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Loose Denim and Bold Occasionwear on Full Display for Fall 2021

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With one foot rooted in comfort apparel and the other cautiously stepping into occasionwear, consumers are split down the middle in terms of what they’ll wear this year.

The pandemic spawned an undeniable wave of comfort-focused trends such as coordinating sweatpants and hoodies in an array of neutral colors and bold tie-dye patterns. But now that vaccines are accessible, normalcy is within reach—causing many to invest in elevated apparel to prepare for the return.

In a webinar on Wednesday, Edited addressed the influence current events are having on fashion, signaling a merger of comfort and partywear for Fall 2021. This combination, according to the retail market intelligence platform’s account manager Georgia Swan, bodes especially well for denim.

“Jeans are still a manageable hybrid between loungewear and casualwear,” she said, citing Edited data showing that jeans represented 6 percent of arrivals and 6 percent of sellouts among retailers—an optimistic sign that denim is well positioned for fall.

Reports also confirmed what many are calling the end of the skinny jean, following a Gen Z-led social media movement targeting both millennials and the popular silhouette. As a result, analysts recommend repositioning denim assortments to include relaxed fits such as straight legs and oversized styles.

These loose fits are also seeping into other apparel categories. Fall 2021 runway trends for men included relaxed tailoring and comfortable fabrics, with a prevalent suiting-loungewear hybrid moment. On the other hand, occasionwear took precedence for women, with bold displays of bright and metallic colors, as well as sequins and voluminous shapes that paid homage to the indulgent ’80s.

Color-wise, tones are starting to lighten up compared to the past two years, with white, neutrals, greens, pinks and purples showing up despite the typically darker colors for fall. Edited reported that chocolate browns are a safe bet for the season, followed by cheerful tones such as magenta and red picking up steam in response to post-pandemic optimism. Pastels such as lavender and mint green tap into the Regencycore trend and give off an elevated effect best suited for high-shine fabrics.

Major themes on the runway include preppy styles such as sweater vests, straight-leg trousers, “Clueless”-inspired mini skirts, and varsity prints, as demonstrated by designers like Oscar de la Renta. The look gets a modern update by merging with streetwear to become “prep leisure.” Fabrics such as denim, cable knit, leather, and lightweight wools best serve this subgenre, underscored by pop culture moments like Harry Styles’ “Treat People with Kindness” music video.

The “bundled up” aesthetic is another trend that dominated the runway, underscored by Lady Gaga’s viral Instagram post with actor Adam Driver wearing ski bunny attire from the upcoming film, “House of Gucci.”

Edited data shows an uptick in relaxed tailoring, bold occasionwear and relaxed denim silhouettes for Fall 2021.
Instagram @Ladygaga @ladygaga/Instagram

For men, the trend includes slippers, quilted puffer jackets and chunky sweaters made of luxe fabrics like cashmere and fleece. For women, it features blanket scarves, hooded coats and “cozy capes.”

The runway also celebrates a “’70s time warp,” with flared pants and paisley and psychedelic prints for all genders. A palette of earth tones, accented by bright hues like yellow and green, dominates the look. Bohemian dresses are also making a comeback for women, as evident in Anna Sui’s collection.

With one foot rooted in comfort apparel and the other cautiously stepping into occasionwear, consumers are split down the middle in terms of what they’ll wear this year.
Anna Sui WWD

T-shirts, hoodies, sweatpants and sneakers remain bestsellers, and retailers are continuing to push out the comfort message to consumers. Data shows that retailers’ mentions of “comfort” in emails to consumers grew 213 percent year over year.

While the year-long lockdown triggered the shift to comfort-focused apparel, it also pushed society onto technology more than ever before. Suppliers and brands migrated to virtual showrooms, and consumers looked to social media and streaming services for fashion inspiration.

Netflix’s “Bridgerton” inspired Regencycore elements such as corsets and voluminous silhouettes, and “The Queen’s Gambit,” along with nostalgic shows like “Friends” and “Gossip Girl” triggered a rise in this fall’s upcoming preppy moment.

“What we’ve learned from lockdown is that trends are now not only coming from the runway, but because we’re all inside consuming content, inspiration is coming directly from the Netflix and Amazon Prime shows that we’re watching,” said Tian-Mei Lee, a retail strategist at Edited. “It’s coming from all of the content that we consume.”