Trends are much less influential than they used to be, but the fashion industry is still creative and inspiring. It seems that almost anything goes, which is both frustrating and empowering. Frustrating, because we no longer have benchmarks clearly telling us what’s “in” and what’s “out”. Empowering, because every silhouette and proportional mix can look stylish when worn with conviction, confidence, a happy heart, and a good fit.
It’s important to remember that despite what’s happening on the runways or in trend forecasts, retailers will continue to supply the market with items that perform well at retail. Items will stick around for as long as consumers will buy them. That’s why skinny jeans — which get skinnier and stretchier every season — are in their fourteenth year, and still going strong. Designers do not have the power to control trends as much as we do collectively as consumers.
There have been a LOT of changes in the fashion and style industry in the last ten years, and most of it in the right direction. Fashion may not strike you as all that new because changes are gradual. So slowly over time, and often unconsciously, we get more and more used to so-called “fresh looks”, thereby absorbing them naturally until they are the norm.
I spent a week discussing trends earlier this year, and directionally, things are unchanged. To recap, here are the most important 2021 trends to keep either top of mind for Fall and Winter:
Now on to the specific looks, items, and details that are having their fashion moment.
In short: think modern remixed versions of ‘70s, ‘80s and ’90s fashion with a bit of ‘60s for good measure. There is something extremely compelling about these decades of fashion, which is probably why they continue to come through and influence today’s fashion so strongly. This is also a nod to sustainability, because it’s hip and fashionable to thrift, consign, and wear vintage items that are several decades old.
1. Looser Fit Bottoms
Fluidity is key because fits are roomier across all wardrobe items, and especially bottoms. Even tailored fits are more fluid than the norm. Items have a little or a lot of volume, yet are structured in all the right places. Body-con takes a backseat. This brings us back to how important practical comfort is for getting on with modern life. Fab that fashion is on our side.
Think bottoms that are a little or a lot LOOSER from hip to hem than tight skinnies. On-trend jeans and pants silhouettes include relaxed straight legs, balloon and barrel legs, lantern styles, wide crops, wide legs, bootcuts, mega flares, paperboy waists, waist pleated pants, cuffed hems, boyfriend styles, sailor waists, cropped flares, crossover waists, and joggers. Rises are high or mid lengths. Lengths are full, ankle or cropped.
A shacket is a casual oversized shirt and jacket hybrid. It’s thicker than a top but thinner than a winter coat. Some are lined and quilted, and quite warm. They are collared, boxy, and can range in length, pattern, colour and thickness. As an extremely easy throw-on-and-go type of topper, it might appeal to you. The idea is to wear it over anything, much like a short and light puffer jacket.
3. Relaxed Trouser Suiting
Wear a dressier suit in a loosely tailored or fluid fit with a tee, shirt, sweater, knitted top, sneakers, hi-tops, boots, loafers, and crossbody bag or backpack. Layer a gilet, vest, or coat over the top. The suit can be solid, patterned, neutral or non-neutral. This is not meant to be an occasion dressing thing. Just wear the suit like you would any pair of bottoms and jacket — only they match! — and get on with your day.
4. Sweater Vests and Waistcoats
A sweater vest is a pullover without sleeves.They can be tailored, fluid, or very slouchy. They come in all sorts of patterns and solids and can be worn over tees, tanks, bralettes, shirts, blouses, knitted tops and dresses.
A waistcoat is a short formal vest with front buttons that is worn over another layer like a shirt, tee, blouse, tank top, or dress. It’s a traditional menswear garment and can form part of a three-piece suit. That way you layer a jacket over the lot if you want to. It’s usually tailored, but fluid versions are also available. It can be worn buttoned or unbuttoned, and is a fringe trend. It’s fun over sleeveless tops and dresses for Summer.
5. Earth Tones
Earth tones continue to trend very strongly. Think spice colours and all sorts of browns like mustard, turmeric, curry, rust, burnt orange, cognac, chestnut, saddle, toffee, coffee, cinnamon, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, tan, sand, taupe, khaki, stone, maize, oxblood, burgundy, bronze, tortoiseshell, gold, and animal patterns in these earthy shades. Remix earth tones with ANY palette.
6. Saturated Colours
All brights and jewel tones are good. Red, citron, lime green, apple green, teal, chartreuse, orange, turquoise, watermelon shocking pink, cobalt, orchid, purple, and emerald green are popular, and remixed with ANY palette, all neutrals, and with each other. They are also worn from head to toe, or tonally from head to toe. Remix brights with pastels too.
7. Lug Soles and Platformed Footwear
This type of footwear has a strong ‘90s vibe, and is chunky, although more refined versions are available. Think platforms and flatforms with thick rubber soles and deep treads. Lug soles can be self colour or contrast. Back in the ‘90s, lug-soled footwear was heavy and black. These days, lug soles can be as light as a feather and bright white. I prefer footwear that isn’t chunky, and even I have a pair of cream lug-soled combat boots. They are on the less chunky side, which helps them suit my style.
8. Tall Boots
Dust off your tall boots. Think heeled or flat boots that are mid-calf, knee-high, and over-the-knee in dressy or casual styles. The idea is to wear them in that ‘70s, ‘80s and ’90s way. So combine taller boots with midis, minis, wide crops and skinnies. And tuck roomy pants and jeans into mid-calf boots with wide openings. Wear tall boots with hosiery and shorts. Wear slouchy boots. Throw in some Steampunk too.
