Despite the hardships of social distancing, we still got to enjoy an original and creative fashion month and many exciting spring 2021 fashion trends! Designers had to create their collections during a global pandemic, so for the vast majority of them, the designs are a reflection on or a response to COVID-19.
The way that collections were presented was just as interesting. For many designers, especially in New York and London, running traditional fashion shows was not an option. As a result, we instead got to enjoy the new collections through films, live streams, and lookbooks.
Many designers showcased their collections in videos set outdoors, while others decorated the spaces where they shot their videos or lookbooks with all kinds of flora. This was probably the most eco-friendly fashion month ever, thanks to reduced travel and the use of deadstock instead of new fabric. However, the environment didn’t show up as much in the spring/ summer 2021 fashion trends.
It was also fascinating to see the different directions labels went in as far as the summer 2021 fashion trends were concerned. We noticed two major themes emerge: some designers took a more practical route with clothes meant to comfort, while others submerged themselves in fantasy and escapism.
Without further ado, let’s see what the spring/ summer 2021 fashion trends have in store for us!
#1. Lounge Chic
One of the more practical spring 2021 fashion trends is loungewear. After all, with so many of us spending more time at home, it makes sense to seek comfortable but still chic clothes! Designers created all sorts of comfy outfits that blur the lines between professional wear and pajamas.
Tom Ford started things off at New York Fashion Week with brightly colored satin trousers (fitted with a branded elastic waistband that got mixed reviews from fashion editors) paired with matching sweaters.
The Hugo Boss collection featured ultra-cozy satin lounge pants combined with light blazers with a relaxed yet narrow fit in pastel tones that are super fitting for summer 2021 work-from-home fashion.
For something a little bolder, we loved the leopard printed matching set of soft trousers and a button-up presented by Naeem Khan. We saw a similar silhouette but crafted out of raspberry pink satin at Zero + Maria Cornejo.
#2. Ultra-Relaxed Suiting
If you can’t get away with wearing an actual pajama during your Zoom meeting, an ultra-relaxed suit will certainly feel like one while still looking professional. Suits were already taking on a slouchy silhouette, but for the spring 2021 fashion trends, they were truly everywhere, and they were slouchier than ever.
We expected a relaxed fit from anything presented by Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen for The Row, and of course, the twins delivered. However, relaxed suiting isn’t something we’d expect from the usually highly tailored collections of Christian Dior. There was still some structure thanks to belted waists, but otherwise, skirt suits were voluminous and comfy, with a lot of room for movement within them.
There were quite a few slouchy suits at Altuzarra, mostly in neutral shades like white, gray, black, but we found ourselves drawn to the one yellow-colored suit, which offered a more vivacious variation on the trend. Finally, Tory Burch presented a very summer-ready slouchy suit in a buttercream shade, with pinstripes adding a more professional touch.
#3. ‘80s Vibes
The 1980s were a very eclectic time from a sartorial perspective, but they are always one of the most easily recognizable decades. The outrageous mishmash of fits and colors that took place in the ‘80s was so unique and memorable that even those of us who didn’t live during that time can recognize it in an instant.
The Louis Vuitton collection showcased the ‘80s in a few different ways, though mostly it was about the styling. First, there were copious, neon-printed T-shirts and mini dresses. These were often topped with puffy beige coats or slightly oversized or large-shouldered trench coats, or paired with ultra-slouchy dress pants reminiscent of ‘80s menswear.
Natasha Zinko’s inspiration for her spring collection came from scary films, quite a few of which were very firmly set in the ‘80s. This led to a few notable looks, including a puff-sleeve dress with a high-low balloon skirt.
We even spotted an ‘80s-inspired look at Dolce & Gabbana, with big hair, a T-shirt that was big at the shoulders tucked into high-waisted shorts, finished off with a pair of patchwork high-top sneakers. We spotted some more ‘80s looks at Aniya, Philosophy, and Versace.
#4. Upcycled Patchwork
Patchworked garments were all over the runways this season, making it clear that it’s okay to mix and match patterns, even all in one item! One of the reasons why patchwork was such a key trend this season is because designers made a point to go through their deadstock and to use scraps. This was both an eco-friendly way of designing and a question of availability: many factories closed their doors, and new fabric was a scarcity in the time of COVID.
