The Absolute Best Fashion Trends Of 2021

After spending months on end lounging around at home in our sweats due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we finally got the chance to head back out onto the streets in 2021 — and, for many of us, that meant rebooting our closets and getting experimental with our fashion. If 2020 was the year of loungewear, 2021 was the year of going big. In the fashion world, this year has been filled with unexpected, bold trends that took all of us by surprise — and we've loved every minute of it.

We've looked back over the past year to bring you a breakdown of the best fashion trends of 2021. From edgy tote bags to girl boss power suits to questionable 2010 throwbacks to retro fringe and beaded necklaces, this year was certainly filled with plenty of variety. Want to reminisce about all the wild, eye-catching looks we loved this year? We've got you covered. Here are the absolute best fashion trends of 2021.

Branded tote bags were all the rage

Everyone and their mother had their hands on a tote bag this year. Whether it was for popping down to the store for some groceries or for heading out for a lunch date, all of us carried a tote bag on our shoulder at one point in 2021. In fact, for many of us, the casual cotton tote became a bigger fashion statement than any designer leather bag could be.

As The Guardian noted in November, branded tote bags became a sort of status symbol. In the U.K., bags from certain cool, local brands, such as the Ginger Pig and Daunt Books, were commonplace on the streets. Some brands even latched onto the trend to sell new products. For instance, when Sally Rooney's new book was released, a tote bag was a big part of the marketing campaign.

The New York Times also noticed the tote bag trend. In August, a designer told them, "There's a trend in New York right now where people are wearing merch: carrying totes from local delis, hardware stores or their favorite steakhouse." Our guess is, this trend is here to stay.

Loungewear chic took to the streets

According to Business Wire, loungewear's popularity skyrocketed in 2020 — and we don't need to tell you why. With many of us working from home and socializing via our screens, it was a natural upswing.

Even though most of us shed the sweatpants once lockdown lifted, it wasn't always easy for us to go back to tight jeans, wired bras, or form-fitting crop tops after we'd experienced the luxury of comfortable clothing. So, in 2021, we found the perfect compromise: fancy loungewear. As Hola! reported in September, numerous celebrities, including Sharon Stone, Demi Lovato, Jessica Alba, and Angelina Jolie, opted for extravagant pajamas rather than red carpet gowns.

In 2021, we did say goodbye to our shlubby sweats for feathered, frilled silk pajama sets that offered both style and comfort. As far as we're concerned, fashion doesn't really get much better than this — let's hope this trend continues into 2022!

The power suit is in

In 2021, we wanted to look fierce — ultra professional, sophisticated, and confident. And what better outfit to show off that side of our personalities than the power suit? This year, the gender-neutral, fitted monochrome suit became a must-have.

As Vogue reported in 2021, power suits were all over the streets of Paris, Milan, and Copenhagen this year. The great thing about the power suit is that you can really get creative. Instead of opting for an all-black or navy suit, a power suit can come in any color of the rainbow — think bright red, pale pink, purple, or even patterned. Wear it over a shirt or with nothing underneath. Wear it with heels. Wear it with shorts. The options are endless.

We love the versatility and potential for personal expression that comes with this powerful, bold look. After a year of staying indoors, it's no wonder we all turned to such a statement!

Heels are back in style

Here's another trend that likely stems from our boredom of at-home style: heels. That's right — in 2021, we turned away from the comfort of sandals, sneakers, and flats and traded them all in for a pair of classic heels.

Whether it was a pair of summery wedge sandals, a low-key kitten heel, an open-toed mule, or a classic pair of sky-high stilettos, as Vogue noted, everyone was stepping out in their best shoes this year. And who can blame them? Heels certainly do (literally) elevate your look. They can make a pair of slouchy trousers look a little more pulled together. They can make a summer dress look like something out of a "Gossip Girl" cocktail party. They even go well with jeans, giving you that classic French girl look. While they may not be the most practical shoe, sometimes, a little discomfort is worth it.

The 1970s fringe jacket came back full force

When it came to outerwear, there was one style we saw everywhere in the fall. The retro fringed jacket certainly had a moment this year. While this classic look isn't a new trend, it came back with a bang in 2021. Everyone seemed to be going for the '70s cool girl vibe.

