The fashion trends we'll be wearing in 2021: The new LBD, luxe sweatpants and pops of colour

After months spent in comfy Zoom-ready separates, you'll be pleased to know oversized cuts aren't going anywhere soon

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As 2020 finally comes to an end, we are all looking to 2021 with the promise of more hope-filled days. Covid-19 sounded the death knell for most of the ways in which we normally did – and bought – things, and the fashion industry has certainly been hit by the pandemic.

The dominance of a few major trends per season had been on its way out for a while. Unsurprisingly, then, the lockdowns and working from home have finally swept overarching fads out of the door, replacing them with micro trends, in an approach favoured by Gen Z, to be picked up and dropped again at whim.

Another new notion is that tracksuits are acceptable as everyday wear, albeit now with more upscale, embellished versions available. Conversely, with most events cancelled over the past year, there comes a longing to be able to dress up once more, seen now as romance-infused dresses and gowns, while the need to cocoon has resulted in an array of enveloping clothes, far too big for the human frame.

Finally, in the ultimate antidote to what has been a challenging few months for everyone, there is a shift to bright, vivacious colour as a sheer celebration of life.

Here we look at the ideas that will shape how we dress in the coming months.

Face coverings

Shields by Marine Serre

Hardly a surprise this one, as face coverings are not going anywhere for the foreseeable future, vaccine or not. With months to perfect their mask game, designers have responded with versions to counter the drabness of medical grades. Balenciaga elongated the neck of a jumper halfway up the face, while Marine Serre used its signature print to make a superhero Power Rangers-style catsuit, complete with hood and mask. Kenzo, meanwhile, went with a different tack, with beekeeper-style hoods worn over hats to act as protective netting.

Joyful colour

Valentino spring / summer 2021. Courtesy Valentino

A much-needed counteragent to the stifling mood of 2020, dazzling colours are being embraced just for the fun of it. Celebratory, life-affirming and just plain happy, this micro trend follows no real rules. Outfits can be worn as eye-popping head-to-toe neon like at Balmain, as a blast of fuschia as seen at Valentino and Stella McCartney, or as a bolt of green courtesy of Bottega Veneta. Whether worn as an accent, in blocks or as a bright pair of shoes, these colours are all about the feel-good energy.

Roomy trousers

Louis Vuitton spring/summer 2021. Courtesy Louis Vuitton

Call them palazzos, call them practical, but most of all, call them comfortable. After the sartorial ease of wearing tracksuit pants and stretchy leggings for the past 10 months, not many of us are willing to forgo comfort for the restrictive bunching of skinny-fit jeans just yet. Enter the wide-legged trouser, cut for ease as well as style. Seen at Louis Vuitton, Stella McCartney, Chloe and Fendi.

Balloon sleeves

Alexander McQueen spring/summer 2021. Courtesy Alexander McQueen

What started as shoulder pads a few seasons ago has now slid down the arm and morphed into puffed shapes. These are seen as Victorian era leg o’ mutton sleeves at Alexander McQueen and Loewe, while Gucci offers caught-at-the-wrist bishops sleeves, and Proenza Schouler adds a puff of fabric to its arms. This is about adding volume, to bring a shot of much-needed theatre back into fashion.


Rodarte spring/summer 2021. Courtesy Rodarte

Again, this is something of a no-brainer, given that most of us have been slouching about in these for most of the year. As the major houses get on board, expect more variation from the solid colours at Balenciaga, sporty chic at Gucci, and even jewel-embellished at Givenchy. Sweat tops have been stretched and given a frilled hem at Lutz Huelle, while Prada offers a high-fashion version, with retro patterning, and a matching skirt.

The new little black dress

LBD by Valentino

The fail-safe of every woman’s wardrobe, the LBD has had something of a makeover of late. No longer just a simple, fitted shape, it has evolved into something far more expressive. Now seen with extra-long faux sleeves at Raf Simons, covered with complex metalwear at Givenchy and blown into outlandish proportions at Loewe, 2021’s LBD is not so much about being discreet as making a sartorial statement.

Romanic dressing

Ulla Johnson spring/summer 2021. Courtesy Ulla Johnson

The flip side of a year spent dressing down is a new yearning to dress up. Luckily, there are plenty of feminine, romantic pieces to indulge in, including by Dior, Lanvin and, of course, Valentino, which all deliver dreamy, flowing evening looks. For something less dramatic and more suited for daytime, look to the pretty tea dress offerings from Ulla Johnson, Batsheva and Rodarte for looks resplendent in pretty flowers and dainty frills.

Tunic overlayer

Jil Sander spring/summer 2021. Courtesy Jil Sander

Another alternative to dresses is the longline tunic, to be worn over anything (including track pants) for an infusion of elegance. The dropped hemline adds height to the wearer, while the straight-cut skims hips for a flattering androgyny. If this is your thing, look to the likes of JW Anderson, Jil Sander, Fendi and Prada.

Oversized cuts

A floor-length, dropped-shoulder coat by Louis Vuitton

An umbrella term for any piece of clothing worn too big, be it a several-sizes-too-large boyfriend jacket, worn so the shoulders hang almost to the elbow, or trousers that pool around the feet, this is about taking joy in playing with shifting scale. First seen at Balenciaga, this has best been embraced by Loewe and Gucci, among others.


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