The Dress Trends That Will Rule in 2021

Maxine Eggenberger
·5-min read

As someone who, prior to 2020, seldom wore anything but dresses, the last year has proved a struggle. I invested in my first pair of non-gym leggings, which I took to wearing like a second skin. Then there are jumpers—I think I now own more wool than a flock of sheep combined. Still, I long for the moment where dresses—the fancier the better—are called for. An idea I seem to share with every designer out there.

It's always around this time that Who What Wear brings you its annual dress trends round-up; a certified edit of the most noteworthy frock looks for the year ahead. And while occasionwear had no place in our wardrobes in 2020, a host of our favourite brands—both high-end and high street–have concentrated their efforts on creating breathtaking dresses, just in time for rescheduled weddings, get-togethers, and evening plans. Just to be clear, when I say breathtaking, I mean breathtaking.

Sure, there are more conventional dress trends that cater to the everyday—knitted textures are staying put, as are puff sleeves. But the rest? They're the stuff of fashion dreams. Cue tulle (and lots of it), joyful prints, look-at-me colours, sheer fabrications, and a revert back to mini hemlines (brace yourself). Keep scrolling to see nine dress trends 2021 has to offer—let's all keep our fingers crossed for a year in which we can wear them all.

BEAUTIFUL DRESSES

While somewhat ambiguous, there's no denying that spring/summer 2021's dresses are beautiful. Featuring tulle by the tier, divine fabrics, sparkling additions, and a gorgeous colour palette, Net-a-Porter has seriously invested into this category, buying over 3,000 such dresses for SS21 alone.

Shop the trend:

Self-Portrait Crystal-Belt Pleated Polka-Dot Tulle Dress (£380)

Molly Goddard Corrie Tiered Tulle Midi Dress (£950)

AJE Mimosa Open-Back Dress (£485)

SLINKY LBDS

Is it a crime to want to feel sexy again? Absolutely not. Is there an easy solution? Cue the slinky LBD. While black dresses always make an appearance come the autumn/winter collections, designers have reimagined them for spring using form-fitting silhouettes, lightweight fabrics, and plenty of alluring cut-outs. Jacquemus's black slip dress is already proving to be a top-selling piece from Moda Operandi's pre-orders, though there are lots of options out there to choose from.

Shop the trend:

Anna October Spetses Black Satin Midi Dress (£445)

H&M Fine Knit Dress (£50)

Jacqumeus Basgia Organic Cotton-Blend Maxi Slip Dress (£475)

PUFF-SLEEVES

Blame it on cottagecore or The Crown, but puff-sleeves—particularly on dresses—is a look many designers and brands are carrying through to 2021. Make yours work for the everyday by picking a dress that's otherwise minimal; the volumised sleeves pack all the statement you need.

Shop the trend:

Ganni Checked Cotton-Blend Seerseeker Dress (£205)

& Other Stories Voluminous Puff Sleeve Mini Dress (£69)

Monki Puff-Sleeve Dress (£35)

JOYFUL PRINTS

"This season we saw dresses uplifted with feel-good prints at Valentino, artisanal crochet and tie-dye dresses from Gabriella Hearst, and bright jewel tones in emerald and pink from Bernadette," confirms Liane Wiggins, Head of Womenswear Buying at Matches. Essentially, if a dress doesn't make you smile, don't buy it.

Shop the trend:

Cult Gaia Green Willow Printed Cotton and Silk-Blend Dress (£535)

Zimmermann The Lovestruck Belted Striped Silk Organza Dress (£1450)

American Vintage Yellow Polka-Dot Wrap Dress (£95)

KNITTED

Matches has invested heavily in what its calling an indoor/outdoor dress; "With more and more staycations and more people continuing to work from home, versatile dressing this summer will continue to be important," stresses Wiggins. This type of dress will become an essential for our customer, it can be worn either at home or away but also while you are working on Zoom." And, in our opinion, no dress is more up to the task than those of the (thinly) knitted variety.

Shop the trend:

Jacquemus Yellow Open-Back Ribbed-Knit Dress (£440)

Zara Strappy Knit Midi Dress (£26)

Khaite Beth Ribbed-Knit Dress (£1170)

PINK

Like most colour trends, the simplest ways to channel them are 1) with accessories, or 2) in dress form. And no colour was more prevalent in the spring/summer 2021 collections than pink. "Roksanda's flowing maxi dress and the strapless Molly Goddard dress with a ruffled skirt were two of the most memorable looks from London Fashion Week," recalls our Editor, Emma Spending.

Shop the trend:

H&M Puff-Sleeved Dress (£20)

Bec & Bridge Lucie Pink Satin Dress (£305)

Warehouse Balloon-Sleeve Organza Dress (£79)

OPEN BACKS

Sweetheart necklines were one of 2020's breakout trends but, for spring 2021, all the focus is going to be on open-backs. More versatile than you think, this style works just as well for more formal occasions, but it also doubles up as an excellent beach dress (pandemic willing).

Shop the trend:

Galvan Sahara Open-Back Dress (£795)

Rebecca Valance Aimee Open-Back Midi Dress (£238)

Remain Birger Christensen Valcyrie Open-Back Knitted Dress (£210)

SHEER

Sheer fabrics "will be a welcome contrast to how we have been living over the past year and will feel exciting to put something special on," continues Wiggans on her dress trend forecast, and she isn't wrong. Whimsical, see-through fabrics always look romantic, and act as the perfect antidote to the jersey we've largely been living in.

Shop the trend:

Shrimps Titania Wrap Dress in Forest Green (£350)

Cecilie Bahnsen Karmen Printed Silk-Organza Midi Dress (£1715)

Weekday Vanessa Sheer Dress (£10)

RISING HEMLINES

While I once would have been terrified of this trend, what 2020 has taught me is that life is too shirt to be hung up on insecurities and things that hold you back. while I'm sure the designers don't share my exact same thought process, the sentiment still stands. To be bold and daring with your fashion—and what's more daring than a bangle-grazing hemline? Keep your minidresses simple and streamline, paying homage to the '90s trend as you go.

Shop the trend:

Alexander Wang Black Twill Mini Dress (£435)

Reformation Kendy Dress (£84)

Gauge81 Toyama Silk-Satin Mini Dress (£370)

Next Up, Spring/Summer 2021 Trends: The Most Important Fashion Looks You Need to Know

This article originally appeared on Who What Wear

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