From Crayola-colored dresses to ’70s-inspired denims and decadent leathers, the spring/summer 2021 collections brought us an array of covetable trends to excite and inspire. In a season like no other, when runways were live-streamed without audiences or else not staged at all, there was a tangible sense of reaffirming the joy of fashion – celebrating the art of dressing up for those rare occasions when we do go out and the idea of dressing your best to feel your best. Comfort, too, was key, with slippers and knits taking center stage for new-season wardrobes, ideal for this increased time spent indoors. Stay ahead of the game with our cheat sheet to the ultimate trends to wear next season and beyond.
There’s something endlessly alluring about the color red – the hue of passion, love, adventure and energy. This powerful shade packs a punch in the SS21 collections, where it’s used top-to-toe for maximum effect. At Valentino, designer Pierpaolo Piccioli used it on whisper-thin Grecian gowns that felt instantly romantic, while a 1940s elegance was offered at Emilia Wickstead and Fendi, where midi-length silhouettes were cinched at the waist and paired with a ladylike heel. The key is keeping the rest of your look pared back – think slicked-back buns and minimal accessories to let the red really sing.
For SS21, leather returns to reinterpret everyday classics into decadent pieces worthy of investment, from sumptuous midi dresses with poufy sleeves at Gabriela Hearst to A-line maxi skirts at Paco Rabanne, and supple suiting and kaftan-style dresses at Altuzarra. After FW20’s earthy hues of sand, khaki and chocolate, leather is back in its most classic black for SS21, feeling instantly fresh and distinct from the lighter-weight cottons and colorful hues we will otherwise be filling our new-season wardrobes with. Thanks to an array of pieces already on offer, it’s never been easier to get a head start – look for utilitarian garments like shirts, midi dresses and loose blazers and pair with simple T-shirts and turtleneck sweaters to luxe up everyday styles.
The humble slip-on, which has been the subject of surging demand this season for its indoor-outdoor wearability, remains a sure-footed favorite for SS21. This hybrid shoe is made fresh with playful silhouettes: Proenza Schouler showed squashy mules that were reminiscent of clouds – a symbol of comfort if ever there were one – while JW Anderson updates the classic penny loafer with a gargantuan buckle that turns this simple mule into a swashbuckling silhouette that’s as ideal teamed with a sock and slacks as worn with midi-length dresses.
Denim loosens up for SS21, with a distinct ’70s edge. Wide-legged silhouettes featured at Chloé and Balenciaga, where jeans sat high on the waist, cinched with a belt, but were loose in the leg for ultimate comfort that does not sacrifice on style. Don’t confine this daytime classic to weekend wear, however: Paco Rabanne channeled a distinctly more evening feel with delicate lace crop tops and daring leopard-print jackets, while Balenciaga’s Demna Gvasalia once again offered a new take on office dressing by styling them with a boyfriend shirt and slides.
Ever romantic, the puffed sleeve has become something of a wardrobe mainstay in recent seasons, but the SS21 collections dialled down the girlishness and brought a tougher attitude to this favorite sleeve silhouette. Whimsical designer Cecilie Bahnsen rendered her billowy dresses in black, which gave them an altogether more fierce mood. At Loewe, designer Jonathan Anderson played with puffed proportions, with billowy sleeves featuring on shirt dresses, and reinvented as drop-waist peplum hemlines on functional cotton-twill coats. Isabel Marant, meanwhile, offered curved-sleeve cropped jackets and button-up poet’s blouses, while Gabriela Hearst showed utilitarian shirt dresses and Altuzarra turned the volume up on the traditional trench with a puffed sleeve that transformed this classic piece into a contemporary must-have.
The boyfriend shirt is one of the most classic pieces in any wardrobe, but for SS21 the mannish button-up gets a feminine spin. At Valentino, oversized shirting was given a new energy when rendered in shocking-pink hues or delicate white lace, while Simon Porte Jacquemus cropped his shirt under the bust in a midriff-baring cut that is ideal paired with high-waisted pants or ankle-length skirts; in a flocked nautical print, the button-up felt quaint yet decidedly modern. Nili Lotan and Nanushka offered everyday staples in a more muted palette, the latter’s shirt dress, with its fitted waist and gentle A-line silhouette, making an ideal layering piece. Buy these now, wear them forever – a good shirt will never get old.
Nothing lifts the mood quite like a pretty dress or a painterly palette of color, and the SS21 collections combined the two to bring us dresses cheery enough to put a spring in one’s step. Saturated pinks were seen at Valentino, Roksanda, and Molly Goddard, who turned her usual signature diaphanous tulle designs into a versatile cotton midi dress, replete with spaghetti straps and a ruffled skirt that feels both ’50s tea dress and ’90s girly grunge all at once. JW Anderson and Proenza Schouler amped up the orange, with sculptural space-age skirts and slinky cut-out details that turn daytime dresses into night-time wardrobe allies. Best worn with a sunny disposition.
Say hello to the Modern Black Dress, your new wardrobe failsafe. From sporty cut-outs to sweeping column gowns, the little black dress has been reinvented for SS21 with entirely contemporary proportions. Khaite and Coperni showcased seductive evening-style slips, while Valentino took FW20’s trend for 1970s fringing and turned it on its head by applying it to a cape-like dress that felt distinctly modernist rather than retro. At Victoria Beckham, the MBD came with peekaboo details that will work as well for summer evenings as in winter with an extra layer underneath, while Peter Do’s elegant maxi dress offers maximum versatility with its deep front-scoop neckline – match the top worn underneath to your mood. Wear all season long with simple strappy gladiator flats and add a pop of color with a statement clutch.
Can’t bear to shed your winter warmers when the temperature starts to climb? Thankfully, with these spring-ready knits, you won’t have to. The SS21 collections turn the failsafe sweater into a trans-seasonal hybrid, combining button-up shirt and T-shirt silhouettes at Proenza Schouler and Anna Quan with a merino fabrication – so cozy yet wearable, you won’t want to take them off. Roksanda adds a poet’s sleeve to a classic sweatshirt silhouette that is the epitome of smart-casual style, while Joseph offers dreamy draped pullovers that need no styling. Your ultimate work-to-weekend wardrobe is here.
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