AW21 trends and easy ways to wear them
Trends – do they even matter any more? Whereas designers and glossy magazine editors used to dominate the world of fashion and dictate what we’d wear every season, since the arrival of the internet and social media in particular there’s been a real change in the balance of power. Now pretty much any style goes if you own it and wear it with confidence. So I almost decided against doing this new season update but as I saw clear looks emerging and had repeated emails from readers asking for pointers as they head back out into the world I decided it made sense to do a round-up. I’m starting with some simple style notes for AW21 – you can decide whether you want to immerse yourself in them, nod to them or simply ignore them. And then I’ll move on to show you some of my picks from the early Autumn collections – AW21 trends and easy ways to wear them.
A/W21 trends – key looks
The mood is all about positivity and it’s being called ‘dopamine dressing.’ As they looked ahead to this season 18 months ago, designers banked on Covid being over and a consequential demand and desire to go out again in style. So how is it panning out?
- There are strong colours everywhere worn either in a block from head to toe or in clashing combinations that wouldn’t usually be styled together.
- In the new ‘gen-battles’ (millennials v gen-z), there’s a bit of an age divide appearing. In response to what they see as the formless and shapeless dressing of older generations (buffet dresses and baggy jeans), many teens and 20-somethings are embracing a new sexiness. You’ll see lots of revealing cut-out sections in tops and dresses; pin-tops (held together with just a safety pin at the bust) and micro-mini skirts are rapidly arriving back on the scene.
- Meanwhile, 30-something street-stylers are embracing the 90s, particularly with coats worn over trouser suits for work, wide-leg jeans at the weekends. Big designer logos are a thing too presumably as a display of wealth over their youngers.
- Chintz is in as a print with bold florals and paisleys; you’ll see tartan starting to come through too as part of the overblown country estate look.
- The crafty look continues with tops made from crochet squares along with general embellishment, embroidery and macrame.
- Overlong sleeves sometimes go way past the fingertips on jackets and jumpers, reflecting a new caution with regard to germs and touching things.
The easiest trends to adopt
For those who aren’t caught up in the need to fall into a generational camp…
- Alpine and après ski is the move on from athleisure with fair isle jumpers, nubby heritage knits and puffer jackets.
- Knitted dresses and separates are part of this cosy, comfortable look too.
- As are cardigans – their return is part of the 90s trend but not as a neat little cashmere number. Instead they’re oversized home-style knits or French girl fluffy cardigans like the ones you find at Sézane.
- Faux fur and fluff – especially faux fur bucket hats which can be very Sophia Loren.
- Stompy boots – they’re going nowhere, you probably have a pair from last year and they’re great for walking the dog too.
- The 70s – another trend that’s really sticking around because of the prevalence of nostalgia for simpler, less restricted times.
- Wide trousers or jeans, balanced with a tucked in top or short jumper.
- Tank tops – an easy and practical way to be bang on trend.
- ‘Pub party’ – a tulle skirt worn with a jumper and stompy boots is the new going out look.
- Or you could try tartan punk – think Vivienne Westwood, hark back to your student days and you’ll know how to do it.
- And as the nights draw in, metallic is going to be big as we’re (hopefully) able to embrace party season.
Those are the main pointers when it comes to AW21 trends and easy ways to wear them. I’m not going to dwell on them because I think that by midlife most of us are at least halfway towards developing a style of our own and a look that suits us. I have some really strong building blocks in my wardrobe now that will stay there for years – however I’m aware that it’s in need of a bit of a refresh too. Other than gym kit I haven’t bought very much since AW19 and I’m increasingly in a mood to dress up and go out again, especially as my lifestage is changing. I’m going to talk a bit more about the best way of thinking through lifestage changes next week; today though I have some edits from some of the first new season drops to show you.
Edits from the AW21 high street drops
A denim skirt is something I’ve never had before I don’t know why – but it’s an easy swap for jeans because it works with all of the same tops in my wardrobe. This is new in as part of the 70s trend and I’m wearing it with t-shirts and espadrilles at the moment but this is what I’ll do as we start to transition into Autumn. I’d agree with the note on the website that says it comes up a little big so if you’re in between sizes, size down. 15% off with code MLC15.