This was exactly the case with the marvelous blend of florals patched together to make dresses and even harnesses at Preen by Thornton Bregazzi. The upcycling at Rentrayage was a little subtler, but there were still a few patchworked looks that made the designer’s environmentally-conscious approach clearer.
The entirely patchworked collection at Dolce & Gabbana probably generated the most buzz, just because the mix of colorful, shiny fabrics was so noticeably loud. The pair drew their inspiration from the fabrics of Sicily, which themselves represent the different cultures that have influenced the Italian island. Despite the overwhelmingly loud blend of fabrics, the clothes themselves were impeccably tailored.
The Marni collection made a statement about unity in times of hardship and distance, so it’s hard not to see patchworked garments as a metaphor for that. To create the collection, Francesco Risso had actually gone back to his archives and pulled apart old outfits from previous collections, and then put them back together in wild and creative ways.
In the case of designers like Matty Bovan and Rokh, patchworked collections were actually the continuation of a theme that the designers had already explored in the past.
#5. Dual Fabric
We’ve been noticing dual-fabric, half-and-half dresses make an appearance in collections again and again over the last few seasons, and we weren’t too surprised to see them show up yet again.
Christopher John Rogers played with mixed patterns quite a bit, which included a long, dramatic mermaid dress made with one half out of slightly psychedelic checked fabric and the other half out of an abstract zebra print.
A button-up dress at Balenciaga looked like it was made of a combination of two different items: an indigo dress shirt and a long, dark dress that had simply been buttoned together.
Gabriela Hearst opened her carbon neutral show with an elegant, long-sleeved half-black half-white column dress, proving that this trend can suit even more sophisticated styles.
We noticed quite a few jewel-studded garments during the fall season, but designers took the embellishments up a notch for the spring 2021 fashion trends!
The use of jewel decorations at Givenchy and Alyx was most notable! We mention the two collections in the same breath because both were designed by Matthew Williams. At Alyx, he covered both trousers and jackets (sometimes worn as matching sets) with silvery studs. At Givenchy, he decorated sweaters and see-through dresses with silver-tone, crystal-covered hardware.
The series of dresses that closed the Burberry show was made of a fabric so busily studded with crystals that from a distance, they looked like they were gleaming in silver. They were truly astounding, but we cannot begin to imagine how heavy they were. There was also a heavy-looking cami dress at Louis Vuitton that was covered with round, shiny discs.
#7. Modern Corsetry
Rare is the season when designers stay away from the sexy appeal of a form-flattering corset. For the spring/ summer 2021 fashion trends, the corsets designers presented had a very modern feel, with smooth, structured designs.
We have to start with the stunning corsets at LaQuan Smith, which came in either pastels or bright colors, with options both in satin and leather. They were frequently combined with tight trousers for a fitted party look.
Christopher John Rogers also presented brightly-colored corsets: one in blue, paired with matching cargo trousers, and another in orange paired with a floral blazer and trouser set perfect for a home-office.
David Koma’s tennis-inspired collection gave the corset a sporty twist! Corseted teddies were styled over lycra shorts or tennis skirts, in monochromatic white or bright red looks.
Another trend that continued to go strong in the spring/ summer presentations was cutouts, which retained their sexy, revealing allure!
The king of all things sexy, LaQuan Smith, gave us a wide-range of cutouts, from hip-baring bodysuits to one long, tight-fitting dress that revealed more than it hid with 7 variably-sized cutouts. Sandy Liang kept her placement consistent throughout the collection, showing a bit of midriff with a round cutout placed right below the breasts on a few shirts and dresses.
We loved the combination of a loose, relaxed fit with a couple of sexy cutouts along the side on a white dress at Gabriela Hearst.
#9. Lace & Crochet
Lace and crochet garments felt delicate and feminine on the runways and in the lookbooks this season. While they were not a totally new trend, they took on a new meaning for spring 2021, representing the kind of crafts done in the home and celebrating old-world artisanship.
We loved how Stella McCartney managed to give lace a modern, sexy feel in the form of a skin-tight, black mini-dress made out of the material and put together with more structured linework at the seams.
