17 Celebrity Style Stars Who Dominated 2021
Entertainment had a 2021 comeback, welcoming the return of red carpets. With its revival, a new wave of young celebrity style stars were born, while a handful of established ones took the year to further evolve. Even though many of the most lauded celebrities occupy fields adjacent to or altogether outside of the fashion industry, many of them still find their way into the hearts of fashion enthusiasts all over with showstopping red carpet and street style moments.
With a year in fashion that felt most centred around individuality and experimentation, the outfits from Hollywood were wide-ranging, simultaneously providing inspiration, kick-starting trends, and sparking sartorial debates. Stars like Ella Emhoff emerged into the spotlight almost entirely unexpectedly, while others, like fan-favorite CFDA award winner Zendaya returned to continue a portfolio of ‘fits that began long before red carpets shut down in 2020. If looking back at some of the year’s most influential faces of fashion indicates anything, it’s just who exactly you should be paying attention to in the year to come. From Alexandra Shipp to Timothée Chalamet, here’s everything you need to know about the stylish bunch ahead.
The fact that Ella Emhoff’s career is first in the fashion industry separates the 22-year-old from many of her stylish peers. You may remember being introduced to Emhoff, who is Vice President Kamala Harris’s stepdaughter, at the 2021 inauguration of President Joe Biden in January. Most notably, you may remember her plaid Miu Miu jacket dress, its bold shoulders encrusted in caramel jewels. The event catapulted Emhoff into instant fame and fashion-girl status (she signed with IMG Models just days after), but this wasn’t actually Emhoff’s first introduction to the industry. A student at the time, and now a graduate of Parsons School of Design, the artist had already been sharing her crafty knitwear designs on Instagram. With a distinct look that weaves indie, androgyny, and the seemingly innate laid-back thrown-together-yet-it-makes-so-much-sense Gen Z quality, the “First Daughter of Bushwick” now finds herself immersed in fashion every which way you turn. She launched a knitwear collection with Batsheva in April, has walked fashion week with the likes of Proenza Schouler, Miu Miu, Lacoste, and Balenciaga, and was named the face of Adidas x Stella McCartney’s fall 2021 collection.
Where hasn’t 18-year-old pop star Olivia Rodrigo been this year, and when hasn’t she served a look for said appearance? Rising to stardom with her debut single “Drivers License” and corresponding album Sour, the singer won fans over first with her angsty tunes, and with her zeitgeist-capturing style immediately after. As you’d expect, the star often embodies the “pop princess” persona on the red carpet, donning sequined, feathery gowns and ruffled minidresses, but her taste and personality seem to shine most through her more semicasual looks. With Converse sneakers, Doc Martens boots, graphic tees, and Instagram-loved brands such as Omighty, I.Am.Gia, and Naked Wolfe as staples in her closet, plus a knack for thrifting from Depop, Rodrigo’s wardrobe is as awe-inspiring as it is relatable. Not to mention, she’s been at the forefront of a number of the year’s fashion trends, from butterfly motifs, miniskirts, and platforms, to the continued rise of archival fashion, having been known to don vintage Chanel (to the White House, no less) and Jean Paul Gaultier.
Officially, Lori Harvey is known as a model and entrepreneur, but unofficially, we’re dubbing her a perfecter of the balancing act of merging sultry yet relaxed style. On the red carpet, fans count on the socialite to gravitate toward anything sexy and slinky, be it floor-length chiffon gowns or turtleneck dresses with cutout details. Arguably, it was her style posts to Instagram, particularly in 2019 and 2020, that positioned Harvey as outfit goals. The SKN by Lori Harvey founder has since deleted most of her old posts (rebrand on the way?) and teamed up with stylist Maeve Reilly, and the pair have already created a number of memorable ensembles. Harvey still leans into an almost tomboy-meets-glam approach when it comes to street style (read: that midriff-baring baggy Vetements jeans and Bottega Veneta terry-cloth slippers number), and as of late, has dove into full-look appearances in cult-favorite brands such as Eckhaus Latta and Knwls.
