We all know the ways in which 2020 changed our wardrobes: Sweatpants replaced jeans, hoodies settled into the real estate where button-downs used to live, and most of our shoes didn’t take one step out of the closet. But we’re three months into 2021, so it’s time to look ahead. While fashion month would usually serve a perpetual stream of inspiration with runway shows, presentations, and street style, the mostly digital formats have forced fashion folks to seek it out on their own. Instead, stylists like Karla Welch and Rachael Wang are finding it in unlikely places—and as a result the pieces that will define style in 2021 aren’t the typical trend-cycle mainstays.
“For me, I have really been focusing on using the ritual of getting dressed in the morning as part of a grounding and centering ritual to step into my best, highest self every day,” says stylist Erin Walsh, who works with Anne Hathaway and Thandie Newton. “What you wear can actually lead you to walk into your best life if you let it.”
Ahead, seven fashion insiders, such as Walsh, Net-a-Porter fashion director Kay Barron, and stylist Solange Franklin, (who works with Mary J. Blige, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Michelle Pfeiffer)—pinpoint a look from anywhere, be it a runway moment from Tom Ford–era Gucci, an old photograph of their grandmother, or even a present-day look book. Read on for what they said—plus ways to shop exact pieces to embrace their inspirations.
Inspiration: The Row
I dress almost entirely for function now, and a certain level of minimalism has provided a respite for me from the chaos. To be honest, I have no idea [how my personal style will shift over the next few months]. The way I dress is so emotional, it’s hard to predict where my heart will be this year. This look is a blank slate. Appropriate for nearly any occasion, it symbolizes safety to me in the face of the unknown.
Life Link Necklace
I never adopted sweatpants and a hoodie, or all day pj’s, thankfully. Every working day, I still get dressed as if I am going to work—though I gave up with shoes after about a month—as it is so advantageous to my mental state. I find that I can’t concentrate if I am not properly dressed, and I discovered that years ago when I was a freelancer. I have so many loved pieces of clothing in my wardrobe that now have nowhere to go, so I like to take them for a spin around my kitchen. It puts me in a great mood. I have also found myself changing midway through the day for when I want to feel differently about myself or what I am doing; it really helps.
I’m trying to be optimistic that the world will begin to open up again, that we can see friends, and step a toe back into a social life of some kind (please!!). Pre-2020, I wore a lot of black, and I still will, but I now appreciate the power of color and how uplifting it can be. I also want to get out of denim a bit more regularly, throw on a dress (something I very rarely wore in the past), or maybe leather and a great shirt, and hopefully actually leave the house.
Gucci always delivers on a dress, and this is in my black comfort zone, but with that hit of color I’m now embracing…gently. What a beautiful way to reenter the world!
Chain-Embellished Leather Slippers
Cropped Leather Flared Pants
Ascher Ruffled Printed Silk-Satin Shirt
Inspiration: Louise Bourgeois in Her 90s, photo by Alex van Gelder
It’s all over the place! Some days, I fully style myself out, and some days I throw on sweats and a beanie. One constant is that, even in sweats, it feels like my uniform. I try to put my spin and feeling on it. I think my style is where it is. Well before I’ve found how I dress and what makes me feel like me. If anything though, COVID has encouraged me to streamline and simultaneously love all the clothes!
The full Prada skirts, the Prada kitten heels, Saint Laurent suits, Céline jeans and blazers, my own white tees by X Karla, and anything Rodarte and Valentino makes my heart full.
The Crew Tee
Brushed Leather Slingback Pump
Saint Laurent Classic Suit
Inspiration: Michael Kors
I think this year, and going forward, getting dressed has to center around your intentions. How do you want to feel? Who do you want to be today? What energies do you need to harness? For me, I have really been focusing on using the ritual of getting dressed in the morning as part of a grounding and stepping into my best, highest self every day.
Personally, I have been reaching for the pieces that bring me elevated ease. Nothing too fussy, but nothing too flimsy or not substantial enough either. I need my clothes to center me and make me feel beautiful and powerful. Lately, that has meant a lot of white—I think I have been seeking to surround myself with clarity—helpful gold accents of jewelry that feel elevating, and textures that feel special and occasion worthy, like cashmere, silk, and thick wools, often mixed together. Nothing too severe. I also usually change into a dress to cook dinner in the evening; it helps me step into the role of ethereal cool earth mama that I like to embody in the evening.