It was a little surprising to see lace at Chanel, and yet the label presented three delicate white dresses in a row made out of the feminine material.
The texture that lace and crochet can offer was an important part of the Zimmermann collection this year, which featured a lot of interesting options, including a long white dress with some transparency thanks to the crochet pattern and with fringe at the sleeves.
There were more examples of lace and crochet garments at Giambattista Valli, Fendi, and Valentino.
While we don’t think it’s quite possible to pass sweatshirts off as appropriate work-from-home wear (yes, even if it’s Balenciaga), it was still pretty fitting to see them show up as one of the summer 2021 fashion trends. We wouldn’t want to wear such high-fashion garments while literally sweating, but they’ll definitely complete your street style outfits, especially if it gets unseasonably chilly.
Speaking of, Balenciaga did indeed present a few sweatshirts and hoodies, showing how to style them with extravagant jewelry for a more upscale look.
Sweatshirts and sweatpants were a branding opportunity at Rodarte. They were made out of silk and printed with florals signature to the label or instead emblazoned with the phrase “J’aime Rodarte” in all-caps.
There were plenty more sweatshirt options for high-fashion fans at Undercover, Collina Strada, and Rag & Bone.
#11. Polo Collars
Polo collars are yet another entry in the “professional wear made casual” category of the spring 2021 fashion trends. Polo shirts have come in and out of fashion over the years, but their height of mainstream popularity occurred in the 1970s and, to a lesser extent, in the 2000s.
They’re associated with sportswear – especially more bougie sports like golf, tennis, and (this one’s a no-brainer) polo, and yet they don’t feel sporty.
We saw a lot of polo shirts at Miu Miu, with color schemes and styling that reminded us a bit of the ’70s, but in a very girlish way. Polo shirts were also a natural fit at David Koma, where the entire runway and collection were based on the designer’s love for tennis.
Polo collars were also used to enhance dresses, like the soft knitted maxis that Marina Moscone presented, and the dark, long-sleeved ribbed dress at Hugo Boss.
#12. Spring Knitwear
Designers are proving that wearing knits is just fine, all year round! If we’re still under quarantine by spring 2021, having some nice knitwear to cuddle in will certainly be appreciated.
On the Salvatore Ferragamo runway, we saw exactly how knits should look for spring in the form of a flirty sleeveless dress in a delicate pastel yellow shade. Knitwear was downright sexy at Rick Owens, where the wool was so light and sheer that the tight, asymmetrical garments were actually see-through.
Things were a little different at Marni, where items were pulled apart and put back together, as we previously mentioned when discussing patchworks. This resulted in worn-looking knitted dresses.
The looks got a little cozier at No. 21 with slightly oversized robes and sweaters in a chunky knit. There were plenty more examples of spring and summer knits in various collections, including at Hermès, Fendi, and Max Mara.
Feathers have had a comeback for the spring/ summer 2021 fashion trends! In some instances, the addition of feathers was a dreamy and escapist embellishment, while in other instances, it added a comfortable, soft touch to realistic outfits.
The feathers at Salvatore Ferragamo were added to professional everyday wear, with models wearing feather-covered pencil skirts or trousers rather than big, glamorous dresses.
At No. 21, feathers added movement and a sense of luxury to skirts and dresses, like an upgraded fringe. Our favorite was a mixed look that paired a cozy oversized purple sweater with a feather-covered skirt.
It wasn’t only about skirts, though. There was a cool cape at Koché that was covered in a mix of blue, red, and white feathers.
#14. Fantasy Dresses
Many designers took a step back from elaborate gown designs, but others doubled down on dramatic and fantastical dresses, seeing them as just the right item for a touch of escapism.
From Halpern, we got some unusual silhouettes tailored specifically for his real-life, frontline worker models. Our favorite fantasy dress was a spherical explosion of feathers in pink and black!
Molly Goddard, who is known for massive tulle creations, didn’t stray far from her signature style. However, this time around, her dresses felt to us like they were intentionally meant to be a little absurd and surprisingly comfy – the kind of massive tulle dress you’d wear to feel a little over-the-top while hanging out by yourself at home.
Elie Saab gave us more wearable drama in the form of stunning evening gowns. The designs were feminine and ethereal, but with a ton of power.
