2021 is about to come to an end. It is inevitable to think about what we’ve been through this year. The joy, the excitement, the frustration, the anger, and the sadness. All of these emotions and many more built together twelve months full of learning lessons.
We get ready to receive the New Year, and we think of the positive and negative things in our life that we may want to keep or not keep in 2022. This is happening in our lives, and it is happening in fashion as well because as we are ready to grow and keep moving forward, fashion will change with us in this path.
So let’s talk about the Key Fashion Statements of 2021. Why did they happen? How? And most importantly, are we going to see more of these statements in 2022?
Reusing Clothing is the New Glam
There is a big discrepancy between the “commitment” of the fashion industry to make their system sustainable and the enormous amount of clothes that this industry produces yearly around the world. Culturally, we still celebrate impulsive shopping and pursue the newest trends that the celebrities of the moment are wearing.
And it is precisely in the celebrities world where many fashion trends start. Several red carpets take place in a year. Consumers and mass media seem to demand constant innovation in the celebrities’ clothing selection, and those who don’t meet people’s expectations get drilled on social media, TV shows with the Fashion Police format, and entertainment magazines.
Many of these dresses are only worn once, end up in storage units or custom exhibitions for a couple of months, and are eventually thrown away.
So in order to make a change in this broken system, someone needs to start doing things differently. And so, we started seeing this year how huge names in the entertainment industry began to reuse looks in the red carpet they’ve worn before. This message of encouragement to reuse clothes and still look spectacular is particularly refreshing coming from trendsetters that people all around follow.
Here are some examples of reusing clothing in red carpet looks in 2021 that looked spectacular.
Angelina Jolie showed up to the Eternals premiere in Los Angeles with her children, Maddox, Vivienne, Knox, Shiloh, and Zahara Jolie-Pitt. The family was definitely eyecatching upon the carpet arrival as the actress wore a Balmain bronze dress with a futuristic jewelry piece down her lip. But the viral moment happened when 16-year-old Zahara, came in wearing the lovely Elie Saab dress that her mother wore at the Oscars of 2014.
Angelina Jolie has been actively involved in humanitarian activism and environmental causes. She shared with the press that her family reuses and repurposes clothes regularly, encouraging people to do the same thing.
The actress’s actions, moves, and decisions are followed all around the world. In fact, many people are naming their kids after Jolie’s children. The records of babies named Knox grew 15 times after Knox Jolie-Pitt was born! (Univision) It is just a matter of time for families to adopt Jolie’s sustainable fashion culture and adapt it to their lifestyle and personality.
Another huge advocate of reusing clothing is the First Lady of the United States. The first couple attends several public events in a day. They are always expected to look impeccable and represent with honor their role and the country they serve. And this can be achieved without buying thousands of garments that will only be worn once, at least, that´s what First Lady Jill Biden taught us this year. She wore an Oscar de la Renta printed dress on March 8 for the 2021 International Women of Courage Award. A few weeks later, she wore this dress again to celebrate the first 100 days in office.
Fashion Can Be Gender Fluid and Beautiful
Several months passed without being able to have full in-person red carpet events. During these months, significant progress and growth regarding gender identities took place. More institutions are building gender-neutral bathrooms, adopting inclusive language policies, and advocating for more and better laws that protect trans rights.
These changes are seen in fashion because when politics change, so do our clothes. This year, we saw lots of clothes that challenged the social constructions of gender that we have been following for centuries. This gender fluidity is not a matter targeting trans people only. In fact, it is an encouragement for everyone to leave gender labels aside and wear the clothes that they feel comfortable wearing. When we let go of the gender labels of our clothes, we´ll be more inclined to let go of the gender labels that maybe we´ve been carrying around in ourselves and shape the way we behave, think, and act.
An example of gender fluid fashion in 2021 is the look that rapper Lil Nas X rocked at the Video Music Awards of this year. The half-suit / half-dress monochromatic look with sparkles and matching shoes blends traditionally masculine and feminine clothes. The lapels make the top look like an actual blazer that becomes a dramatic light lavender cape. This was definitely one of the best looks of the VMA’s 2021 and an inspiration to start considering more gender-fluid clothes in our daily life.
Black LGBTQ+ Visibility
A musical version of the classic fairytale Cinderella premiered in September of this year on Amazon. This film had mixed expectations, especially with a streaming service recreating a story that several generations are familiar with. The musical is full of diversity, a mix of cultures, inclusivity, and modern values about gender, relationships, and life goals. Billy Porter as a gender-fluid fairy godmother of color wore a spectacular orange gown. Suddenly, we were able to see a fairytale free of stereotypes that shaped our society for decades.
Seeing that refreshing version with values of diversity, the fashion of the movie, and the events around the promotion of this movie made gender fluid fashion visible to a broader audience.