In March, Editorialist noted that "the resurgence of 1970s style" was "in full swing." "The popularity of the buckskin fringe jacket has never been more prevalent than it has in recent seasons," noted the publication. Town & Country concurred, writing, "If you love a statement topper, why not double down with an oh so chic fringe jacket."

Whether it was the classic tan jacket with fringe around the breast and pockets, or a more adventurous jacket with extra long fringe, these eye-catching, highly swingable jackets were the go-to spring and fall look this year.

Shades of brown were everywhere

One color that doesn't often get a lot of love is brown. It's an unexciting color that may bring up thoughts of mud or dirt, so it's easy to see why it hasn't always been the most stylish hue. However, in 2021, brown exploded onto the fashion scene. Everyone was wearing it. As The Guardian wrote in February, "Is brown the new black?"

Essentially, brown became the essential base color. From tan skirts to beige trousers to dark, nutty brown coats, there were various shades of brown everywhere. As Johanna Thomas, head of color at Coloro, told The Guardian, "During 2020, we noted an uptick in natural, restorative tones as consumers flocked to the great outdoors. Whether hiking, walking or camping, consumers were seeking comfort in grounding and authentic hues." In other words, brown was a natural choice in 2021, because we were all missing the calming effects of being in nature. No wonder we were all brown-obsessed.

Beaded jewelry was trending

Jewelry got pretty funky in 2021. We said goodbye to our classic pearls and our understated gold hoops, and, instead, we brought the bright and the bold with the seriously incredible beaded jewelry trend.

In September, Grazia took note of our obsession with all things beaded, noting that the trend stemmed from our post-lockdown desire to get creative. We were all drawn to beaded necklaces, earrings and bracelets because, as Grazia put it, they "conjure[d] up nostalgic memories of the long, free summer holidays we [were] craving." Glamour also took note, writing, "From the poshest designers, through to independent jewe[l]ery brands and the high street behemoths, everywhere you look there are sweet beaded pieces that remind us of summer holidays spent threading beads onto strings." The trend became so popular it even appeared on the runway at Versace's spring/summer 2021 show in the form of seashells on jewelry.

Some of us crafted our own unique pieces, while others flocked to local designers and boutiques to pick up their funky accessories. Either way, everyone was bedecked in beads this year.

Nods to the 2010s cropped up all over

There's a well-known saying that trends occur in cycles of 20 to 30 years. We already know that the '90s are back in style. But, in 2021, we got a bit ahead of ourselves and looked back into the more recent past, the 2010s. Love it or hate it, the 2010s experienced a real resurgence this year. The decade was filled with some questionable styles, but, nevertheless, we loved seeing some of these nostalgic looks coming back into style. As fashion TikToker Ari Arvand told Vogue, "The 2010s were a really fun and democratizing era of fashion, with the rise of fashion bloggers and it-girl Tumblr users who helped to shape a range of 'aesthetics.' I can totally understand why people who were too young to experience it the first time round are trying to experience that energy now."

We saw everything from low-rise jeans to peplum silhouettes to gladiator sandals to striped shirts appearing both on TikTok and on the runway. While some of the looks from the 2010s are definitely best left in the past, it's nice to see some familiar styles creeping back into the mainstream.

The mini skirt was super trendy this year

Wait a minute, was this 2021 or 1960? That's right — the mini skirt came back in full force this year in all its mod girl glory. While the last few years have been all about those long floaty prairie girl dresses, this blast from the past actually felt like a real update.

As L'Officiel noted in October, our obsession with the mini skirt was probably symptomatic of our time spent cooped up indoors. "As we emerge, our fashion is getting bolder, and our hemlines seem to be getting shorter," they wrote. And those short hemlines were everywhere. Brands like Miu Miu, Saint Laurent, and Michael Kors all featured mini skirts in their collections this year — even in their fall/winter collections! That's right, in 2021, mini skirts weren't just for the summer. Pair a mini skirt with some sheer tights and tall boots for the perfect trendy winter look this year. This look is definitely here to stay.

Vintage Gucci is having a moment

Gucci has always been a staple of the fashion industry. As every fashionista knows, their buckled loafers and green and red belts are pretty much as iconic as it gets. Even though Gucci will always be in vogue, vintage Gucci became extremely popular in 2021, thanks to the release of the Lady Gaga-led movie "The House of Gucci," which follows the Gucci family.