#15. Biblical Tunics
Many of the summer 2021 fashion trends represented a return to simplicity, and we can’t think of anything simpler than a tunic. The tunic has been a base garment historically, and it has existed for millennia. When we saw the tunics presented on the runways, we couldn’t help but think of the kinds of tunics often presented in Bible story recreations.
There were a few tunic dresses at Chloé with all kinds of different vibes, but a striped cream one really stood out to us, with its earthy stripes, unusual detailing along the collar and shoulders, and the thick leather belt cinching the waist.
The tunics at Michael Kors were mostly collared and even had some modern button-up shirt elements. However, something about the loose fit and the stripes certainly made them feel as though they’d be fitting if we had to go wandering in the desert.
We spotted a few more tunics appropriate for high-fashion first century cosplay at Tory Burch and Christian Dior.
#16. Broderie Anglaise
Much like lace, broderie anglaise is another technique that lends garments an innocent yet romantic charm. It’s all about fabric with little holes creating a detailed pattern and adding texture, and it usually shows up in white for added delicateness.
Broderie anglaise dresses at Loewe had both the airy feel that’s intrinsic to the fabric style and structure thanks to the way they had been layered. We loved that the broderie anglaise was part of the entirety of the fabric rather than just a detail, which worked well with the silhouette and layering style.
There is always something a little cutesy about an Anna Sui collection, and broderie anglaise certainly fits into that. This season, the designer presented some truly sweet dresses with broderie anglaise details, including a long and pretty white dress in broderie anglaise topped with a sheer, ruffled over-layer embroidered with yellow flowers.
The Rokh collection purposefully paired dark and edgy details like black harnesses and combat boots with more delicate elements like broderie anglaise collars.
Strappy touches added a slightly undone vibe to a lot of the spring outfits. Some fashion bloggers noted that they had a bit of a ‘90s vibe or perhaps a grunge feel.
Christopher Esber, an Australian designer with a penchant for racy designs, used straps and ties to add interest to a variety of wrapped and revealing dresses. At Jacquemus, there were two types of straps: straps added to dresses and tops to create a more interesting variation on a typical cami, and straps wrapped around the belly to give a fun twist to crop tops.
We saw a similar added strap to a bandeau-style bra at Givenchy, which, combined with a transparent top and some loose black shorts, certainly reminded us of ‘90s grunge, albeit in an updated take.
#18. See-Through Maxi Dresses
What’s a spring/ summer season without some gossamer fabrics showing off bare skin? There were a lot of examples of loose, free-flowing clothing this season, and the best way to turn them into something sexy was by making them transparent, of course.
It’s not surprising that the first example we have of such dresses is from Valentino since Pierpaolo Piccioli has been a fun of crafting see-through dresses for a few seasons now. The show ended with a flowy, caped sheer red dress worn over a pair of matching high-waisted shorts, but there were many other see-through dresses in different shades throughout the show.
At Alberta Ferretti, we spotted a sheer coral dress with a sweet design, featuring long, voluminous sleeves and ruffles at the collar and wrist. There was a bohemian vibe to the loose, transparent dresses worn at Christian Dior thanks to the addition of long pendants and clever ruching.
#19. Net Dresses & Shirts
Net dresses have been an odd continuous trend for a few seasons now. This season, beyond just netted dresses, we also saw netted tops added to this slightly odd but fun summer 2021 fashion trend.
The Burberry runway told an oceanic story about a mermaid and a shark, so we imagine that the netted shirts a few models (male and female alike) work over their outfits were meant to represent a fisherman’s net. At David Koma, a crystal-studded, net-like cape was a beautiful way of topping an unusually revealing evening dress.
We’re not sure about the meaning of the net dress at Balenciaga, which was actually made up of shiny chain links, or any of the other labels that followed along with the trend. Dries Van Noten, Rick Owens, and Hermès also presented their own spring season takes on netted dresses.
#20. Massive Trousers
One of the sub-trends that arose because of the return to ‘80s fashion, and the new tendency towards more relaxed fitting was oversized trousers. Pants have slowly been getting larger and slouchier in recent seasons, but we’ve hit what might be the apex, with ultra-loose and voluminous, sometimes even pleated trousers.
