To paraphrase the viral TikTok created by Lorena Pages, we had so many cute outfits planned for last year that we couldn't wear. Pilgrim collars, micro minis, a bunch of strange new denim shapes — all of it seemed silly to throw on in the middle of a pandemic, especially when our actual at-home go-tos became items like leggings and $13 sweatshirts.
However, if part of your New Year's resolution was to get dressed more often and keep up with the latest looks, we feel you. And, luckily, there's good news: 2021's best fashion trends won't cost you a dime. Since styles such as mid-section belts and vests never truly had their moment to shine last year, they're still going strong, and those in the fashion industry seem to be quietly skipping over anything too fussy or over-the-top. Why wear a dress with a million straps and confusing sleeves when you can slip on a cozy maxi? Or throw on one of the 10 matching sets you've accumulated over the past year?
It's time to check out the 2021 fashion trends that are already in your closet, along with some tips on how to wear them to make them feel fresh.
The Old Way: We often see belts as a practical accessory; they hold up baggy pants and are more of an afterthought than anything else.
The 2021 Way: We were already coming around to the statement buckle, and now, more and more fashion influencers and icons are bringing back the mid-section belt. Try using this little extra to cinch a dress, blazer, or sweater, aka a trick that has returned from the early aughts.
The Old Way: As a bra! Sometimes, this more comfortable alternative would be layered under baggy shirts to provide an extra pop of color or print.
The 2021 Way: Bring on the "bracket" trend. Celebrities can't stop wearing bralettes under their cardigans and blazers, and there's no time like the present to give it a try. You don't have to match your bralette to your top layer, either — a simple black option will work with a multitude of looks.
The Old Way: This color combo is really a no-brainer. When in doubt, these basics come to the rescue, and there's no pairing as classic as a white button-down and black pants.
The 2021 Way: It's still as reliable as ever, but that doesn't mean you can't experiment. Add scarves, belts, and statement earrings, or play around with layering and pair your favorite white top underneath an elegant LBD.
The Old Way: Sneaking in that little extra pop, like a bold shoe or hat, to spice up some neutrals.
The 2021 Way: Go all out! And, don't shy away from borderline ridiculous combinations, either. Some of our favorite influencer and celebrity outfits take advantage of the color blocking trend, and there are so many shades that pair perfectly together.
The Old Way: As pajamas and loungewear.
The 2021 Way: Yes, matching sets and sweatsuits can still be worn around the house, but they work for social settings, too. We enjoy amping up these pre-planned looks with a chunky pair of white boots, a blazer, layered necklaces, or a peek-a-boo turtleneck. And, if you don't have a matching set (or, if they're all in your laundry pile)? You can easily create a similar monochromatic vibe with pieces in the same color family.
Voluminous Sleeves and Shoulders
The Old Way: In 2019 and early 2020, we were all about glamour. Nothing was too extreme, and we felt the urge to play around with drop earrings, polka-dotted accessories, and heels.
The 2021 Way: Sure, nothing is stopping you from channeling the '80s, but we've also grown to love puff-sleeved pieces all on their own. A voluminous dress creates the perfect one-and-done look (especially for video calls), and puff-sleeved tops quickly make leggings, jeans, and even sweats feel fancy.
The Old Way: Sneakers and boots were definitely the most popular flat style for the past few years, but we can't forget about loafers, ballet styles, and babydoll shoes. It's beyond time to take those out of retirement.
The 2021 Way: Add some longer-length socks to make them feel fresh and nail the preppy, schoolcore trend.
The Old Way: This dress style has always been one of the most versatile things we've owned. Headed out on a summer night? Throw it on with sandals and go. Going to a wedding? Dress it up with jewels and heels.
The 2021 Way: We've since dubbed this baby the "blanket dress," since it fully covers our legs on the days we spend chilling on the couch. However, we're all for testing out a few advanced layering techniques, like stying them over pants or a mesh turtleneck.
The Old Way: Admittedly, we've associated this whimsical print with summer. We blame picnic blankets.
The 2021 Way: Time doesn't exist and seasons are a lie. Wear this print head-to-toe all 12 months of the year, and definitely don't ditch those $50 slip-on Vans. They never go out of style.
The Old Way: We did go through a phase last summer where seemingly everyone began wearing vests as shirts, aka the shest.
The 2021 Way: We'll likely revisit the shest once things warm up again, but right now, we're looking at sweater vests as an accessory of sorts. They're a quick, easy way to give shirts and dresses a boost. Don't own a vest? DIY an old sweater by (carefully) cutting off the sleeves, or simply layer a muscle tee or tank over a long-sleeved shirt to create a similar look.
The Old Way: Um, remember when pants were tight and constricting? We love butt-hugging styles, but we definitely gravitate toward that feeling of free, flexible legs.
The 2021 Way: Create a balance with something cropped or slim-fitting on top to keep your baggy bottoms from coming across as lazy. Plus, you don't have to stick to just one pants style; wide-leg jeans, loose-fitting slacks, and yoga pants are all having a moment.