Acclaimed fashion and cultural historian Amanda Hallay Heath states, “Fashion is not an island; it’s a response.”

As spring unfolds into full bloom, designers are responding to several important cultural and seasonal shifts. COVID vaccines are becoming more widely available, allowing many people to step gingerly back into pre-pandemic life – restaurants, small gatherings, regional travel, and a slow return to the office.

Yet, people still crave the comfort and ease of work-from-home (WFH) fashion. We want to cocoon in cashmere and knits and breathe easier in cotton and linen. Body-con silhouettes that dominated the latter part of the 2010s are swapped for draping and drawstrings. The hardened armor of the “Boss Babe” is giving way to something softer and yielding.

In this COVID-shaped world, it’s no longer about arriving in a career or a station in life but becoming more of who we are. The following Spring/Summer 2021 fashion trends embody the zeitgeist.

Matching Sets

For decades, women were cautioned from being “too matchy-matchy.” Our handbags couldn’t match our shoes or our outfits or else we faced the wrath of being deemed matronly. Embracing tops and bottoms in the same color and fabric make it easier to get dressed in the morning, especially if our commute consists of walking from the bedroom to the living room.

Matching sets can be found at most price points. Target offers athleisure-wear to live and lounge in. The Gap is expanding its matching concept from loungewear to coordinating outfits for the entire family. I prefer matching sets featured in J.Crew and Club Monaco’s spring look books, if it’s within your price range, because they offer sophisticated takes on the matching trend that can double as sleek basics once we transition from our Zoom screens and into the world.

Wider-Leg Jeans

Fashion is gradually liberating women from the tyranny of skinny jeans. Honestly, who actually looked good in them? In a recent New York Times article about the trending of looser-fit jeans, Levi Strauss & Co executives said, “sales trends showed that loose, even baggy, jeans for women and men were booming and poised to become a hallmark of our post-pandemic world.”

“Mom Jeans” are becoming cool again as social media influencers are pairing the wider-leg and higher-rise jean with tighter tops. I prefer the trouser cut in a darker wash because they can be dressed up or down.

Fit is the key to not looking like you’re starring in the 80s episode of WandaVision or revisiting your 90s skateboarder days. By “fit,” I don’t mean whether your body is an “apple” or “pear” shape or shoehorning yourself into an hourglass shape. Ideally, wide-leg jeans should fit in the hips and waist and then drape along the natural lines of your body.

Pastel Shades

Fashion’s emphasis on spring pastels is about as predictable as the Cherry Blossom trees flowering in March and April. This year, however, spring pastels feel fresh again after several seasons of sensible neutrals like black, white, camel, and navy.

Spring pastels can be found at most retailers and at all price points. The key to wearing pastels is your undertone. Are you a warm or cool undertone? The quickest way to check your undertone is to see if you look best in gold or silver jewelry. If you’re a warm tone, like me, you’ll want pastels in gelato shades like pistachio, raspberry (warm pink), or almond. If you’re a cool tone, your pastels will take an icy hue – ballet pink, baby blue, cool mint, or glacial green.

You can pair pastel shades with your neutrals to incorporate the trend into your existing wardrobe. A ballet pink t-shirt looks great with khaki pants or shorts. You can also add a pop of pastels in your accessories if you want to try the trend in small doses or don’t think sorbet shades “look good” on you, but still want to try the trend.

“Soothing” and “self-care” are now permanent terms in our fashion lexicon after the past few tumultuous years. As I crest into my late 40s, I welcome these relaxed, style trends as the sense of myself as an island grows smaller and my heart expands.

Kerra Bolton is a writer and filmmaker based in the Mexican Caribbean. In a former life, she was a political columnist; Director of Communications, Outreach, and Oppositional Research for the North Carolina Democratic Party; and founder of a boutique strategic communications firm.

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