Denim skirt (gifted AW21); denim shirt (past season – new version here), Duo boots (past season)
And M&S are back with their launch of ‘The Edit‘ – a curated selection of their new ‘style focused staples’. They invited me to work with them by trying a few outfits and then picking my favourite so this was my shortlist from the drop that landed at the end of last week.
I’m on the hunt for a light coloured shacket and this one surprised me when it arrived because it’s made in a wool-style coat fabric (actually polyester/viscose but it feels like wool) rather than the usual fleece or twill. It’s certainly a heavy jacket that would take you right through to Winter but it feels a bit too oversized for me – I’m wearing a 12 and I’d size down to a 10 so that there was a neater line on the shoulders. And that’s just personal preference – the trend is for oversized but I never feel neat enough in it.
Jacket; Popover blouse; Wide-leg trousers
As you can see I’m playing around with wide-leg trousers – note that there’s a subtle change this season as they’ve moved from being cropped to full length. Does it mean you can’t wear your cropped ones any more? Of course not. Now you’ll either love or hate these because they’re made from crepe which is a bit of a Marmite fabric; personally I like it because it’s easy to look after and it doesn’t crease. They’re as easy to wear as any of your athleisure trousers but just a little bit smarter because of the fabric and the stitched crease. I’m wearing a 12 and they’re true to size but a bit long with trainers.
The blouse is crepe too and a tonal warm khaki – a different colour for me but one that I’m trying to adopt to break up my sea of navy neutrals. The pleated front means it will skim over a lockdown midriff, it’s a simple, easy piece and it’s also available in black.
Popover blouse; wide-leg trousers
Now this dress I loved, it felt as though it was made for me – and then I remembered that I already have a very similar one from Hush but actually I think I prefer the cut of the M&S version. I like the fact that it fits the upper half of your body and then flares out gently rather than with a very full skirt. The belt is wider than usual and stiffer so it ties in a firm rather than floppy bow. M&S you need to make this style in lots of colours – please. And I really hope lots of you manage to get one before it sells out because a cut like this is worth twice the price. I’m wearing a 12 long by the way and it’s perfect, I think it needs the extra length for panache. (Oh and ignore the reviews on site – they’re for the striped version which I’ve seen in store and it’s completely different to this dress).
My last outfit was a bit of a wildcard. I was looking for something that would bridge the ‘working from home – going out for a bite to eat’ gap. Let’s start with the navy trousers which gave me a bit of a Goldilocks moment. Because of my love of structure I can struggle with wide leg trousers – I like them to have a sharp crease because I need the leg lengthening effect it gives and the crease in this pair is stitched so it gives a long line from top to bottom, visually adding inches. They’re also a good fit on the hips and thighs so they don’t broaden my beam. The fabric was a really pleasant surprise because although it’s a polyester/viscose blend, it has the soft feel of flannel which is a texture I love to wear in Winter. It has weight and structure which means the trousers hang really well. They have a comfortable drawstring waist and a pinstripe to lengthen the legs even further which I’ve tried to capture in the last picture. They’re also available in a charcoal pinstripe and they come in petite and long as well as the 12 regular that I’m wearing here. A fabulous buy.
Moving on to the jumper, it’s exactly the right length for wearing with wide leg trousers or midi-skirts because it gives you the two thirds balance. It’s a cotton mix so it doesn’t itch and the cable knit nods to the Alpine trend. I sized down to a 10 so that it balanced the volume of the trousers and I’m really glad I did because it was just right. It’s reflecting the colour of the sunset in this picture so scroll down and you’ll see that it’s a true ecru at the deeper end of the scale.
Pinstripe trousers; cotton cable knit crew neck; waffle textured hoodie
And lastly the hoodie. I think this is going to be one of those items that I may end up owning in many colours, a bit like the Uniqlo down jackets. With its waffle weave it’s light and soft so it’s perfect for layering at this time of year, just like a cardigan but with a sportier vibe. It would be great for travel and I can imagine it’s the sort of thing I’ll pop in a bag ‘just in case’. I’m wearing a medium and it’s true to size.
Cotton cable knit crew neck; waffle textured hoodie
This picture was just to show you the pinstripe and the felted texture on the trousers.
