Maggie Rogers is homeless. The singer-songwriter who came crashing onto the scene via a viral YouTube video of her song “Alaska” in 2016 hasn’t had the time to find a place of her own just yet. The 24-year-old’s parents still live in their hometown of Easton, Maryland, but Rogers has been on the road performing since last July, and she’s about to go on tour again, this time to promote her debut album Heard It in a Past Life. Last week, she sat down with Vogue just before stepping onstage for H&M Studio in Sedona, Arizona. Rogers was the surprise closing act of the mega-brand’s experimental, three-day immersive theatrical performance; by her own admission, the gig was a little bit out of her wheelhouse. “I don’t do a lot of brand stuff,” she said. “I’ve definitely done fashion events, but it’s usually me playing at a cocktail party and no one knows I’m there. This felt like I could really add something and have some sort of real impact on the audience.”
Rogers was slumped comfortably on a couch, smiling through a curtain of long, wavy hair and wearing a black Dickies hoodie underneath a suede jacket she found in a vintage shop in Amsterdam. “The boots are Calvin,” she said when I asked about her choice of footwear. “I mostly wear these onstage, but the other night I tried on these vintage red snakeskin boots and they totally changed the way I was performing. I moved differently, stood differently. Then halfway through the show I just took them off and went barefoot because I really wanted to dance.” Rogers’s personal style is much like her home-life situation at the moment: fairly undefined and freewheeling. She gravitates towards vintage (she says 80 percent of her wardrobe is made up of vintage clothes), not only because it’s what she prefers visually, but also because she is mindful of her eco-footprint.
Despite keeping a deliberate arms-length distance from the fashion industry thus far, Rogers really does love clothes. In middle school, she used to watch runway show videos on Style.com and over time came to realize how much fashion was “completely tied to my music and self-expression.” Her hair also plays a significant role in the way Rogers likes to dress day to day. When she was younger and had very short, simply styled hair, she wore things that had color and texture to add a bit of playfulness to her overall look. Now that she’s in the spotlight, the public tends to form opinions about her hair and her fashion vibe before she is able to articulate them herself. Said Rogers: “People see me and they’re like ‘velvet bell-bottoms.’ What the fuck? I’m not the ’70s darling everyone wants me to be. My personal style is something that’s always evolving and it’s a mix, in the same way people have a really hard time describing the genre of music I make.”
That much was apparent when she sat front row at Rodarte’s Fall 2019 show in Los Angeles at the beginning of February, dressed in a metallic silver ruffled peasant blouse and matching sequin pants. “I like glitter, I like fringe, I like shiny things,” Rogers said. “I also like raw fabrics. I guess at this moment, I describe my personal style as a mix between a space cowgirl and a San Francisco art teacher.”
Typically, Rogers will decide what to wear onstage hours or minutes before a show, explaining that she finds “ a lot of power in wearing something comfortable. I play music the best when I feel comfortable, so I just let it be about the work.” She is also quick to point out that, especially when it comes to music: “There are different expectations for your wardrobe depending on your gender and your genre. Women in rock are still very different than women in pop, and also, like when I was on tour with Mumford & Sons, they would just get onstage in whatever they were wearing that day. Most female performers feel like they can’t get away with that.”
Rogers used to wear “crazy costumes” during her performances, things like jumpsuits and capes inspired by Matisse cutouts, made for her by Karen O’s costume designer Christian Joy. She had fun in them, but realized pretty early on that she wore these pieces because she was scared. “It was easier for me to play a character onstage, to dress up and suit up to access this performance mentality. I do like that sometimes, but I also want to make sure that it’s enough if I just show up in whatever I’m wearing,” she said, adding, “I’m finding some middle ground between these elements. I want my performances to be fun. Some nights I’ll wear jeans and a T-shirt and others I’ll wear this velvet zebra-print two-piece.”
Rogers eventually wants to find a full-time stylist to help her sort through some of these trickier fashion questions, but for now, she isn’t on the red carpet much and isn’t making too many TV appearances, so she is okay navigating the stylistic waters on her own. Rogers will often confide in her peers and ask for their advice when it comes to fashion, including having “sisterly” backstage wardrobe sessions with Florence Welch and getting an Excel document of secret vintage spots around the country from Lizzy Plapinger.
Growing up, Rogers idolized many women in music, mostly for their talent but also for their approach to the way they dressed. “Maybe this says enough about me and my style, but I really looked up to Patti Smith and Shania Twain,” she said. Twain’s video for “That Don’t Impress Me Much” taught her that sometimes, especially in a music video, “you don’t even need a treatment, you just need an outfit,” she said. “She just performs the song in the desert; nothing happens in that video aside from the fact that she’s got a fucking hat box and it matches her outfit. Or there’s Britney Spears in “Hit Me Baby One More Time.” There is a treatment, but what you really remember is the schoolgirl look,” said Rogers. She also loves Stevie Nicks and Björk and Solange. “I’ve always been fascinated by the way that Björk and Solange in particular use styling as part of their work. It’s art direction and I find it so creatively challenging and cool, but I don’t know if I want what I wear to be art direction,” she said. “I like for my style to be almost so perfectly not a part of the story.”
At the H&M Studio party, Rogers sang three songs and wore a boho-inspired zebra-print frock from the Fall 2019 collection with her Calvin boots. She looked comfortable, ethereal almost, seated in a chair with nothing but a guitar and her soulful, mesmerizing voice. The dress looked beautiful on her, but it wasn’t part of her act. She was as much herself onstage as she was in the Dickies hoodie and vintage jacket. Rogers may wind up wearing glitzy Rodarte to her next gig or maybe a vintage velvet blazer. For the moment, she’s a rambling artist with no foundational home or closet or set of rules for herself. “Personal style, like music, is something that is always evolving,” Rogers said. “I like a lot of different things and that’s just who I am.”