2021’s Fictional Fashion Muses

2021’s Fictional Fashion Muses

This year brought forth a multitude of new looks and trends. From teeny-tiny bags to playful accessories and low-rise jeans, the trends of 2021 may have brought you some deja-vu. The trend cycle has been ever-shortening as a result of consumers being chronically online during the pandemic. This allowed fashion to be transported through decades of trends in the span of just one year, a phenomenon that is incredibly atypical in terms of historical trend cycle patterns. When reflecting on important trends in different decades, we can look to pop culture. Characters in TV and film often expertly encapsulate the trends of their decade. So let’s take a trip through the decades, and see how these fictional fashion muses have influenced the way we dress today.

The 1970s


Side-by-side comparison of Annie Hall (Annie Hall) and Daphne (Scooby Doo)Two prominent fictional characters from the 70s are Annie Hall from Annie Hall and Daphne Blake from the Scooby-Doo franchise. Annie Hall donned pieces like oversized blazers and ties, which were considered ‘menswear’ at the time. In 2021 fashion, we’ve seen a revival of the very same pieces that were included in Annie Hall’s ensembles. In fact, blazers are now seen as wardrobe staples for women and praised when worn as celebrity red carpet looks. As for Daphne, her chic headbands and fashionable scarves are making a major comeback. Contemporary renditions of preppy style like headbands and skinny scarves are emerging, especially as fall essentials when the weather changes. Interestingly, Google’s data revealed that both “Scooby-Doo” and “The 1970s” were among the top 100 Halloween costumes of 2021– so chances are, you saw many ‘Daphnes’ out and about this year.



The 1980s


Collaged image. Top image: Main characters of "The Breakfast Club" sitting on a desk together, bottom image, Ferris Beuler and his girlfriend from Ferris Bueler's Day Off posing with their arms crossed at an art gallery. The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off are classics, and bring interesting perspectives to the table of modern fashion. Let’s start off with the Breakfast Club characters. A notable feature of the Breakfast Club’s range of characters is the wide variety of aesthetics they exhibit within the same decade. Their respective tropes: the nerd, the popular girl, the jock, the rebel, and the introverted outcast; are largely identifiable by the way they dress. All of the characters’ ensembles, while remaining crucial identifiers of the characters, were incredibly on-brand for the 1980s. While using the way one dresses to express themselves was not a new phenomenon, it was certainly exaggerated in the film. The way you dress says a lot about you. It is one of the primary mediums through which people tell the world who they are without actually saying it. In 2021, fashion is an expressive outlet more than ever. The ability to choose an aesthetic aligns incredibly well with the tropes presented in this 80s film. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is also a notable capsule of 1980s fashion. The main characters, Ferris Bueller and his girlfriend, Sloane Peterson, are quite the fashionable duo. Ferris wears a trendy leather varsity-style jacket and a vibrantly patterned vest, two articles of clothing that continue to appear in our current climate. He also wears chunky half-frame sunglasses, which are among the most popular styles for sunglasses today. Sloane wears fashionably long denim shorts, which made quite a comeback this summer. Clothing companies now affectionately refer to them as ‘mom shorts’.

The 1990s


Verically-divided collage of two images. On the left, Will Smith of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. On the right, Rachel Green of Friends.

Will Smith in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Green in F.R.I.E.N.D.S both donned iconic looks that we still celebrate today. The multicoloured head-to-toe outfits and timeless minimalism were both too pivotal to leave in the past. This year, we saw the rise of coulor-blocking in fashion in the patchwork trend. Cedric the Entertainer, an actor and game show host, channeled this trend on the Emmys Red Carpet in 2021. His bright blue colour-blocked suit received plenty of media coverage, creating exposure for the colour-blocking trend. Despite all of these fabulous examples, no one did colour-blocking more expertly than Will Smith’s 1990s character on the hit show Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Bright colours and pattern mixing were certainly on-brand for this time period, and Will Smith’s outfits demonstrated that flawlessly. Smith’s typically oversized, baggy clothes are also synonymous with today’s popular streetwear style as seen on Billie Eilish or Amandla Stenberg. Chunky sneakers are also trending just as much now as they were in the 90s, and Fresh Prince may be to blame. Rachel Green is an early 90s style icon. Her chic style embodies the spirit of both preppy and casual. She regularly donned oversized jeans and baggy knit sweaters, both of which are continuing to appear in modern-day trends. Influencers like Matilda Djerf expertly rock this casual preppy look. 

The Early 2000s


Vertically-split collage. On the left, Lizzie McGuire. On the right, Hannah Montana. Icons Lizzie McGuire and Hannah Montana are both equally influential for 2021’s trends. The early 2000s, or Y2K period, was an era in fashion driven by pure excess and consumerism. From sequins to layers to bright colours, the 2000s were driven by the ethos that more is more.  Lizzie McGuire and Hannah Montana inspired current trends such as chokers, low-rise jeans, layered jewelry, chunky belts, and plenty of rhinestones. This plethora of accessories seen on both characters is heavily influential on modern maximalist approaches to styling. Brands such as I Am Gia, Juicy Couture, Princess Polly, Jaded London, and The Ragged Priest have adopted this Y2K aesthetic. A potential explanation for this might be nostalgic film and television reboots. These reboots often follow a 20-year cycle, which explains renewed interest, with the new re-vamped Hannah Montana series rumors and the anticipated Lizzy McGuire movie, the latter set to air on Disney+ since canceled. While reboots are set to differ slightly from the originals, costumes and fashion are incredibly important aspects in relaying the same aesthetic feel on screen.

The 2010s


Vertically-split collage. On the left, Olivia Pope from Scandal. On the right, Mindy from The Mindy ProjectThe 2010s brought forth many iconic characters, and adjacently iconic styling, like Scandal’s Olivia Pope and Mindy in The Mindy Project. Olivia Pope’s character emulated effortless neutral professionalism while Mindy’s character was more experimental with amusing prints and textures. Both of these styles are still undoubtedly present in modern fashion. Layered and structured neutrals are very ‘in’ right now, as seen in brands like Skims, Yeezy, and Rick Owens.. Mindy’s ability to play up patterns is a recurring theme in 2021’s avant-basic trends. Like Mindy, these modern trends embrace bold patterns and prints.





All that being said, what is popular in fashion at one point in time is not exclusive to that decade. In reality, style is an interconnected web of inspiration across different time periods. I mean, could you not totally see Anya Taylor-Joy clad in Daphne’s iconic ensemble? Or Rihanna donning Annie Hall’s iconic outfit? The characters from fictional pieces as seen above likely inspired the fashion trends you’re seeing all over social media. Isn’t it crazy how much fashion has evolved, yet simultaneously remained static for the past 50 years? And all because a costume designer thought something had the potential to stand out on our screens. While the entire world was stuck at home during the pandemic, fashion trends cycled through at an unprecedented rate. Do you think in 20 years, loose-fitting denim, midriff-bearing sets, and sweater vests will be seen the same way we perceive trends from the 1990s?



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