After a year of digital fashion shows, this month’s New York Fashion Week marks the official return to in-person designer showcases. But if the past 18 months taught us anything, it’s that we no longer need to follow trends as set by the runways. Personal style trumps industry standards, dress codes are meant to be broken, and fashion rules no longer apply. Long live experimentation and personal expression.
If you told us a year ago that by 2021 we’d have tossed the technicolor sweatsuits and be reunited with “going-out tops,” no less ones held together by no more than a fleck of metal, we’d have scoffed in disbelief. And yet, pin tops — the barely-hanging-on garments frequently modelled by Hailey Bieber and Kaia Gerber — are as much a reality as billionaires going to outer space.
Now that the doors to the outside world have been unlocked, it’s time to ditch the shapeless nap frocks of quarantine for a shorter, spunkier dress that says “Where to?” For proof, see Bella Hadid on the fall ‘21 Off-White runway in July wearing a teensy tiny tube-top dress. In the electric blue number, she showcased more attitude than everyone in the socially distanced Paris venue combined.
In February, a trend that was less high-fashion and more Mean Girls took over Fashion Month: cut-outs. Ever since, similar peek-a-boo moments and cheese grate slits have become a standard of red-carpet events and street-style roundups, with new and even more revealing sartorial windows to our skin appearing by the day. The latest round of cut-outs, though, takes the cake: ovary pants, bottoms that expose the oft-hidden patches of skin bookending the pelvis. Proceed with caution.
In order to keep your Instagram content flowing during quarantine, you likely had to get creative, propping up your phone against whatever support system allowed for full-body visibility. The most creative and extroverted among us resorted to using books, candles, and trinkets purchased during one too many Etsy splurges as makeshift tripods, to balance our phones until the self-timer ran out. True experts even managed to do so without shattering their screens.
With the environmental impacts of our consumption habits increasingly on our minds, a growing number of brides-to-be are now opting for a secondhand or rented wedding dress. According to Lyst’s 2021 Wedding Report, searches for pre-owned wedding gowns have doubled since March. It makes sense: Who wants a dress that will live out the rest of forever in a box under your bed after being worn just once? Consider it your “something borrowed.”
Connell’s chain, Regé-Jean’s spoon-necklace combo, and Harry’s pearls used to be enough to stoke our desires in lockdown. Now, we need a little more than an ID bracelet to wet our whistles. Luckily, there’s a new thirst-trap “jewelry style” in Hollywood that goes a little (or rather, a lot) deeper. Timothée Chalamet debuted a double-cartilage piercing at Cannes, as did Lil Nas X at the iHeartRadio Awards, and Gossip Girl’s Evan Mock in the reboot. BFFs and bandmates Machine Gun Kelly and Travis Barker sport matching nose rings, while Michael B. Jordan and Drake officiate their bromance by wearing identical diamond studs. Who needs pearls when you can have piercings instead?
Picture this: It’s 2004 and The Suite Life of Zack & Cody is competing with That’s So Raven on the Disney Channel. Raven-Symoné shows up to a movie premiere in a denim pleated mini skirt with a matching jean jacket, a “That’s Amore” T-shirt, and a white logo-covered Louis Vuitton bag that perfectly matches the silk scarf tied around her head. At another premiere, Ashley Tisdale dons an equally extra combination that includes a gold sequin mini skirt layered over light-wash flare jeans and gold ballet slippers. She’s carrying a keyboard-shaped clutch and her white T-shirt is bedazzled with the phrase “Dream Bebe.” Chaotic? Maybe, but it’s also similar to the messy-chic fashions of today (see: Maryam Nassir Zadeh resort ‘22 and Ganni’s spring ‘22). After wearing nothing but sweatpants for a year-plus, we want to wear everything in our wardrobes and then some.
Whereas we once wore headscarves on our heads, tube tops on top, and bikini bottoms on the, well, bottom, fashion now seems to be as topsy-turvy as everything else in the world. In turn, scarves have become tops, tube tops are now mini skirts, and swimsuit bottoms — with the right adjustments — can be worn as bikini tops or even sports bras. And maybe it makes more sense than we think. As consumers aim to reduce the environmental impact of their consumption habits, they are buying less and getting more creative with what they already own. Or perhaps they, too, like to watch how-to-style videos on TikTok, no matter how bananas the suggestions.
Over the past decade, workwear has all but been obliterated. Wall Street has embraced business casual and Silicon Valley declared the hoodie the official conference-room uniform. But after 18 months in a pandemic, the WFH reality has eradicated any remaining need for any dress codes. “Business comfort” — ie. work-ready activewear, casual blazers, office-ready sneakers, cashmere trousers — is poised to take over old-fashioned workwear. We’re never looking back at our constricting 9-to-5 ‘fits.
