Celebrity red carpet trends that defined 2021

written by Megan Sea Hills

After a year of embarrassing Zoomed-in Awards show speeches and colorful tie speeches, it was comforting to see the stars return to the red carpet. Glamour returned with a vengeance, and our essences filled with color, sparkle, and flashes of nostalgia.
With highlights like Billie Eilish’s foam-filled Met Gala dress and Lady Gaga’s extraterrestrial Valentino mini dress, 2021 was the year the stars had a chance to redefine their wardrobes — and many of them delivered. Here are some notable trends.

dopamine pads

Bright colors, sparkly dresses, and flashy looks brought delight to celebrity wardrobes this year, as stars rejoiced amid the ongoing pandemic. At the Emmys, Michaela Cole stunned in her signature yellow Christopher John Rogers costume, while Anya Taylor-Joy was the image of retro Barbie in a hot pink dress and glamorous at the Venice Film Festival. Others channeled their inner disco ball: Dakota Johnson’s fringed Gucci design popped up at the Venice Film Festival, and most recently, Olivia Rodrigo’s dress sparkled at the American Music Awards sparkling as she swayed under the feathered edge.

archival fashion

Cardi B attends a photo of “Thierry Mugler: Coutureim” as part of Paris Fashion Week at the Museum of Decorative Arts on September 28, 2021 in Paris, France. credit: Richard Burd/WireImage/Getty Images

Fashion history has become the biggest red-carpet this year, as designers and celebrities sought out rare archival pieces from decades past. A growing interest in up-and-coming and vintage bikes has undoubtedly played a major role in the trend, which has included Rodrigo wearing a ruffled Versace gown in 2001 for the MTV VMA Awards, Queen of the Archives Bella Hadid seen in classic Gucci, Chloe’s Stella McCartney and more in street snaps. And who can forget the olive green Jean Paul Gaultier dress that Kylie Jenner wore?

Daring to bare

Zoë Kravitz attends the 2021 Met Gala in America: Fashion Dictionary at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on September 13, 2021 in New York City.

Zoë Kravitz attends the 2021 Met Gala in America: Fashion Dictionary at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on September 13, 2021 in New York City. credit: Theo Wargo / Getty Images

Post-lockdown red carpets have been more attractive than ever with the easing of some pandemic restrictions and the return of celebrities to the public eye. Sheer dresses, such as Zoe Kravitz’s Saint Laurent Met Gala look and Megan Fox’s Thierry Mugler gown (paired with a nude thong) at the MTV VMAs, have been seen at many major events, while other celebrities like Zendaya, Kendall Jenner and Halle Bailey opted for peekaboo cutouts.

Sophisticated ensembles of midriff outfits by Carey Mulligan, Rena Swayama, and Alicia Keys were worn year-round, while Lil’ Nas X, Kim Kardashian, and Hailey Bieber were among those covered in skin-tight cat suits that left little to the imagination.

Unisex liquid men’s clothing

Troye Sivan attends the 2021 Met Gala in America: A Lexicon of Fashion at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on September 13, 2021 in New York City.

Troye Sivan attends the 2021 Met Gala in America: A Lexicon of Fashion at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on September 13, 2021 in New York City. credit: Theo Wargo / Getty Images

With Gen Z challenging gender binaries on TikTok and discussions about fluidity resonating throughout the fashion industry, celebrities haven’t been shy about pushing boundaries. With LGBTQ+ stars leading the way—including Billy Porter in a pink trailing suit and designer Harris Reid releasing his first collection of gender fluid costumes—others followed suit: Troye Sivan wore a simple dress to the Met Gala and Kid Cudi wore a floral dress inspired by Kurt Cobain for his performance at Saturday Night Live, followed by a wedding dress at the CFDA Awards.

Some took a more subtle approach, including Bowen Yang, where his Syro heeled sole emerged from under the sharp hem of his Emmys suit. The nail polish has also been so widely adopted by stars like Lil Yachty and Tyler the Creator, that Styles and Machine Gun Kelly even launched their own nail polish.