Most recently praised for her role in Hulu’s The Great, Elle Fanning has been on screen since the age of 2, and with one of the most consistent aesthetics of any Hollywood star, it seems the actor has been fine-tuning her look for as long as she’s been of age. Fanning’s wardrobe choices for red carpet appearances often lean on ultrafeminine, prim and proper details. For instance, there’s a lot of pink, and it’s safe to say tulle, floral, and bows (both on clothes and in her hair) are kind of her thing. Though almost methodical and never off brand, Fanning still manages to experiment consistently. But the Hollywood darling also occasionally throws fans completely off course (in the best way) with edgier looks such as the black tulle Gucci gown she donned at the 2021 Independent Spirit Awards, and her ensemble for the 2021 InStyle Awards, where she arrived in a crystal-encrusted version of Balmain’s mega-statement spring 2022 chain-link top. Then there’s Fanning’s street style. It often comes with a refined, Parisian flare, typically involving black, white, and navy tones over the aforementioned. We’re not surprised these are a hit with fans, as they’re often primed for re-creation, with blazers, jeans, turtlenecks, suits, and ballet flats being key components of the Georgia native’s everyday wardrobe.
Euphoria breakout star Hunter Schafer is as experimental of a dresser off screen as she is in character as Jules Vaughn. Having already walked for Miu Miu and Dior prior to her first acting role, it’s no surprise her unique sense of style would draw even more eyes following the show’s success, having since also been cast for a Mugler lookbook, and being named the new face of Prada in May. While beyond fashion forward, Schafer’s personal style is so avant-garde, it seems to almost defy mainstream trends. Donning statement pieces such as Rick Owens’s wild platform heels, Maison Margiela x Reebok’s chunky tabi boots on the red carpet, and Schiaparelli’s nipple-button dress on Jimmy Fallon, you either love it or you don’t – but what is there to hate?
One half of R&B duo Chloe x Halle, Chloe Bailey has been known to share almost-matching-but-not-matching fashion moments with her younger sister on stage, but fans really began to get an understanding of the musician’s individual fashion sense after the pair created their own Instagram accounts in January (and Chloe’s, ahem, pretty much stopped the internet in its tracks). As Beyoncé’s proteges, the pair have starred in Ivy Park campaigns, and have also walked in shows for brands such as Dolce & Gabbana. As of late, though, onlookers can’t get enough of Chloe on the red carpet, as well as her more personal posts to Instagram. She’s gravitating toward anything that sparkles, and doing it all with an air of sultriness, from a crystal-encrusted minidress, to a sequined houndstooth trench coat (paired with tall boots, as per her signature look), to a glistening studded zebra-print dress.
Lil Nas X
Lil Nas X has been quite literally unstoppable since his claim to fame with hit single “Old Town Road.” The western/hip hop bop came with a slew of campy takes on the traditional cowboy getup from the singer, often complete with over-the-top elements such as crystal fringe, patent leather, mesh, bold colors and prints, and, almost always, his 10-gallon hat. As of late, the 22-year-old has entered a new era of style where cowboy nods make appearances, but not nearly as often. Mostly, the Grammy and VMA winner has dedicated 2021 to superb suiting. Bold colors and prints remain his signature, and the Southern star never misses an opportunity to demonstrate just how versatile suiting can be. He donned a yellow feather-trimmed Gucci suit at the 10th annual Art+Film Gala, a pearl-encrusted, flared-leg floral Richard Quinn two-piece to the 2021 BET Awards, and a baggy, iridescent-finish matching Selam Fessahaye set (sans undershirt) at the 2021 iHeartRadioMusic Awards.
It’s almost as if actor Sydney Sweeney has made it her mission to churn out an endless amount of looks since her Euphoria breakout, and she does it more than well. An editorial queen, you can find the 24-year-old fashionably gracing the cover of a magazine at any given moment (there’s Elle, Wonderland, Cosmopolitan, Tmrw, and Glamour, to name a few) and coupled with red carpet appearances, the Washington native is a walking fashion-moment overload. Most regularly, the star’s style leans on a youthful take on elegance, her sartorial pendulum swinging between flirty and pink, with designers such as Carolina Herrera, to crisp and classic, donning black and white from designers such as Prada. It’s been fun watching Sweeney quietly progress into a Saint Laurent girl as well (a quick Instagram sweep reveals she’s donned the brand at least seven times across editorials, and at least three times on the red carpet). As sweet as her approach to style may often be, the Hollywood darling doesn’t shy away from both subtle and over-the-top edgy looks as well, from wearing a black latex turtleneck by Richard Quinn for Paper, to all-black leather outfits for Porter, with a few kitschy, prep-inspired moments in between.