I love this Michael Kors look for all the reasons I listed above. It is easy, it is sensual, it is elevated, it is practical, and it is a combination of the kinds of pieces that make you feel beautiful, powerful, and perhaps even capable of bringing something profound to the table. We all need to be bringing our best selves to the table, especially right now.
Ruffled Leather Collar
High-Waist Wide-Leg Trousers
Classic Fob Dream Necklace
Inspiration: Nude Maria Combing Her Hair by Cassi Namoda
Going through a shift to the indoors for pregnancy, quarantine, and maternity leave, the pandemic has created a space to center my home and my body. Both have gone through marked changes in their function and meaning, but both have thankfully provided solace! Dressing for artifice and armor has been replaced with streamlined intimacy and function. All in all, there’s just less of it. The ritual is nurturing the foundation.
I’ll be leaning in to organic luxuries and responsibilities. As a new mom, I’m reinforcing a commitment to care for my community and myself as a way to exemplify joy and respect for my daughter: organic materials; multifunctional items (breastfeeding right before or during digital meetings); heirloom pieces that I don’t have to take off; and support of Black craft in the form of art, dress, and dollars. Streamlined, but not minimal.
I feel like the control and care in ritual is present [in this photo]. And the bare but carefully selected objects that make us feel at home.
Le Cauri Endiamante Diamond Necklace – Demi Pave
Jug Drops in Gold Vermeil
Getting dressed for me has really evolved into such a process. Since we’ve all been working from home and been on video calls daily, I always have to start with what I am going to wear on top. When putting an outfit together, I definitely want to look pulled together, but comfort is key. Sweatpants are my go-to for bottoms.
I think my personal style will stay the same over the next few months. Even despite the shift in lifestyle over the last few months, what I’m gravitating towards continues to be pretty similar. I’ve always been a fan of fashion-forward prints and colors, so that will always come through with what I’m wearing; it’s just shown in a different light now in a more casual way.
I have always opted for chic yet comfy, on-trend styles, playing with prints and colors in new ways with each outfit. As mentioned, I am living in sweatpants right now, so the idea of dressing up a more casual piece, like a sweatpant, in a fashion-forward way is actually a fun challenge for me! I am also having so much fun with layers and experimenting with pieces like this Sister Jane Cami to dress up a more casual look.
Soft Wool Knit Pullover Sweater
Nimah Block Striped Sweater
College Jacquard Cami Top
Inspiration: Stand Studio
Over the last year, I have been on a fashion roller coaster. In early 2020, I was on the full Fashion Week circuit before life came to a sudden halt. I have worn more sweatpants and casuals lately than I would like to admit, and this past year has really contextualized what getting dressed means to me. It’s pretty simple: Now more than ever, it is more important to get dressed and show up for myself every day. I invariably feel more present and confident when I have pulled together an outfit, and that has really been lacking over the last year. The mental shift of dressing for myself, instead of who I may see, has been a healthy exercise in reminding myself of my values, priorities, and to not take everything so seriously.
With a career and personal focus on sustainability, I am committed to diving deeper into my closet and exploring how I can rediscover favorite pieces that haven’t gotten enough love in the past. I am excited to get dressed again and am committed to creating new head-to-toe looks to continue to reimagine my personal style on every level. Over the next few months, I am projecting a more refined, intentional, and tailored wardrobe. I am focusing on pieces that feel practical but still imaginative. I am ready to have a bit of balance restored and not feel so bleak. I will be taking more time to understand the ethos and impact of brands I’m wearing as it’s increasingly important to me and is a skill set I want to polish in the coming months.
I’m always drawn to unique, tonal looks, as I find them equally polished and playful. I love how the sporty hat, chartreuse top, and marigold-toned suit combo is a very unexpected yet grounded look. If I sat down next to a person wearing this suit, I would instantly want to be their friend, but would still take them seriously. This look has an opinion, but is still approachable, and I love that. When appropriate, I imagine myself reentering the workplace in a powerful and colorful faux-leather suit with boots that mean business and a bag that packs some edge, but still fits my laptop.
JerleGZ Long Sleeved Shirt
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