Fashion as a wearable art

Bella Hadid poses as she arrives for the movie screening "three floors" (three floors) at the 74th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on July 11, 2021.

Bella Hadid poses as she arrives for the screening of “Tre Piani” (Three Floors) at the 74th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on July 11, 2021. credit: Valerie Hach/AFP/Getty Images

The sight of Bella Hadid at the Cannes Film Festival this summer, wearing a copper Schiaparelli necklace designed to look like a pair of lungs, stopped the internet in its tracks. This surreal artistic approach to fashion continued throughout the latter half of the year.
De Betsa’s “wet-look” dresses, created by self-described multidisciplinary artist Dimitra Betsa and meticulously layered with shifting stars like sisters Hadid, SZA, Chloe Bailey and Megan Thay Stallion, to mermaids who looked like they had just emerged from the sea. Zendaya opted for a similar style, made of nude leather by Balmain, at the “Dune” premiere in Venice. She switched up her look with co-star Timothée Chalamet, who wore a shimmering Haider Ackermann outfit that looked like a weave from the night sky. Of course who could forget Kim Kardashian’s dramatic look at the Met Gala – the faceless Balenciaga outfit that has raised questions about the nature of celebrities while producing endless memes on Twitter.

Celebrity bounce

Gemma Chan paid tribute to Anna May Wong at the Met Gala.  Wong is considered the first Chinese-American star in Hollywood.

Gemma Chan paid tribute to Anna May Wong at the Met Gala. Wong is considered the first Chinese-American star in Hollywood. credit: Getty Images

As many stars walked out with their wardrobes after the lockdown, others took a step back to stop and honor those who paved the way for them. Bounces for celebrity and supermodel outfits have been seen throughout the year.

At the Met Gala for example, Gemma Chan honored Chinese American movie star Anna Mae Wong in a mini-dragon-embellished Prabal Gurung dress and coiled braids, and YouTuber Nikkie de Jaeger showed off in a floral dress with a ribbon that read “Pay it no mind” pinned to the hem – a reference to Transgender activist Marsha B. Johnson. On the other hand, Kendall Jenner channeled Audrey Hepburn in a sheer gown covered in crystals. The dress was a contemporary design that Hepburn wore as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady.
Zendaya made a number of icons nods, wearing a long version of Beyonce’s Versace 2003 BET Awards dress for the same event this year and a yellow cropped Academy Awards gown, similar to a gown Cher previously wore on “The Sonny & Cher Show.” ”
And Angelina Jolie kept the bouncy references close to home for the London premiere of ‘Eternals’, where her daughters Zahara and Shiloh wore some of the red carpet dresses Jolie wore as she escorted her. Jolie sparkled in a 2018 Valentino dress.

Y2K

Avril Lavigne attends the 2021 MTV Video Music Awards at the Barclays Center on September 12, 2021 in the Brooklyn area of ​​New York City.

Avril Lavigne attends the 2021 MTV Video Music Awards at the Barclays Center on September 12, 2021 in the Brooklyn area of ​​New York City. credit: Astrid Stuarts/WireImage/Getty Images

Thanks to Generation Z stars like Dua Lipa and Addison Ray, the rookie mania continues strong into 2021. All the old trends are back in full force, with Beyoncé seen in bright pink Versace heels, while Lipa rocking different butterfly outfits like Mariah Carey – Even the Von Dutch-esque hat was promoted by Rihanna and Miley Cyrus.

Incredible brands like Ed Hardy and Juicy Couture are back in the celebrity lineup, and retro staples like grid-print T-shirts, monograms and corsets are ready-to-wear.

Other insidious Y2K styles, including low-rise jeans and kids’ T-shirts, have also found their way into the wardrobes of Lipa, Hadid, and Kaia Gerber. That love in the 2000s shows no signs of slowing, and we’ll likely continue to see celebrities outshine the decade into 2022, with Versace, Fendi, and others all driving the wagon.

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