If anyone knows how to have fun with fashion, it’s Alexandra Shipp. Known for her roles in films such as Storm, Straight Outta Compton, Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B, and now the 2021 musical Tick, Tick… Boom!, the Arizona native is known for making a statement, not one to shy away from the eye-catching elements of what can make a memorable outfit. Shipp trades in quiet, safe red carpet attire in favour of fun-loving looks such as a pink catsuit under a black strapless side-split midi dress for the New York Moves 2021 Power Women Gala, or a two-toned minidress featuring a giant rose detail at the neckline that feeds into a silky train. It’s easy to see why fans would turn to the actor’s Instagram for style inspiration as well. With a page bursting of colour, Shipp shares casual and press-day outfits you might not see on the carpet, from a pink pinstriped Stine Goya suit to ultrawide, wavy-hemmed jeans paired back with a signature-print Missoni top.
Sex Education actor Simone Ashley is headed to Bridgerton for the show’s second season in 2022, and the costume-heavy drama has secured its biggest fashionista yet. The 26-year-old may have just attended her first fashion week ever this year, sitting front row with the likes of Miu Miu and Prada, but as you’d guess, the events produced a few noteworthy looks, including a black crystal-studded skirt and crop top set paired with chunky Prada lug-sole boots. The 2021 Fashion Awards in London brought on what may be the British star’s most showstopping look of the year: a custom sequined asymmetric floor-length train gown by AZ Factory that could, with the amount of midriff revealed, almost pass for a two-piece, save for a thin strap that connects the top and bottom. In other words, Ashley basically invented the ultimate cutout dress. It seems the star is in on a few other trends, too: word on the TikTok street is ballet flats are headed back to the fashion front with modern updates, and Ashley, the fashion girl she is, donned a slingback low-heeled pair at Chanel’s spring 2022 womenswear show.
Easily one of fashion’s favorite men right now, Timothée Chalamet has been effectively demonstrating his fashion chops alongside his acting skills since he shot to mega-fame with his role in Call Me By Your Name>. In fact, the 26-year-old reportedly doesn’t even work with a wardrobe stylist, so if anyone is paying close attention to clothes, it’s him. Polarising as Chalamet’s looks may be, they’re never boring, meaning fans had a good time watching him drop one outfit after the other on the Dune press tour with co-star Zendaya. Chalamet’s ensembles can be as extra as they come (remember that 2019 Golden Globes Louis Vuitton sequin harness look?), or as relaxed as ever, such as when he donned baggy pants, boots and a graphic tee at the Cannes film festival. Or, in some artful way, they can be both, such as Chalamet’s unforgettable 2021 Met Gala look (for which he was also a co-chair), which featured a cropped Haider Ackerman blazer, drop-waist Rick Owens trousers, and classic converse.
R&B singer Normani was also named a co-chair for this year’s Met Gala, meaning if you haven’t been paying attention to her fashion, it’s time to start. It seems as if turning out a look is always top of mind whenever the musician sets out on the scene, and it’s proven interesting to watch her navigate style in a way that feels nostalgic (reminiscent of the heyday of the girl-group) yet modern. For instance, the Atlanta-born star hopped on the return of the butterfly motif with ease, as well as a tropical-print Versace suit reminiscent of the house’s famed dress worn by Jennifer Lopez in the noughties. At the drop of a dime, the 25-year-old, who landed a digital Steve Madden campaign this year, can transform into a full-fledged hottie, feeding fans online inspiration with approachable mini skirt and jeans-meets-blazer outfits.
