Depending on who you ask, 2021 either flew by or dragged on. One thing about the year is for certain, though, and that's the return of fashion. While the world is still not out of the deep pandemic woods, there was a noticeable influx in fashion shows and red carpet events that brought us memorable style.
The year kicked off with a fashion-forward presidential inauguration (yes, that was this year) and kept going up from there. From Harry Style's multiple feather boa changes at the Grammys to Kristen Stewart's Spencer press tour and everything in between (Rihanna! Olivia Rodrigo! Lady Gaga and Adam Driver in the Italian Alps!), we are all grateful for the fashion that 2021 brought us.
Below, the 11 best style moments of the year.
Elle Emhoff, Presidential Inauguration
Ella Emhoff kicked off the year with her embellished Miu Miu coat at the presidential inauguration. Her choice in outerwear turned the college student into a fashion phenom. One week after the inauguration, she signed a contract with IMG Models, and has walked the runway for Proenza Schouler, Miu Miu, and Balenciaga.
Megan Fox, VMAs
2021 saw the return of many mid-aughts favorites, including but not limited to: pop punk music, Dickies, and Megan Fox. The actor re-emerged in the spotlight with a fresh attitude, new relationship, and bold style. Beyond her appearance at the Met Gala and her viral GQ cover with boyfriend Machine Gun Kelly, Fox's standout moment was undoubtedly the sheer, embellished Mugler dress she wore to the VMAs in September. Combined with glossy waves and a jewel-encrusted thong, Fox's VMAs look will be remembered in nude-dress history for decades to come.
Rihanna and A$AP Rocky, Met Gala
Pop culture's best couple made their Met Gala debut as a twosome in September looking both incredibly cool and comfortable. Rihanna wore a billowing black gown by Balenciaga, while Rocky opted for a colorful upcycled quilt crafted by Eli Russell Linnetz. The latter look took on a life of its own online, leading one California woman named Sarah to recognize it as a quilt made by her own great-grandmother.
"So my great grandmother's quilt was donated to an antique/thrift store a while back," she wrote on Instagram. "When I saw the #metgala photo I realized instantly that it had to be the same quilt." sharing a side-by-side photo of Rocky's red carpet outfit with the quilt on her bed. "I read the Vogue article about the designer finding the quilt in Southern California, and with his office not that far from us in Venice, California, I demanded that my mom go look for the photos of it on our old bed. Looks like great grandma Mary went to the #metgala..."
Precious Lee, NYFW
Precious Lee enjoyed a monumental New York Fashion Week this September, spotlighting the growing presence of curve models in the fashion industry. Lee, who also appeared on the covers of Vogue, BritishVogue, Vogue Brasil, and Vogue Arabia this year, received the Breakthrough Model of the Year award during September's Fashion Media Awards. And that was in addition to her many runway appearances, including Moschino, Michael Kors, Prabal Gurung, and Christian Siriano.
"As opposed to previous years, where Lee’s presence was an enticing gift," Byrdie contributor, Gianluca Russo wrote, "This season has cemented her as a superstar, a supermodel for a new generation.
Olivia Rodrigo, The White House
As Olivia Rodrigo reflects on the past year, she might have trouble recalling every one of her major feats and accomplishments. Today, we're just here to talk about her fashion. In July, Rodrigo made a trip to the White House to encourage young people to get vaccinated. Such an important occasion called for important style choices, and Rodrigo did not miss. She paired her vintage pink Chanel suit with a black mini bag and ultra-high white platform shoes by Giuseppe Zanotti.
Lady Gaga and Adam Driver, House of Gucci
By now, we all know what to expect from Adam Driver and Lady Gaga in House of Gucci. But back in March, the pair's après-ski looks while on the film's set just about shattered the Internet. Driver wore a cream Aran sweater and white snowpants, while Gaga wore a white Cossack hat and layered gold necklackes atop her black turtleneck. Oscar-winning costume designer Ridley Scott styled both stars straight out of the heavily-guarded Gucci archives.
Zendaya, Venice Film Festival
Zendaya may have only been in Dune for approximately five out of the film's 155 minutes, but as far as her press tour looks are concerned, she's the only star who matters. While her many appearances on the various Dune red carpets are worthy of acknowledgements, there's something especially striking about the couture Balmain dress she wore at the Venice Film Festival. The custom leather gown cemented the wet look trend as here to stay, and was crafted using an exact model of Zendaya's figure by the house's atelier.
Aaron Rose Philip, Moschino SS22
Model Aaron Rose Philip became the first model to use a wheelchair on the runway for a major luxury label when she walked in the Moschino show this past September. While this wasn't Philip's first (or second, or third) fashion feat—she's starred in campaigns for Collina Strada and been interviewed by Naomi Campbell for Paper)—it was a groundbreaking shift not only in her career, but the fashion industry.
"I hope this is the start of more and inspires & empowers more global brands at the same level to truly work towards including and normalizing disabled presences and talents in their showcases," the model wrote on Instagram. "Disabled people, models and talents matter so much and we can do so much as long as the steps are taken to accommodate us properly. Black trans girls & women matter and are beautiful and I thank God that we are being realized more and more for the gentle souls that we are."
Angelina Jolie, Knox Jolie-Pitt, and Shiloh Jolie-Pitt, Eternals Premiere
The Jolie-Pitt family gave an extra boost to the upcycling phenomenon. While Angelina Jolie wore a Balmain gown, her two daughters borrowed looks from their mom's closet for the event. 15-year-old Shiloh Jolie-Pitt wore a Dior dress previously worn by her mother to a press conference for Maleficent: Mistress of Evil in 2019, while Zahara Jolie-Pitt chose her Elie Saab couture gown from the 2014 Oscars. As the matriarch pointed out, the whole family upcycled their looks or included vintage pieces.
Kristen Stewart, Spencer Premiere
She's back, folks. Kristen Stewart may be getting Oscar buzz for her role as Princess Diana in Spencer, but people seemed to be slightly more excited about her more frequent red carpet appearances. Her most dazzling was a beaded strapless gown from—who else?—Chanel. It seems likely that whatever Stewart lands on for her 2022 Oscars look will be on this list the same time next year.
Harry Styles, Grammys
No, we didn't forget. How could we forget? It has somehow been nine months since Harry Styles blessed the Grammys red carpet in a Gucci look (we're talking a yellow plaid blazer, brown trousers, and a vintage-inspired sweater) complete with a purple feather boa. He upped the game even more when he performed during the ceremony in a green boa and black leather suit. Thank you, Harry.