The Fashion Moments That Defined 2021
This was the year that reignited our love for fashion. After the truly heinous 2020 – a deeply traumatising year that gave us all emotional and mental scars – 2021 felt like a cautious step closer to being OK again. There was a collective feeling of “We all made it through the worst of it!” A global exhale of sorts that felt OK (or at least a little more OK) enough to celebrate silly, superficial things like fashion and pop culture again.
Red carpets were back! It was OK to laugh at memes! Fashion Weeks returned! Celebrity couple debuts were no longer relegated to just Instagram posts, so we were allowed to celebrate Bennifer 2.0 the way we were truly meant to: through glorious paparazzi yacht pics from Saint-Tropez! Designers pivoted from cozy, homebound, tie-dye sweatsuits into ultra-aesthetics like cottagecore, dark academia, rodeo glam, and Y2K nostalgia! It was a sigh of relief, a feeling of normalcy.
Of course, all is not perfect, and we have a long way to go, but I’m here to celebrate the little victories. Let’s savour the sartorial wade into the shallow end and the return of fashion by reliving the very best moments from 2021.
Bernie Sanders's Inauguration Mittens
The Jan. 20 inauguration of President Joe Biden was a cathartic day and filled with surprisingly joyous fashion moments. There are almost too many to name (Lady Gaga’s massive Schiaparelli peace dove; Amanda Gorman’s red Prada headband and braids; Maisy Biden wearing Nikes; the rainbow parade of great coats from Vice President Kamala Harris, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, and more; Michelle Obama inventing the colour plum), but there was one iconic moment that rose above the rest: Bernie Sanders’s mittens. The nation fell for Bernie bundled up in a Burton coat and cozy mittens, sitting alone in a folding chair with a quietly disinterested expression. It was the first great meme of 2021, and the Sanders team capitalised on the gleeful popularity of the image by creating merch: a sweatshirt printed with the Vermont senator that ended up raising over $1.8 million for charities.
As if that weren’t enough sweetness for one story about a pair of mittens, Bernie’s pair have an adorable, must-read origin story.
Squid Game's Green Tracksuits
This year’s biggest pop culture surprise hit was Squid Game. We all collectively lost our minds for the South Korean import, and 111 million of us binged the Netflix original, tried to make dalgona candy, followed HoYeon Jung on Instagram, and bought one of the iconic teal-green tracksuits and white slip-on Vans for our Halloween costumes.
Kim Kardashian's Dementor Couture
It was the outfit that launched one million memes. The Met Gala – that little party that Vogue loves to call “fashion’s biggest night” – is always a viral event, but Kim Kardashian stole the 2021 red carpet by wearing a faceless, black Balenciaga ensemble that obscured her famous curves.
It was a brilliant move, an outfit that echoed the polarizing feelings on the famous Kardashian herself. It was all at once a silly meme and a cerebral statement about celebrity vs. anonymity. Hate it, love it, or laugh at it – Kim did what she does best and gave us another iconic pop culture moment to argue over.
Everything Zendaya Wore
This was really “The Year of Gasping at Zendaya’s Fashion.” Every time the actor stepped on a red carpet, she was the moment. The Dune press run, the CFDA Awards (where she picked up the fashion icon award), the Venice Film Festival, the BET Awards, the Oscars – everywhere she went, she left a trail of slack-jawed spectators in her wake. Thank God we’re heading into the Spider-Man: No Way Home press run, because I cannot wait to see what Zendaya and her stylist, Law Roach, have in store for us. What a time to be alive!
Taylor Swift's Missing Scarf
Sad Girl Fall was ushered in by Taylor Swift’s long-awaited “All Too Well” era. The world stopped to listen to the long-awaited 10-minute version of the song, then watched the short-film adaptation (starring Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien, and directed by Swift), then watched the Easter-egg-packed “I Bet You Think About Me” music video (starring Taylor and Miles Teller, and directed by Blake Lively), and then collectively stewed about all our own sh*tty exes.
In 2021, the (now mythic) red scarf moved from being a metaphor about a heinously uncaring ex-boyfriend to a symbol of Taylor’s continuously evolving empowerment. It’s invisible proof that the singer-songwriter is only getting better as she becomes more confident. Get it, Taylor.