The actor, like many of us, took on several new roles during the pandemic: hair stylist, children’s book author, New York resident (while she filmed the seventh and final season of Younger), second-grade teacher to her son Luca, and perhaps most surprising... bike shorts convert. “I never thought I’d wear them again,” she says incredulously of the re-emerged loungewear trend. “It’s like 1997.”
Another role she’s taken on this year: fashion designer. Duff partnered with women-owned Canadian brand Smash + Tess for a collaboration of rompers. Dropping on February 23 and inspired by some of the influential females in her life, S + T x Hilary Duff is an elevated take on some of the label’s sell-out essentials. (Her favourite in the collection is the shoulder-padded The Banks Romper, named after her two-year-old daughter.)
The collab couldn’t have come at a better time, for both our current stretchy waistbands-only quarantine wardrobes and Duff’s own closet. As she tells Refinery29, she's “100 months pregnant” with her third child, which can make dressing a bit tricky and which also means that style and comfort are key. A former skeptic of the romper trend (typically too much drop crotch for someone who is 5'2''), Duff was drawn to working with a size-inclusive brand like Smash + Tess.
Not to mention that the collaboration, which first came up in June 2020, was a chance for her to do something artistic, after filming for the latest season of Younger was postponed due to COVID. (FYI for those seeking intel on the final season, no luck, we were told it was off-limits.) “I was like, ‘Oh, hell yes, please,’” Duff says of the opportunity. “It seemed like a really fun outlet to get away from cleaning my house and dealing with my kids all day. We made a lot of good memories during quarantine, but I was definitely hungry to be creative.”
Working with Smash + Tess is natural extension for the star, whose style has been A+ since the start of her career. For many millennials, the former tween icon's on-screen and IRL wardrobe evolved alongside our own; most of the time directly influencing it. As Lizzie McGuire in her breakout role, Duff made butterfly clips, bell bottoms, and training bras essential. (RIP to the Disney+ reboot and all the outfits that could have been.) As Sam Montgomery in 2004’s A Cinderella Story (up there with Brandy’s iconic version, IMO), she pretty much put pink Converse on the map.
Her caped Jenny Packham wedding dress, which she wore for her December 2019 nuptials to musician Matthew Koma, is still on my mind daily — it’s just that good. And, most recently, as publishing ingenue Kelsey Peters on Younger since 2015, Duff has made a strong case for taking the subway in stilettos. (And an equally strong case for me to spend my next paycheque on the Canadian-made SMYTHE coat she was spotted wearing on-set.)
Duff's pandemic style is a touch more relatable. Her quarantine faves, including her go-to bike shorts, probably look a lot like yours, as in super comfy. “I'm in love with this sweatpant movement. I love big chunky sneakers. It makes so much more sense for your life,” she says. "I'm even loving the look and feel of a little blazer and a cropped sweater. I'm talking about earlier in quarantine when I had my normal body,” she clarifies, “but comfort for sure."
Which isn’t to say that Duff has only been rocking chunky New Balance sneakers and sweats at home. A quick scan of her Instagram feed proves otherwise, showing plenty of red lips, cute nap dresses, and always a big hoop or statement earring (sometimes all at once). “I still like to get dressed up,” she asserts.
Case in point: She’s been buying shoes. “I just bought a pair of clear plastic heels,” she says. “I’ve done a few backyard [get-togethers] with some of my girlfriends and I’ve been out to dinner a couple of times before I started shooting, and it just felt more like a special occasion to put something cute on.” (Also on her list of deep-cut quarantine purchases is a pair of squared-toe Peter Do boots she styles with The Banks Romper).
As for what Duff does plan to wear when she can actually step outside the house for more than work and errands? “I'm excited for dresses and flowy things,” she says of spring 2021 trends. “Halfway through quarantine I started adding more colour into my wardrobe because I was feeling kind of sad. We're coming out of winter and it's been a tough year for everyone, so incorporating fun pops of colour here and there is important.”
As always, we’ll take our cues from the expert.