The Spring 2021 runways were oozing with playfully risqué influences and lending a hand to more sexy fashion.
As a much-needed palate cleanser for loungewear-centric dressing, we unpack what sexy looks like in 2020 and beyond through macro forces, as well as the trends to recreate this daring aesthetic.
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Why take note?
It’s part of a wider shift
The time spent in lockdown saw sex and pleasure prioritized as a part of wellness and self-care. With new restrictions enforced and some regions experiencing a second wave, meeting new people and casual sex is bound to be impacted, allowing consumers to embrace dressing for themselves.
It’s being redefined by new sex symbols
Younger generations have been disrupting traditional beauty standards, reframing “sexy” to be more inclusive. The diverse casting at the recent Savage X Fenty show has set a new precedent for what the “Sexiest Fashion Show On Earth” looks like, while media figures such as Lizzo are steering the narrative that sexy is an attitude and obtainable by all.
It compliments Y2K dressing
The midriff-baring tops, ultra-mini skirts and animal prints outlined below in Spring 2021’s sexy dressing trends are also reminiscent of noughties nostalgia. With 00s influences commanding assortments, many of these items are commercial, versatile and low-risk investments.
Party season is approaching
Furthermore, eras of nostalgia will set the tone for retailers’ partywear assortments as the festive season draws close. The below trends can all be easily adapted to infuse sex appeal into New Year’s Eve stories.
It combats sweatpant fatigue
While loungewear’s success is undeniable, consumers have spent most of 2020 in sweatpants making investment in this trend particularly tempting. Sexy dressing is slated to surge once more normalcy is established, events resume and venues reopen – all the more important to test the waters now.
The thong dress is rising up
In an IG post promoting Matthew Williams’ first Givenchy collection, Kim Kardashian West revived the exposed thong dress, drawing similarities to those previously worn by Rose McGowen, Gillian Anderson and Hailey Bieber. Though a more directional trend to be recreated by only the bold, the viral post confirmed sexy dressing is officially back in fashion.
Despite the prowess of comfort dressing, corsets and boning added structure to dresses and tops in collections from Dolce & Gabanna, Alberta Ferretti and more, hinting at the future direction of the viral bodysuit post-pandemic. To keep abreast of this trend, look to add wiring or cup details to update top-performing bodysuits, while still keeping essentials and comfort dressing front of mind.
Mini skirts and dresses
After being casted in the midi’s shadow for many seasons, designers responded to the pandemic, political uncertainty and civil unrest by reviving the mini skirt. This shift draws parallels with the 1960s when the silhouette first rose to popularity as a symbol of youth culture and sexual liberation.
Super short lengths were noted in Y2K-esque satin and embellished party dresses, countering the ever-popular house dress. This shape also lent itself to the abundance of co-ord sets on the Spring 2021 runway. High-waist and A-line mini skirts are a low-risk investment to emulate the sexy dressing trend within your core assortment.
Underwear as outerwear
Perhaps inspired by the new normal blurring all outfits into one, underwear as outerwear swung back into favor on the runway. Exposed bra straps and peek-a-boo cups under dresses and tops were of note at Versace and Dolce & Gabanna. At the same time, cut-out lace bodysuits styled with low-rise mini skirts or trousers presented a juxtaposition between the 00s and today’s trends. Lean on this look as an innovative way to upsell lingerie or push layering.
Open back dresses
Adding a sexy twist on a classic silhouette, Victoria Beckham and Simon Miller showcased open back details on floor-length dresses, while Matthew Williams’ debuted Givenchy’s now-viral thong dress. Although backless shapes serve as a more directional trend, open tie back tops are already popular in retail, so brands shouldn’t be slow to invest in this detail for dresses.
A bolder buy-in than the stalwart Bermuda short, hotpants will be a valuable piece to garner press and viral attention. As seen at Molly Goddard and Dior, retailers targeting a younger consumer should complete the look with a matching top to increase value. With knitted styles at play here, there’s an opportunity to minimize risk and refresh loungewear styles for retailers wanting to test the waters with this trend.
The ubiquitous top shape of Spring 2021, bralettes were used by a broad range of designers to communicate the shift into sexy. Corset and cut-out detailing were of note alongside square and halter necklines, further riffing off Y2K looks. For a more modest take, look to BOSS and merchandise with a blazer as a modern spin on the new workwear era.
To blend with the comfort aesthetic, leverage the co-ords trend by matching ribbed or seamless cropped tops with skirts and joggers. For a younger consumer, look to merchandise with silky shorts for more directional pajama dressing.
Taking inspiration from bondage and The Matrix, leather was unseasonably present in spring collections, adapted as a key fabrication in dresses, skirts and outerwear. Black and chocolate are the obvious hues for investment, while red and metallics serve as more trend-led offers.
Backing from Isabel Marant and Marine Serre adds longevity to the leather styles currently in retailer’s fall assortments, creating an opportunity to carry existing styles that compliment the sexy dressing aesthetic into trans-seasonal ranges instead of discounting.
An overspill of the underwear as outerwear trend, netting, mesh and sheer fabrics lent themselves to the boudoir-inspired looks at Fendi and Vaquera. From see-though wraps to all-over transparency, both extremes were met in Spring 2021, inspiring different levels of coverage.
For more demure options, retailers can look to introducing this element through Victorian blouses or mesh paneling and sleeves. All-over sheer products can also entice add-on purchasing promoted in layering stories.
This trend was resounding with designers from Balmain to Chanel drawing attention to skin through cut-out details. Also noted as a directional trend to infuse a 90s sporting aesthetic to jersey products. Side, waist or hip cut-outs gives an instant coquettish update to party dresses or adds interest to blazers. For a more modest interpretation, look to keyhole details to refresh cardigans and ribbed knits.
A pattern synonymous with sexy dressing, animal print carried through Spring 2021 presentations via form-fitting trousers, mini and midi dresses, co-ords and knitwear. Leopard, snakeskin, tiger stripes and zebra were all of note, adding further credibility to 90s & 00s nostalgia trends.
Designers opted for neon and traditional interpretations, both of which work within this overall trend and gives retailers scope to target the classic and the trend-driven consumer.
Designers such as Burberry, Khaite and Paco Rabanne emphasized boobs with cut-outs and corsetry, as well as print and fabric placement.
To incorporate accessories, harness belts bubbled up as a micro trend toughening up Victorian looks at Rokh and creating a utility element at Thebe Magugu.
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