At Chloé, such trousers had a high-waisted fit, front pleats, and excess volume around the hips, which worked well to give a feminine silhouette despite the otherwise traditionally masculine design. The front-pleated trousers at Fendi were less shapely. They sat lower on the waist and had the same looseness from top to bottom, giving a more unisex look.
We saw a ton more loose (especially pleated) trousers in dozens of other collections, including Giorgio Armani, Margaret Howell, A.L.C., Tibi, and many others.
#21. Bikini Tops
The spring 2021 trends guide us in two contradictory yet perfectly welcome directions: either we should wear no bras at all or we should only wear bras – who needs shirts?
One particularly common pairing was a bra with a blazer, which we spotted at Tom Ford, Etro, and MSGM. Maryam Nassir Zadeh went for a more casual pairing by combining bikini tops with oversized jackets or button-up shirts.
We also spotted a few stylish bra tops worn all on their own without toppers at Dolce & Gabbana and Tibi.
#22. Bras Over Dresses
Stylists have been experimenting with bras over dresses for a few seasons now, and we must admit that we’re still not convinced. If you’re truly fearless and eccentric, you may like this addition to the spring 2021 fashion trends, but we’re not feeling it.
Versace always plays with wild styling choices, so this is not the first time we’ve seen bras worn over dresses on her runway. This time around, a neon-green bra was styled over a wildly striped, long-sleeved outfit.
At Drome, in addition to more bra and blazer pairings, there was also a look where a white bra was worn over a knitted polo dress. The unique combo was color-coordinated at Jason Wu, with a yellow bra worn over a green dress decorated with yellow flowers.
Finally, Simone Rocha had the most ostentatious take on bras over dresses, with netted jewel bras layered over dramatically voluminous dresses.
#23. Sports Bras
Comfortable yet supportive, sports bras are an integral part of athleisure. They can fit nicely into loungewear, so they took a more important place on the runways than we’ve noticed in previous years.
There was a very cool vibe to the fabric sports bras at Jacquemus, which had a low cut (and probably not super-supportive fit). One of the coolest looks featured a checked bra styled with a cropped cape and high-waisted trousers.
Sandy Liang bridged the gap between sports bras and crop tops, with tight-fitting tank top-like designs in brown. At Koché, a white sports bra with a dark band along the bottom was styled with a matching pair of shorts, making for a look that we think we could genuinely exercise in!
Even at Chanel, we spotted a strappy bandeau design reminiscent of a sports bra, although it was decorated with a shiny fringe that implied that it probably wasn’t ideal for sweating in.
#24. Big Sleeves
A jacket or dress with voluminous sleeves has a drama to it that combines femininity and masculinity, coziness, and power. The fact that voluminous (especially leg o’ mutton) sleeves were so ubiquitous on the runway made us reflect on the duality of the spring/ summer 2021 fashion trends and of life at large.
Ulla Johnson is the kind of designer who embraces feminine embellishments, so that’s exactly how we interpret the voluminous sleeves she added to the ruffled dresses.
Simone Rocha is a designer who always creates lush, romantic, ornate dresses inspired by historical silhouettes, so big sleeves are often showcased in her collections. This season, coats, jackets, and dresses definitely fit into her usual themes with slightly dropped but still voluminous sleeves.
At Loewe, Jonathan Anderson took leg o’ mutton sleeves to the next level with hugely voluminous, cape-like sleeves on both blouses and dresses.
#25. Balloon Shoulders
One welcome, new variation on big shoulders was a folded-over, voluminous balloon design. These necklines were similar to a balloon skirt but attached at the collar instead of at the hips. The result was romantic, unusual, and powerful. It definitely resonated as one of the more fantastic spring 2021 fashion trends.
Christian Siriano played with volume quite a bit in his spring collection, with balloon collars added to dresses both with and without balloon skirts. We loved the addition it had to the silhouette of a long, color-blocked white and yellow dress.
There were a few dresses with balloon shoulders at Lanvin, but we actually loved the luxurious and flouncy touch this trend added to blouses. Instead of a collar, big, voluminous sleeves had a balloon-like effect that contrasted against the rest of the bandeau-style top they were paired with at Jacquemus.
