaps in one of the most fitting collabs, Florence and the Machine penned a track for Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, a film that was oversaturated in Luhrmann’s iconic, eclectic, and flamboyant style.
How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful (2015)
After a year-long hiatus, Florence and the Machine returned to music with a more stripped-down approach, thus marking the beginning of Welch’s true folksy bohemian era. Where Lungs and Ceremonials felt like orchestrated epics, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful took a more refined and intimate look at a star who had been in the game for a few years and was beginning to see the cracks show from it.
A few years prior, not long after her 27th birthday, Welch began her journey down the road of sobriety, which could explain the need to take a second to stop the show and simplify things a bit. As she neared her thirties, the grandeur of Welch slowed down and instead of effulgent fabrics and jewellery, she started getting comfortable in chiffon and 70s inspired blouses. The album played around with more bluesy and folk elements and the drama the band were so known for was pulled back to an acoustic, wistful hum.
While the theatrics of Welch were well loved, seeing the star so comfortable in the stillness was like she had finally returned home. This, the world came to realise, was who Welch was always destined to be; a mythical, free being who turned everything she touched into fairy dust. Donning felted floppy hats and perfectly pressed trouser pants, she was part hipster and part a 70s Joni Mitchell, and the music she was creating seemed to reflect a more mature and wiser self.
High as Hope (2018)
From 2015, Welch seemed to stay married to the bohemian aesthetic, revolving her laidback and radiant looks to match certain events and occasions. She’d strut around onstage in a sheer, frilly gown and look like a Renaissance queen on red carpets. By now, the star had been around long enough to take over the throne, and she no longer needed the assistance of elaborate getups to help her get there. Often barefoot with simple jewellery and her flowing red hair, Welch established a look of her own, one that only she could really do justice.
The band’s most recent album High as Hope represented the new era of Welch well, even down to the stripped-down cover of the star in a pastel pink dress. It was simple, curated, honest and intimate, and it saw Welch finding solace in the loneliness. Dealing with personal topics such as the eating disorder she suffered with, heartbreak and loss, it seemed to do a lot of reflecting on behalf of the star. Now about a decade into her career, she had come a long way from trying to fit the indie pop mould and instead had learnt how to sustain her empire by being her authentic self.
Becoming a brand ambassador for Gucci’s jewellery line in 2016, and the face of their Gucci Bloom fragrance in 2020, it’s clear to see the inspiration the brand has had on Welch. From their mixed patterns to delicate florals and curtained frocks, Gucci of recent years has aimed to find ambassadors that suit their vision well, and a pixie-like Welch couldn’t be more of a perfect fit. The more Welch grows, the more mesmerising and ethereal she becomes. Trading opulent beats for just a simple backdrop to her powerful voice, the star’s energy couldn’t be brighter and it’s in her authenticity that it shines. There truly is no other being like Florence Welch, not in this universe anyway.
Florence and the Machine’s fifth studio album ‘Dance Fever’ is out May 13.