Every wardrobe is built on a few essential building blocks: the T-shirt, a blazer, jeans, to name a few. But now, as the pandemic shifts people’s priorities and needs, so do the basics that they wear. Meet “subversive” and “avant” basics, the two trends challenging our capsule closet staples. While the more grounded subversive basics — think: NSFW cut-outs on bodysuits and mesh turtlenecks — could be attributed to our collective thirst for rebellion, avant basics — psychedelic prints, pastel ribbed sweaters, and trippy cow prints — invite us to escape to a fantastical world. Either way, we’re ready to dress the part.
The ‘90s are back — at least, so says the memo coming from TikTok. Using the hashtag #ArchiveFashion, the app’s creators are dusting off crucial moments and pieces from the industry’s history, such as Alexander McQueen’s robot shows, Tom Ford’s Gucci reign, and Vivienne Westwood’s corsets. With over 14 million views, this hashtag is fostering a community of archivists, historians, critics, and fans who work together to bring capital-F fashion to the masses, and even help mere mortals to get their hands on vintage Chanel.
It’s been almost two decades since the first wave of fashion bloggers emerged online. They were witty, funny, and well-researched — worlds apart from the curated sameness that has taken over Instagram since. Now, TikTok is spotlighting a new generation of fashion names — no #ad included. Instead of singing the industry’s praises, these influencers aren’t afraid to say how it is, going from comparing a couture look to a “fancy hotel soap” to offering unapologetic takes on industry news. They have a lot to say and nothing to lose. Relax, it’s only fashion.
After well more than a year of being stuck home, we’ve gone back to our teenage-bedroom days — if not literally, then at least style-wise. From jelly shoes to acrylic rings, the last year saw the rise of nostalgia-inducing trends. See: Laura Ashley floral clogs created in collaboration with Aerosoles, Ganni’s pastel-coloured bib collars, and platform shoes fit for a Bratz doll. Who says we can’t play dress-up to feel good again?
So much stopped making sense in March 2020. The same can be said for bras, the constricting, often wired device that’s “supported” (more like: “suffocated”) women’s breasts since the mid-20th century. Still, the pandemic didn’t completely flatten the bra industry — though many have ditched the undergarment for good. From loose-fitting bralettes to wire-free sports bras and new kinds of padded tops, brands are meeting people halfway, adhering to our desires to free ourselves from the constricting structure of a traditional bra while giving them the support we need — and, most importantly, want.
It’s been seven years since Jeremy Scott’s Moschino put McDonald’s-themed outfits on the runway. Now, the fast-food world is stepping into the world of fashion. From Panera Bread-branded swimsuits and Whataburger's x Academy Sports logo T-shirts and shorts to Saweetie’s McDonald’s merch — which includes pastel-coloured sweatpants, shorts, and hoodies with chicken nuggets graphics — it seems that every food brand is working hard to make its customers walking billboards. Surprisingly, the “fashion” looks almost good enough to eat.
After the isolation of quarantine and lockdown, the emerging trends confirm that, even when standing six feet apart, we yearn to belong. From a renewed interest in couple style to the viral #BamaRush on TikTok, everyone’s using style to find a group raft to climb into. “One of the main motivations behind dressing a certain way is to fulfil that human desire to belong and to be aligned with a group,” Shakaila Forbes-Bell, a fashion psychologist and the founder of the site Fashion Is Psychology, tells Refinery29. What’s your clique?
Blame it on the forthcoming Little Mermaid reboot starring Halle Bailey or the general yearning to commune with nature amid lockdown that has also fuelled the pandemic plant and cottagecore booms, but maritime prints are taking over fashion. From Versace’s runway which saw wet-haired models donning seashell-printed dresses and two-piece sets to Burberry’s show that was inspired by “a love affair between a mermaid and a shark” in the spring, to more recent mermaidcore drops by Hill House Home, Rixo, and Tombolo x Le Sirenuse, there’s no better time to channel your inner Ariel.
“Who are you wearing?” is the question that plagued red-carpet coverage for decades. But, as live events disappeared last year and TV characters became the new style icons, the real question in our minds is “Where can I get what they are wearing?” Hence, the rise of Instagram accounts dedicated to chronicling and ID’ing the outfits worn in TV shows, from the Gossip Girl reboot to Sex And The City’s revival ...And Just Like That — before the shows even air.
If mushroom-print fashion and reishi-infused beauty defined seasons past, this trend is all about fashion made out of fungi. In particular, Mylo, a vegan mushroom leather created by Bolt Threads, has emerged as a fashion-favourite alternative to animal-derived leather. Long-time environmentalist Stella McCartney introduced garments made of the novel material in March. Since then, Adidas entered the game with a Mylo version of its signature Stan Smith sneaker and Lululemon unveiled a Mylo yoga mat and bags from the “fabric.” Even Hermès, the luxury brand known for its leather goods, announced that it will be launching its first-ever vegan bag made out of mushroom-based Sylvania developed in partnership with California-based start-up MycoWorks.