#26. Pointy Shoulders
Big shoulders have drama, but when they’re extra angular or pointed, they also add a very fierce touch to a look. They’re a little sci-fi and all-around badass, so we’re excited about their addition to the spring 2021 fashion trends.
Notably, the Balmain show opened with two neon-bright suits, the blazers fitted with dramatically pointed pagoda shoulders. What followed were more suits as well as dresses with the intense shoulder silhouette.
The tango-inspired Maison Margiela included a series of jackets with fabric deconstructed and re-attached at the shoulders to add a hollow, pointed touch. There was an architectural take on sharp shoulders at Givenchy in the form of flat, square capes, with the corners of the square emphasizing the shoulders.
#27. Skin-Tight Fit
Sexy came in all forms in the spring 2021 fashion trends, including skin-tight fits that show off curves and swerves! Other designers used skin-tight fits not to convey sexiness but just to add some easy layering to looks.
LaQuan Smith presented overtly sexy takes on skin-tight garments, with curve-baring bodysuits and dresses. At Mugler, the tight-fitting dresses had a slightly wild feel thanks to asymmetrical necklines and cleverly-placed cutouts.
On the other hand, the skin-tight bodysuits at Marine Serre actually served to cover and conceal. They were primarily styled under other garments like dresses or separates.
#28. Open-Back Dresses
I don’t know what happened in recent years, but it’s been a very long time since we thought of open-back dresses as integral to seduction. Or at least, that was the case until the summer 2021 fashion trends came along and changed that! The great thing about an open-back outfit is that while it is sensual, it’s not necessarily seen as obscene or overly revealing.
The best example came from Givenchy, with skin-tight, curve-hugging dresses that exposed a span of back (as well as some elbow), and the cheeky strap of a G-string. Christopher John Rogers presented a sexy open back in his own way, with a colorful, knitted striped dress.
Skin-tight bodysuits at Hermès were not only open at the back, but the gap also exposed the sides. These, styled with skirts, looked enticingly chic yet serious. Nanushka, Dsquared2, and Victoria Beckham also featured some sexy or glamorous dresses with open backs.
#29. Uniform Mini Skirt
There wasn’t as much of a ‘90s influence on the spring 2021 fashion trends as there had been in fall, but that didn’t stop designers from crafting a few Clueless-worthy miniskirts with a uniform vibe.
Uniforms were a big part of the inspiration at Miu Miu this season, and the collection included a wide range of skirts. There was a whole series of adorable jewel-embellished miniskirts paired with colorfully striped collared shirts.
Tweed was the miniskirt material of choice at Chanel, of course. There were a few minis that hit just a bit above the knee for an office-appropriate look, as well as one short and more playful mini covered in pearls.
Finally, at David Koma, models walked on a tennis court as their runway, wearing miniskirts clearly inspired by tennis uniforms. One skirt made things extra explicit, in black, with two embroidered rackets in silver along the side.
Vests had a special place in the summer 2021 fashion trends, often worn on their own rather than as part of a complex three-piece suit. We saw a few different vest styles, and we liked… well, most of them.
Let’s start with the faux vests presented at Burberry. Trench coats, which are emblematic of the brand, were designed with panels of denim over the shoulders and torso that made it seem as though a vest was layered over the trench.
For something a little chicer, Akris presented well-tailored vests with peplums worn over smart culottes in a look that’ll be appropriate in any professional environment.
Emporio Armani, Hermès, and Tod’s all showed us how a vest could be worn all on its own as a cheeky top, instead of a more casual tank top, especially if it’s styled with a looser pair of trousers.
#31. Breast Patches
There are all kinds of ways to draw attention to the chest, from low-cut necklines to elaborate bras to sheer tops. Well, patches or prints are another way to go about it. You can accuse us of prudishness, but this is one of our least favorite spring 2021 fashion trends.
We noticed this technique used on a ruched dress at Burberry, where gathered circular patches made of the same fabric as the rest of the dress were attached over the breasts. There was a similar design at Christopher John Rogers, where a striped turtleneck featured a circular break in the pattern right over the model’s chest.
At Schiaparelli, rather than separate fabric panels, a button-up shirt was printed with two circular designs that mimicked the breasts ostensibly hiding underneath.
Photos via Vogue