I used to be a jazzy-skirt–and–plain-top girl, then life on Zoom/Google Hangout/Microsoft Teams (delete as appropriate) became the norm and I realised that all of my fancy skirts and interesting trousers were, essentially, redundant. And so the roles in my wardrobe have needed to be reversed, with tops become the centrepiece and my bottom half being left to luxuriate in joggers, leggings et al.
Our outfits, therefore, come to life from the waist up, and as such, designers have become more and more focused on necklines, sleeves and intricate details to make blouses, jumpers, tanks, shirts and tees become more exciting. We've seen a renaissance for "nice tops" to wear with jeans and more sweater trends than I could possibly shake a bamboo knitting needle at. Trending tops have jettisoned with greater speed and force than seasons before when they would have been fighting for the limelight against such other sought-after items like heels. Khaite's sweetheart neckline jumper, Ganni's jumbo collar blouses and even H&M's sold-out knitted vest are just a few of the tops becoming firm favourites amongst the fashion set.
It's now a world full of terrific tops, and we're just living in it. So below you'll find the most alluring options to style out 2021 in. From an archival throwback you may not be ready for (Y2K corsets are a thing, people) to something very cosy (bring on the bradigan) there's a top trend to suit you and all of your jeans, skirts and trousers. Keep scrolling to see and shop…
1. BACKLESS JUMPERS
Style Notes: By now, your supply of truly cosy jumpers will be well-stocked. Want a more fashion-forward option? In steps the backless, barely there sweater, which brings plenty of sass with all of the understatement of simply flinging on a plain knit. Great with jeans but also quite bohemian with a floaty skirt.
2. SECOND-SKIN TOPS
Style Notes: Whether you opt for something wacky and printed or plain and simple, you'll find that these mesh tops are both great little layering tools and statement-makers.
3. BIG-SLEEVE BLOUSES
Style Notes: Last summer's trend continues with super-puffy and romantic big sleeves appearing on blouses, shirts and dresses for 2021. You can play it safe in white cotton or go the whole look-at-me nine yards with something printed too.
Style Notes: For spring/summer 2021, bras are being served by literally every big brand going. They're either worn solo as little crop tops, under matching cardigans (a look that has already been popular this year) or rendered in something sparkly and decorative to layer over over tops like cotton button-downs or simple tees. Right now, though, the bradigan stills feels most suited to the season and our temps.
5. PEEKABOO DETAILS
Style Notes: From peekaboo holes to slashes and slits, tie-up lacing to subtle cutouts, no top is complete unless its, well, incomplete! This is the new and quiet way to show a little skin, and we like it very much. Coolest with a loose-fitting pair of jeans or a minimal midi skirt.
6. COLOSSAL COLLARS
Style Notes: We're not talking about your itsy bitsy "cute as Peter Pan" collars here. The trend for neck adornments has gone supersize. From sailor-style lapels (see Imani above) to sharp '70s points or flouncy lace-trimmed ruffles, the iterations for 2021 are not shy, nor are they retiring.
7. ASYMMETRIC LINES
Style Notes: Following on from the past two summers (which have both been full of plain vest tops), we're seeing a rise in asymmetric alternatives. Whether one-shouldered and long-sleeved or a simple monochrome take on a strappy vest, this is the kind of statement that makes itself and requires next to no effort.
Style Notes: Whether worn modestly and layered (like Hodan, above) or in true Madonna-esque style with vintage Jean Paul Gaultier and little more than a smirk, you'll find that retro corsets are really making a comeback. If this is a trend you want to buy into and you'd like your corsets tight and properly boned and structured, then you can't beat Vivienne Westwood.
9. SWEETHEART NECKLINES
Style Notes: It's a fact that sweetheart necklines really do suit everyone. So I'm happy that they're back on the menu for 2021. The most popular versions right now are in knit form, making them both comfortable and sophisticated. I'm in.
10. KNITTED VEST
Style Notes: Whether layered over a shirt or simply thrown on as-is, girls all over the internet are falling hard for knitted vests. The mega-brands are getting behind this look (you can find some very expensive versions out there), but the high street is just as plentiful, with affordable Scandi labels being particularly on board.