Say hello again to your middle-school wardrobe. With the return of '00s pop-punk bands like My Chemical Romance and Dashboard Confessional and the rise of TikTok-age emo hit-makers (Willow Smith, Olivia Rodrigo, and Machine Gun Kelly), we’ve seen these angsty, pop-punk-influenced qualities of this musical genre seep into high-end fashion as seen on the runways of R13 and Monse. Even tweed-clad Chanel entered the conversation, sending out models in fishnets and graphic tees down the runway at its resort '22 show. A loud graphic tee, checkered mini skirt, ripped tights, and lug-sole shoes are no longer a reference to your 2008 Warped Tour getup.
We’ve entered a new age of narcissism. If you scroll through TikTok or Instagram, it’s like the world is yelling, “All eyes on me… or at least on my ‘fit.” A coping technique to help us process the last year and a half, Main Character Syndrome has us all believing that we are capable of our own celebrity. If life is a movie, then the “every day is a red carpet” mentality makes perfect sense. Whether it’s wearing something attention-grabbing or sharing ‘fit checks online, we all crave more glamour and drama in our day-to-day lives. Preferably the kind that doesn’t resemble a horror film.
A year of being unable to act on our desires IRL has its consequences. The need to wear our lust is undeniable. The rise of the naked dress is a perfect reflection of our general societal horniness. So are the see-through, mesh pieces, body-hugging frocks, and ultra-short minis that have become ubiquitous on the streets and runways alike. We long to be seen, and to see others, ideally without too much clothing in the way.
Despite resistance from millennials who survived the low-rise jean revolution of the ‘00s, pubic bone-grazing pants are back. Not only are celebrities like Emily Ratajkowski and Rihanna giving the two-inch zipper their stamp of approval, but Instagram-beloved labels like Miaou and I.Am.Gia, as well as runway brands like Blumarine, are taking shoppers back in time with print-heavy, leather low-rise styles that would look perfectly in place on a Coyote Ugly extra.
Even before the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute announced its forthcoming two-part exhibition, “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion,” many were asking what it means to be an American designer amid the social-justice reckoning and calls for sustainability and body inclusivity in the fashion industry. Designer Kerby Jean-Raymond answered the question in July when he presented Pyer Moss’ debut couture collection, becoming the first Black American designer to be invited to participate as part of the Paris Couture Fashion Week calendar, with looks inspired by inventions created by Black entrepreneurs. Earlier in the year at the inauguration, Vice President Kamala Harris and First Lady Jill Biden submitted their votes when they appeared in designs by Black, immigrant, queer, made-in-America, and sustainable designers, signalling a bright new era in American fashion. It’s about time.
Fashion editors have long provided inspiration for film and TV (see: The Devil Wears Prada, Funny Face, The Bold Type, etc.) And while insider cameos aren’t a new phenomenon, the last few months saw an influx of familiar fashion faces popping up in pop culture. The new Gossip Girl — whose original was marked by appearances by stylists-editors Rachel Zoe and Joe Zee — featured The Cut’s top editor Lindsay Peoples Wagner (as well as designer Christopher John Rogers). A photo from Instagram account @andjustlikethatcostumes, dedicated to costumes on the forthcoming Sex and the City reboot, teased “world domination” with a shot of Paper Magazine editors Mickey Boardman and Mario Abad. Even Vogue enlisted members of its staff to model alongside runway regulars like Precious Lee and Anok Yai for its September issue.
When the pandemic took hold last year, many doubled, if not tripled, their sweatsuit collections as they traded their desks for couches and beanbag chairs. As we return to the office and social events, many don’t want to give up the comfort of their WFH wardrobes. And perhaps they won’t have to. With the loosening of dress codes and the rise of trends like Athflow in fashion, sweatpants and sweatshirts are quickly becoming part of designer runways and, as a result, our day-to-day styling. Terry sleeves and soft pants forever.
For many queer people, TikTok isn’t just a source of entertainment — it’s where gender identity, gender expression, and style intertwine. Figuring it out is a complicated process, one that oftentimes feels overwhelming and isolating. Queer fashionTikTok reminds us that nobody is alone, and that the best thing about fashion is the combination of community and not being afraid to stand out. Thanks to its precise algorithm and a FYP that is a little too specific, it has become the place to trade queer styling advice, #OOTD inspo, and brand recs. It’s a reminder that fashion is meant to be fun, and there’s always a community to support you.
Gorgeously bright greens have replaced the chartreuse hues of seasons past, with runway designers setting sights on colours resembling freshly washed limes and chlorophyll-spiked smoothies. Dubbed “Leprechaun” by Pantone to evoke “the fun side of nature,” the fresh hue made its way to Bottega Veneta, Rodarte, Marc Jacobs, and Kenzo in the form of utilitarian, oversized getups that may inspire shoppers to, if not blend with the scenery for good after the year we’ve had, at least explore the great outdoors — in style.
Once congested with photos of influencers casually squatting on changing-room floors, Instagram has a new top-seeded pose for flaunting your ‘fit — or rather, your shoes. Born out of the need to show off our lockdown footwear sans photographer, the Boot Shoot, in which a reclining subject jauntily kicks their feet up for maximum below-the-ankle exposure, is a now-ubiquitous pose that allows one’s shoe game to be the main character of any (Instagram) story.