Pinstripe trousers; cotton cable knit crew neck; waffle textured hoodie
So I have to say that I’m thrilled that this made me explore the M&S site again. I know you’ll be wondering what I kept and if I didn’t have one that’s so similar to it, it would have been the dress but the last outfit was an easy choice too. I like the first one but it doesn’t quite work with my need for a fitted, structured look and that just shows that even if an outfit’s on trend, it will hang unworn in your wardrobe if it doesn’t match your own style preferences.
Moving on to a real Autumn look and the first coat of the season. In my head this has a Julie Christie vibe (not Dr Zhivago, just her own style). I probably don’t carry it off in the same way but it’s a lovely coat in one of my favourite Autumn colours, gingernut and it’s great for wearing with trousers or jeans because it hits just at the right point above the knee. It feels really good to have a nice coat on again – because we hardly went anywhere last Winter I seemed to spend my life in puffer jackets so I’m really looking forward to wearing something more sophisticated.
The trousers I’m wearing with it are actually denim so they’re a jeans-trouser hybrid which is something I’ve always liked; the last pair I had I wore until they fell apart and I haven’t been able to replace them since. I always love the simple creative industries/architect look of a neat pair of trousers and a great, pared down jumper but I never feel happy in plain black or navy trousers. The denim loosens it all up, adds texture and hits the smart-casual mood perfectly, especially for work. 20% off both the coat and the trousers with code 6T2C.
Coat (20% off with 6T2C, gifted AW21); Denim trousers (20% off with 6T2C, gifted AW21); Boden loafers (SS20)
I really did try to get you a good shot of them but it suddenly started to rain torrentially. Luckily we found a little nook to shelter in and we waited hoping it would stop, wondering how many other people have sheltered here in these walls that are more than 1,000 years old…
Cashmere jumper (20% off with 6T2C, gifted AW21); Denim trousers (20% off with 6T2C, gifted AW21); Boden loafers SS20
… but it just didn’t. However you can see the nice deep dye on the denim here and the glorious deep gingernut cashmere jumper that I’m wearing too. This is proper, heavy cashmere with a ribbed split hem and cuffs. It’s a relaxed style, I’m wearing a size 12 and it comes up as a standard fit – I’d say for a truly loose, relaxed look you’d need to size up maybe one or even two sizes. If you’re ordering it’s probably worth experimenting with a few sizes because it’s an investment so you need to get it right – once you have though it’s utterly luxurious to wear.
Cashmere jumper (20% off with 6T2C, gifted AW21); Denim trousers (20% off with 6T2C, gifted AW21); Boden loafers SS20
Another cosy knit here that’s working hard as a transitional piece on cooler Summer evenings like this. I’ve been waiting for it to come in ever since I saw it in the previews I was sent because it’s such an unusual shade of blue; it works brilliantly with denim and all of the navy pieces in my wardrobe. It’s also a piece that will really elevate loungewear on a cosy Winter evening in – wear it over a pair of plaid pyjama bottoms with a brushed jersey top and suddenly you’re Cameron Diaz or Kate Winslet in The Holiday (you can choose which one you want to be). Its eco-credentials are phenomenal, it’s made from 80% recycled yarn with just 20% new viscose added to give it the subtle fleck. One of those pieces that you’ll keep forever, I’m wearing a size 12 and it’s a good, neat fit – 15% off with MLC15.
Recycled wool cardigan (gifted); Sézane t-shirt (SS18); Jeans
And I’m ending my early Autumn edit with yet another winner, in fact I love this dress so much that I bought another in the copper brown too as soon as I got home. For me this hits the sweet spot between the trends (cord/ruffles/ voluminous midi/70s) and my own personal style (plain/tactile fabric/defined waist). It fits perfectly (I’m wearing a 12R) and it feels soft, cosy and yet strangely quite glamorous. It’s machine washable (I wonder if it would be a bit of a pain to iron so I might get it dry cleaned) and it’ll look great with a cropped jacket for Autumn and then a maxi coat in Winter. It’s love at first wear and even though it was a steamy, humid day when we photographed it, I didn’t want to take it off. (Also available in denim, copper brown, light olive and fig).
Cord midi-dress (20% off with 6T2C, gifted AW21); Finery boots (AW16)
So that’s been quite a bumper try-on today and it’s actually made me look forward to Autumn. I’ve worn my Summer clothes much more than usual this year, partly because we’ve had really good weather up here but also because I haven’t been saving everything for a two-week trip abroad. I haven’t put them away yet but for once I won’t feel sad when I do because it feels as though there are happy times ahead and Autumn (when the weather’s still quite warm so you’re not swamped with coats) is a great time for dressing up and feeling good about it. Let’s hope we can all have a bit of a wardrobe refresh and some proper fun.