9. Layered Turtlenecks
Layer a refined and lightweight turtleneck under items like shirts, dresses, vests, coveralls, blazers and chunky pullovers/cardigans, like they did back in the ‘70s. There can be an equestrian integrity to this look, which gives it a fab, iconically classic vibe.
10. Long Blazers
Blazer lengths that cover the bottom and hips, and extend onto the thighs, are where it’s at for now. Styles are single and double-breasted, and can be left unfastened. The idea is to wear them with anything, so dresses and skirts across various lengths, full-length and cropped pants and jeans across all sorts of silhouettes, and shorts too. Scrunch or roll the sleeves for structure. A turned-back contrast lining on the sleeve is a nice touch.
11. Puffy, Sharp and Lantern Sleeves
Puffy sleeves and elegantly billowing lantern sleeves continue to be strong on tops. Puffy sleeves that are gathered on the crown and tapered at the wrist are completely mainstream. ‘80s sharp shoulders are there, but I’m not sure this will ever be mainstream again.
12. Maxi Coats
Extra long coats that go over the knee are dramatic and warm. Lengths range from top of the calf to just above the ankle. They come in handy when you like the length of your coat to be the same or longer than your midi skirt or dress. Maxi coats can be casual or dressy, tailored or oversized, and in any colour.
13. Midi Skirts and Dresses
Skirt lengths are knee, calf and ankle-covering. Most of the silhouettes are A-line and flared in some way for ease of movement. Many of the hemlines showcase some sort of asymmetrical interest. Straight, pencil and form-fitting skirts and dresses are few and far between because it’s all about flow, fluidity, and movement. Tiered skirt and dress styles, bias cuts, slip dresses, all sorts of interesting pleats, and slip skirts look fresh.
14. Square-Toe Footwear
There is a wide variety of square-toe footwear. Toe boxes range from VERY square and chunky shapes, to more refined, with less square snip toes or round square toes. Snip-toe styles are pointy toe boxes where the tips have been “snipped off” to create a square shape.
15. Ditsy Florals
It wouldn’t be a heavily ‘90s inspired season without a good dose of dainty, ditsy florals. You’ll see these types of patterns make their biggest statement in dresses, blouses, skirts, pants, and scarves. There are also ditsy floral jackets, coats, shoes, hair accessories, handbags and belts.
16. Puffy, Baguette, Barrel and Belt Bags or Backpacks
Cast your mind back to the bags you sported in the ‘90s, and they are the ones that are on-trend for now. They’re small, so remember that you can sport a large work tote with a regular handbag in order to carry what needs to be carried.
17. Cosy Items
The industry has not forgotten that the global pandemic persists. Pandemic-popular items that are cosy and extra comfortable to wear while you work from home or go about your day are making a fashion statement. Office dress codes have relaxed too. These super comfy and cosy items are remixed with dressier items to create all sorts of combinations that are what I call “real-life-relatable”.
18. Anoraks, Puffers, Parkas, Trench Coats, Raincoats
Outerwear reigns supreme. The options are endless, the fabrics state of the art, and the silhouettes fun, architectural and functional. What used to be thought of as simply practical and not so stylish has become fashionable and fabulous. Wear practical outerwear with anything and make a statement with it.
Patchwork has a ‘70s bohemian vibe and works well in toppers, bags, and hats. It’s coming through in denim, dresses and tops too. Patchwork can be a creative way to fix damaged wardrobe items, or upcycle them. It’s also a way for designers and retailers to use leftover fabrics instead of wasting them.
20. Matching Sets
Outfit matching is big, and you can be creative about it. Think solid and patterned twinsets, two-piece dresses, two-piece sweater dresses, two-piece jumpsuits, pantsuits, all sorts of accessory complements, jewellery sets, knitted top and bottoms sets, handbag, belt and shoe sets, and sock and top sets. Go Team Matchy-Matchy.
21. Pattern Mix
Pattern mixing has become an important part of our fashion era because it’s one way to be maximal, creative, look interesting, and make wardrobe items more versatile. You can pattern mix in subtle or bold ways, and remix exactly as you like. These days, most patterns can be worn together if there are cohesive elements in the outfit that pull the look together.
22. Leather and Faux Leather
This trend is about leather and faux leather tops, shirts, skirts, dresses, pants and shorts. And across all colours. Leather and faux leather skirts, pants, shirts are especially popular. Make sure you are okay with how to launder the garments. And remember that it’s hard to press out the creases.
And last, the sneaker. Be it chunky or refined, fashion or athletic, low-top or hi-top, patterned or neutral, solid or patterned, hybrid or pukka, it can be worn with anything as long as you like the combination and it works in the setting. Sneakers are THE shoe of this fashion era.
I like all the trends. But some appeal to me more than others. At this point I have most of them covered because these days, trends last for many seasons. This makes it easier to add the ones you like thoughtfully and slowly over time.
In a few instances, I am attracted to the opposite of some of these trends. For example, I’m into wearing short fluidly tailored blazers instead of the on-trend long and roomy silhouettes. I like lug soles, but one pair is enough because I prefer daintier footwear. As for earth tones, they are everywhere, and I’ve had my fill for now. It’s most important to do your own thing, and don’t forget that!
Fortunately, there is a lot of variety in today’s fashion. If you are patient, and look hard enough, chances are high you will find what you are looking for. Over to you. Which are your favourite Fall and Winter trends?