According to Forbes, many online second-hand clothing apps began to see an uptick in searches and sales of vintage Gucci. As reported by The Industry Fashion, Wethrift reported that searches went up by 270%, to give you some idea. The British brand Asda also began selling vintage Gucci thanks to the film.

So, which specific pieces became popular? Well, as Town & Country reported, some of the iconic Gucci outfits that made it to the big screen include the famous black and gold Gucci belt, a plaid trench coat, and, of course, a leather crossbody Gucci bag.

The vest-over-a-shirt look made waves

What was once the ultimate grandpa look has somehow made it into the top trend list of 2021. While the idea of wearing a knit vest over top of a button-up shirt may fill you with terror, it's actually super fashionable now!

In September, StyleCaster called the vest "the new blazer," citing Kendall Jenner as a vest trailblazer. InStyle also highlighted some stylish vest-over-the-shirt trends. You could wear a turtleneck knit vest over a tight black long-sleeved shirt, for instance. Or, you could pair an oversized v-neck vest with a black turtleneck underneath. The biggest vest trend, however, is the v-neck knit vest over a button-up, collared white shirt. This trend may take some getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, you'll love how cozy and confident you feel! Plus, a vest gives you a chance to add some color and personality to your more straightforward work outfits, so it really is a win-win.

Vintage checked coats had their moment

Yes, checked coats have always been a wardrobe staple. But this year saw a rise of popularity in a certain, somewhat surprising type of vintage checked coat — specifically, a "Withnail & I" checked coat. This British film features a scruffy, moth-eaten maxi coat. This unlikely item has once again caught the attention of the fashion savvy. As The Guardian noted, checked coats were all the rage in menswear lines of 2021.

But checked coats were also hugely popular for women, too. This was in part due to the album cover of Taylor Swift's "Evermore," which was released in late 2020. On the album cover and supporting imagery, Swift wears a stunning maxi-length Stella McCartney plaid coat that sent the internet into a frenzy (via Insider). And the hype for checked coats remained throughout 2021. As Grazia put it simply, "Tartan coats are big right now."

The cowboy boot made an impact

Thought the cowboy boot went out of fashion sometime in the '70s? Think again. This year, cowboy boots burst back onto the scene. And it's not hard to see why. 2021 called for big, bold looks, and cowboy boots certainly delivered. This is one of those styles that always grabs attention and makes a statement — and what could be better after a long year sitting in front of Zoom?

Who What Wear noted that bright, colorful cowboy boots were in during the warmer months, while more classic muted boots came back into fashion in the fall and winter. That's right, you can wear boots all year long! Nylon also picked up on the trend, writing, "With other western trends also in the mix, this boot is a guaranteed wear through fall and into next spring and summer." It seems that western-inspired looks are here to stay, so dust off those cowboy boots for 2022!

Monochrome outfits and masks shot into popularity

It isn't always easy to feel fashionable while wearing a face mask. However, in January, politicians and their family members showed us it was more than possible. One of the most memorable aspects of the inauguration had to be the outfits: namely, the outfits of three of Joe Biden's granddaughters. The three women went viral when they all wore synchronized monochromatic outfits. Everything from their coats to their gloves to their scarves to their face masks were perfectly matching. Michelle Obama, Jill Biden, and Kamala Harris also went for the monochrome look (via BuzzFeed).

It's no wonder these bold, colorful looks caused a stir. For one thing, they reminded us that wearing a face mask doesn't have to take away from your style. Plus, they also reminded us how one bold color is sometimes all it takes to make an impact. We just hope the monochrome trend continues into 2022.

Sequins are the sparkly trend taking us into 2022

Nothing is bigger or brighter than an outfit covered in sequins, so it's hardly surprising that after a year indoors, we wanted to add some sparkle (literally) to our wardrobes. Sequins were seriously in this year. "People are not just ready to get dressed up — they're ready to get dressed up in the most maximal ways possible," fashion journalist Joe Zee told Bloomberg. "There's something incredibly joyful to look at something that's shiny." Zee was referring to how almost every fashion designer included sparkles and sequins in their collections this year.

As Harper's Bazaar noted, the sequined looks of 2021 weren't necessarily like anything we'd seen before. This year, designers focused on incorporating sequins on seemingly regular items of clothing, such as pants, jackets, and day dresses. Want to end the year on a high? There's no better way than by covering yourself in glimmering sequins!