Speaking of which – who’s in the mood for a city break? We’ve realised that we’ve put so much in our diary for the weeks ahead that we don’t have time to go over to our Newcastle apartment until the end of October which means it will be sitting empty for too long. That, and the fact that we’re about to have two students to support at university, has prompted us to get the website finished so that we can let it out every so often. For now, while it’s still so new and fresh, we’re only offering it to friends, family and you so please don’t share this with anyone else – Newcastle is quite a party city and I’m sure you’ll understand that we really don’t want to attract the attention of people who might not look after it.
However if you read this blog you already feel like kin so you’re most welcome to come and make yourself at home in this place that we feel is so special. I’m hoping that the website says it all so I’ll stop talking and let you go over there if you’re interested in some time away (oh and if you’re thinking about future stays you might want to make a note of the web address because we’re deliberately not making it easy to find on Google). Baltic Nest. We really do thank anyone who comes to stay, we know it was the right thing to buy this apartment but it’s quite a cost to take on and it seems silly to then have it sitting empty for so much of the time.
As I signed off last week I mentioned we were going to a festival, it was the one that we always go to in May but of course this year it was postponed. I’m usually bouncing with anticipation before we set off but as you may have gathered, this year I was feeling pretty subdued. Up to now I’ve felt quite confident about being back out and about in the world again but this festival tested even my spirit of adventure. It was rumoured locally that 35,000 tickets had been sold and I felt torn between my belief that I have to learn to live with Covid around and a situation that felt as if it could be a bit risky. Of course Mr MC had no internal battle going on, he was keen to go, pointing out that entry was restricted to those with proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test.
The entry requirements meant that the queue was long to get in on the first night but even so, as we approached the barrier I noticed that however hard the security team tried, there wasn’t time to make absolutely sure that someone’s vaccine pass wasn’t a screenshot of somebody else’s. However I kept on reminding myself that we were out in the fresh air and there was plenty of space for everyone.
Here we are, relieved that we’d finally managed to get in before everything started and this is the only photo I got before my phone crashed for the night. It meant I couldn’t document it very well and I’ve had to rely on the people we were with for any other pictures.
The line-up of bands was much younger this year so there wasn’t anything like Sister Sledge or Hacienda Classical that we were particularly looking forward to. Instead we wandered around the different sets and met up with lots of people that we hadn’t seen since before lockdown. A quick snap from a friend here as we were heading into one of the dance areas where I bumped into a young cousin of mine…
… and this gives you a bird’s eye view of the scale of the main stage later on. I thought I wouldn’t know any of the songs but actually as they came on I recognised lots of the hits from bands and DJs such as Rudimental and Clean Bandit because they often blast out of the boys’ bedrooms.
The next night there was a Funkademia set in the woods where we found ourselves surrounded by the boys’ teachers and other people who remember our era’s glorious music days. Our old favourite Graeme Park came on for a couple of hours so our hearts were full and it was great that we could just dance without worrying about the kind of crowding that was going on at the main stage
And so having not looked forward to it at all, I ended up having a really good time and felt we balanced the risk of a crowded place. An event like this was unimaginable a year ago so once again, I’ll end this post by hailing all scientists everywhere, their cleverness and their perseverance. I know a few of you still aren’t feeling confident about being out and about but I hope this has shown you that you can be part of things, sometimes you just have to navigate them in your own way.
We have a quiet weekend ahead of us – it holds a follow-up at the breast clinic after my scare two years ago and I’ve had no further problems so I’m hoping that everything will still be clear. Last time fate handed me a benign cyst rather than a cancerous lump but if it hadn’t, the last 24 months would have been very different. That in itself reminds me how of lucky I am to be here, still dancing, feeling well and watching my boys fly. Despite the threat of Covid, we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that life is precious and finite; let’s all live it as fully as we possibly can.
Disclosure: ‘AW21 trends and easy ways to wear them’ thank you to the brands who have supported me and helped me to put this post together, all edit choices, words and photographs are my own.
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