Are we only two weeks into 2021? It's already been quite a lot, hasn't it? There's nothing like a global pandemic paired with the bleakness of January to really make you want to lie down in bed and watch reruns of New Girl. Comfort and being comforted have never been more popular. Sales of beauty products, homewares, and pyjamas have increased dramatically over the past year, and according to Lyst, Nike's jogging bottoms and Birkenstock's Arizona sandals have been two of the most popular products worldwide, both of which fall under the comfortable-clothing category. While we saw the impact of the pandemic on our shopping habits in 2020, this year, we're seeing fashion collections pivoting towards more comfortable and soothing pieces in the form of knitted dresses, co-ords, and plenty of tracksuits. This idea is also extended into colour, with an increase in pastel hues across the board—from high-street stores to designers.
Franny Fyne in a pistachio jacket and pale yellow trousers
Go on any retailer and click the new-in tab, and you'll discover myriad pastel-coloured garments. There's nothing wrong with this at all. In fact, it's to be expected. True, pastels were predicted back in the September collections, but it's more than that. Pastels are the colours we need right now to feel better about our lives. "We want soft fabrics, soft silhouettes, and pastels feel soft, psychologically," says Carolyn Mair, PhD, fashion psychologist and the author of The Psychology of Fashion. "They feel gentle and soothing. We also make this assumption that pastels are psychologically lighter than a navy blue would feel, even though, obviously, that's not the case."
Zeena Shah wearing a pastel pink pyjama set by Sleeper
In addition to the idea that pastels are "lighter," they also take us back to when we're children, says Mair. "At the moment when there’s so much uncertainty in the world, we’re looking for comfort and security, and these colours do that," she adds. They also echo colours from children's toys such as Care Bears and My Little Pony. Not to mention, pastels are often used as colours to decorate young children's bedrooms.
How does this look in practice, though? While it might sound wonderful to be walking around in an adult babygrow, I don't think that's actually the reality of how this trend is translating to our wardrobes. I turned to Zeena Shah, a designer and influencer who often wears pastel clothing, to get her take on the pastel trend. She also created the #instarainbow challenge, which was a way to get people to dress in more colourful clothing to lift their spirits, especially during the first lockdown in March last year.
"There's something about the calming nature of a pastel that brings comfort and a sense of nostalgia along with it. They conjure up memories of my mum knitting cardigans when I was a child. Colour has such a positive effect on our mood and well-being. As a designer, understanding colour and its psychology is paramount to the practice. It can also be applied to our wardrobes," Shah tells me.
Grece Ghanem wearing a pale teal top and pale blue trousers
While pastels might be a softer approach to wearing colour, it can't be understated how they could have a strong effect on our mood. That said, it's not always easy to know how to wear them without thinking you look like a walking Sherbet Lemon, so keep scrolling to see how street stylers wore pastels last fashion week in Milan, how the runway collections interpreted this trend for spring/summer 2021, and where to shop key pieces right now.