Dominique Fishback calls herself a Brooklyn princess, and honestly, there’s no better way to describe the Judas and the Black Messiah actor’s style. Fishback and her press mates didn’t get to do a full-on red carpet press run ahead of the film due to COVID-19, but that didn’t stop Fishback from channelling royalty with a tulle Prabal Gurung gown and a lacey Georges Hobeika number. The actor works with stylist Madison Guest on her wardrobe, but it appears she’s pretty hands on as well – so much so that she reportedly presented Hobeika with PDF mood boards during their first meeting. The New York fashionista has a knack for bold fashion, and her Instagram is a must-visit destination for anyone looking for styling inspiration around printed suits and loud colours.
Zendaya is never not having a year full of fashion moments that most people only dream about, and if the 25-year-old multi-hyphenate only gets better with time, then 2021 can be expected to have been her best year yet – and it was. The star’s film workload was heavy this year as she starred in three new major films (Malcom & Marie, Dune and Spider Man), meaning she and stylist Law Roach are closing the year out with a laundry list of looks under their belts. By this point, fans know what to expect from the queen of appreciated consistency: First, sleek and slender silhouettes (think the off-the-runway burgundy Alaïa dress the former Disney channel star wore during the Dune press tour, or the internet-breaking vintage Roberto Cavalli gown with gold skeleton back details she wore to Ballon D’Or in Paris). Then, a sartorial commitment to character (the actor once again donned a Vivienne Westwood chain top during the Dune press tour that felt reminiscent of the movie’s apocalyptic theme, and most recently, a custom lace spider web gown by Valentino for the Spider Man premiere). While often named as the star of any red carpet, the Euphoria star finally received her flowers this year, winning CFDA’s 2021 Fashion Icon Award.
Sunisa "Suni" Lee
Sunisa “Suni” Lee’s work attire may be a backflip and air splits-ready leotard, but the Olympic champion more than embraces the world of fashion when she steps outside of the gym – just check out our cover story for some proof. On duty, a good chunk of the 18-year-old’s fashion statements come with her Dancing With the Stars costumes, which include a feather-trimmed asymmetric-hem mini dress, and a cut-out illusion maxi. Off duty, Lee embodies the everyday street style girl even Bella Hadid would fawn over – we’re talking that way of being able to throw on an outfit as chill as a cropped tank, baggy jeans and Nike Air Force Ones and still look paparazzi-prepped.
After a performance at the Inauguration of Joe Biden in January, Amanda Gorman became a household name overnight. Being dressed by Prada for the event, it makes plenty sense she would soon be making headlines in the fashion world too, especially as the poet says she intentionally uses fashion to shape her image and pay homage to history. Signing with IMG Models almost immediately following the inauguration, Gorman and her now stylist Jason Bolden have created buzz-worthy ensembles for every subsequent appearance, from the Super Bowl where Gorman was the first ever to recite a poem during the annual event, to debut of the 23-year-old’s latest body of work on Instagram, “A New Day’s” lyric where she performed virtually wearing an asymmetric bold shoulder mini dress with a side train by Cong Tri. At its core, the published author’s style is feminine and classic, and for lover’s of prep, she’s giving us a lesson in the art of headbands, too, an outfit element that’s quickly become her staple.
Tennis fans couldn’t stop talking when 24-year-old Noami Osaka defeated veteran Serena Willams in the Australian Open semi finals, and the win speaks volumes about her fresh talent. Off the tennis court, Osaka has mastered referential style just the same. A proud activist, the 2021 Met Gala co-chair uses fashion to pay homage to her Japanese and Haitian roots, as well as spread awareness on social issues, dating back to her decision to support Japanese brand Comme Des Garçons during the 2018 U.S. Open photo call, through to wearing face masks sporting the names of seven police brutality victim names during the 2020 U.S. Open. On other occasions, Osaka often places fun at the center of her looks, such as the colorful Spring 2020 Pyer Moss dress she donned on Instagram. It’s safe to say the fashion industry has taken note, she’s a Louis Vuitton brand ambassador and can now add designer to her resume, thanks to her collaborative collections with Japanese-American brand Adeam and swimwear brand Frankies Bikinis.