If you’ve encountered something different on Instagram in the past few weeks, you’re not alone. A scroll down the feed has likely revealed friends, family and colleagues in new environments: on vacations, at restaurants, in museums, at tables filled with cocktails and friends. Along with the new locations, there might be a new outfit; a cute top here, a high heel there.
It’s a marked difference from a few months ago. Maybe you’ve been living in a hole for the past year and some months, changing only from pajamas to sweatpants and back as you went about your business at home (shoes optional, probably). Or maybe you’ve been wearing the same things during the pandemic that you wore prior to 2020, (hopefully) pairing a mask with things like high heels, dresses and the occasional handbag. Perhaps you’ve been somewhere in between, trying at times to wear something that resembled a normal outfit — but inevitably ending back up in sweatpants.
Regardless of your pandemic style, as vaccinations roll out in the U.S. this spring, there is a feeling of renewed elation and excitement, for the reunions of friends and family — and for the way in which people plan to present themselves to the outside world as they reemerge from home.
For inspiration on how to get dressed up again for that special outing, as those vaccinations kick in and everyone returns to their social lives, FN turned to the street style of Paris Haute Couture in July 2019. It was a time when the word “pandemic” wasn’t even on the horizon. And the trends displayed by the tastemakers and fashion insiders of the week are still relevant now.
Below, 11 tips and outfit ideas for that first post-vaccination night out, lunch date or other occasion to get dressed up again.
1. Just put on a dress already
We’ve always known this: Hands down one of the easiest ways to feel instantly dressed up is to put on a dress. For those who feel comfortable in dresses, the garment’s shape gives a simultaneous ease and elegance that few other garments can offer with consistent guarantee. Stick to flowing styles — think A line skirts, puff sleeves, empire waists — for an easier transition from what you may have been wearing over the past year (sweatpants), and you’ll be less likely to squirm while dressed.
To buy: Aje Mimosa cutout midi dress, $675.
To buy: March 11 Rose Bomb mini dress, $789.
2. Try a corset or bustier top
Despite all of the casual, relaxed, free-flowing garments available to buy and wear now, the corset top has emerged as the antithesis to comfort dressing (maybe it’s all of the “Bridgerton” mania come to real life). Consider this the going-out top of summer 2021, something to throw on with jeans and and maybe an easy thong kitten heel or strappy sandal. A smocked top will also give the same fitted silhouette and is available in plenty of options (strapless, sleeveless with ties, puff sleeves, etc.)
3. Bust out your best handbag…
Over the past year, there has been less occasion and need for the type of fun, showy handbag that used to accompany a going-out ‘fit. For many, bags took on an even more practical role during the pandemic, as a vehicle for things like face masks, gloves and hand sanitizer. Now’s the time to dig out that fun clutch or mini-bag. After all, hand sanitizer doesn’t take up that much room.
To buy: Cult Gaia Yasmina rattan bag, $228.
4. …Or your best pair of heels
For the fashion-inclined, it’s highly likely that there is at least one pair of heels sitting in a closet, neglected. Pull those out a few days before your planned outing and make sure you can still walk in them. High heels may be back for some, but not if you’re fumbling around on them. Try a block heel for more starting support before making your way to any stiletto.
5. If heels are not an option, do a decorative flat
Maybe you’ve thrown out heels with the pandemic. Maybe you never wore them, or you’re not ready to wear them just yet. There are plenty of flats out there that still feel worthy of a night out, whether its an embroidered loafer, a crystal-studded sandal or a brightly-colored slide. The chunky sandal (aka the “ugly” sandal) is also sticking around and this season has a whole new offering of them with more sophisticated details. And don’t forget about the the ballet flat, which continues to make its sly, sophisticated comeback this spring.
To buy: Zyne Raffy slide, $360.
To buy: Malone Souliers Maureen flat, $575.
6. Load up on jewelry
Along with the handbag and high heel, it’s likely that your jewelry also went into hibernation over the past year. To get a better grasp on what you have, empty your jewelry box or drawer onto a table and sort through it all before getting dressed. Stacked rings, drop earrings and layered necklaces are all still relevant, and gold is the metal/tone of choice currently — but truth be told, putting on any piece of jewelry will feel like a celebration now.
7. Try a new beauty look
For all of the Netflix, Amazon Prime and other streaming you did over the past year, it’s highly likely that there was a beauty moment that resonated. Maybe it’s a Hunter Schafer eye from “Euphoria,” or a “Bridgerton” hairstyle. Regardless of the specific trend, seize the moment of reinvention and give it a try now. It just might be something that sticks.
8. Go for a halter top or backless option
With the return of 2000s fashion combined with the anticipation of a raucous post-pandemic season, this summer is destined for the halter top. Just as it was worn before in the late ’90s and early ’00s, the casual sleeveless top can go with pretty much anything, from baggy jeans and track pants to summery floral skirts, cutoffs and high-waisted shorts. Find a sturdy support plan for the top and then pick your lane.
To buy: Nicholas Mika silk halter tank, $195.
To buy: Alexis Bettie knit halter top, $295.
9. Keep pants loose
After a year of non-pants pants, take it easy on yourself and keep your new post-pandemic pants loose. The trend was already taking hold before 2020, with relaxed trousers making repeat appearances on the runways at men’s fashion weeks, which began to trickle over to women’s collections — especially in suiting. This summer, pick a relaxed fabric such as linen or plissé, or keep things even more casual with the aforementioned track pant or baggy jean. Top options include anything from an oversized but structured shirt jacket to a puff-sleeved top — or, yes, a halter top.
10. Finally try a hat
The bucket hat is the accessory that refuses to give up. Since creeping back into men’s fashion some five years ago (in its current iteration), it has consistently been the hat choice for models-off-duty and other street style characters (and also Cardi B). What’s great about the hat is that it can instantly bring any outfit down to earth, making even the frilliest dress or highest heel more relatable. Consider it an outfit equalizer (that also protects from the sun).
To buy: Prada triangle logo bucket hat, $495.
11. Add a belt for a more tailored look
It’s no secret that a belt can instantly add polish to a look — it’s one of the oldest styling tips around. But after the past year, there’s a good chance that your belts are somewhere deep in a closet. Now’s a good time to get reacquainted with them or add a new one to your wardrobe. Sculptural, gold-tone belts from the likes of Bottega Veneta (add it to their list of must-have accessories), Gucci and Valentino feel the freshest right now, but don’t be afraid to look at vintage options; resale sites such as Poshmark or The RealReal feature belts that are often sturdier than today’s styles, with more substantial hardware from past decades. Add one to a dress, top a trench coat or even a denim jacket with one for a multi-layered look.