Different Voices Must be Heard in Fashion
After the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, many businesses, media, and big corporations made several changes to make Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion key components of their core values. In fashion, the 15 Percent Pledge was established by fashion designer Aurora James, who encourages companies to pledge at least 15% of their shelf space to black-owned businesses. This initiative, with many others, opened the space for emerging talent to tell their story through fashion, which is not just a significant step in favor of social justice, but it’s also a fascinating and visually interesting moment in fashion diversity to see multicultural figures of different industries, presenting who they are and where do they come from through fashion.
The Multicultural United States
The Mexican actress, Eiza Gonzalez, is killing it in Hollywood, with hugely successful movies, a Louis Vuitton campaign, and a well deserved rising number of fans and followers.
The actress showed up to the Met Gala (or the Oscars of fashion, as lots of press, like to describe the event) with an asymmetrical red dress by Versace that took over 500 hours of craftsmanship. The theme of the Met Gala was “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion,” and the actress celebrated and embraced the diversity of America with this red look inspired by María Félix, a very famous and successful Mexican movie star from the 20th century. The elegance and sophistication of this red dress with the inspiration of Eiza’s background is an excellent example of how we celebrate diversity in today’s world.
But high fashion is not limited to the entertainment industry. People from different fields and backgrounds made strong statements about diversity this year. A great example is the outstanding dress that tennis player Naomi Osaka wore at this same gala. The whole creation process started with a painting her sister made. The painting featured Koi fish to celebrate the Japanese heritage of the tennis player. The tennis player confessed that she enjoyed collaborating with Nicolas Ghesquière, creative director of Louis Vuitton, to tell a story about her Haitian-Japanese heritage in a social event seen by thousands of people around the world.
Fashion was, is, and will continue to be Political
In politics and fashion, there’s no change if we keep following the status quo. Political statements in fashion help gain attention about a certain topic, communicate a message, and gain visibility, Here are some of the greatest political statements in fashion in 2021.
Lady Gaga at Joe Biden’s Inauguration
Many things happened in the first month of 2021 in Washington DC. On January 6, the Capitol Riot attempted to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election by physically attacking staff, workers and vandalizing the building. Five people died, and 138 police officers were injured as a direct consequence of this attack that was encouraged by the 45th president of the United States. (NY Times).
A couple of weeks later, the Inauguration of Joe Biden took place in the very same steps of the Capitol. The tension, division, and uncertainty were prevalent amid a very stressful and divided election and the events that happened afterward. Still, the Presidential Inauguration represented the start of a new era that needed to be celebrated. It also had to send a message of encouragement for Americans and people around the world. (Let’s remember that January 2021 was one of the deadliest months of the pandemic, with several days that had over 200,000 new cases daily).
With all of this social context in mind, Lady Gaga was invited to sing the National Anthem at the Inauguration Ceremony, and her dress was one of the most memorable looks from Gaga’s entire career. The clothes were designed by Maison Schiaparelli, a French fashion house founded by Italian surrealist artist Elsa Schiaparelli. This was Gaga’s way to celebrate her Italian-American heritage, singing the National Anthem at the Capitol. The design featured a navy cashmere jacket (Gaga later revealed that it was bulletproof!) and a long and dramatic red skirt. The gold-encrusted dove pin was a symbol of peace, amid the division and tension of that time.
Tax The Rich Dress
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attended her first Met Ball in a controversial dress that went viral in different countries and was a topic of conversation, causing excitement, anger, frustration, confusion, or empowerment. The dress was designed by Aurora James, (the fashion designer who created the 15 Percent Pledge). This dress is a perfect example of how politics and fashion interact to make statements and become history. Even the conservative media that has been bullying congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez ever since she won her first election in 2018 dedicated a significant amount of time to talking about this dress.
The white dress with the message in the back, “Tax the Rich,” was a political statement, and arguably, it fitted the theme of the Met Gala “In America”. After all, politics is weaved into our culture, and the subjects that are relevant in our society may influence fashion as well. The Google searches for Tax the Rich grew exponentially after AOC’s attendance at the Met Gala, so whether people find this dress “hypocritical,” “poor taste,” or “unnecessarily loud,” it started a conversation around this matter.
In fashion and politics, sometimes it doesn’t matter if the conversation is a judgment or an endorsement; the only thing that matters is that you generate a conversation.
Wrapping up this fashion reflection of statements in 2021, think about the aspects of your life that you want to improve in this year. Health? Love? Work? Mental Health? Regardless of your areas of improvement, there is a huge opportunity to include your relationship with your clothes as an area of opportunity in this list. Because once we choose the right clothes, invest time in ourselves to look clean and spectacular, we will feel more empowered to achieve the rest of the resolutions on our list.
This doesn’t mean that you have to throw away all of your clothes and spend your savings on new ones. It is about investing time and love in your clothing selection. Choosing the clothes that you like, having them clean and nicely pressed, trying new color combinations outside of your default jeans and black top. Take the time to look at your clothes and think of the many options waiting for you with them.