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While we’ve been lying on our couches, embracing that pandemic-induced 24/7 sweatpants life, designers are taking an optimistic approach for fashion’s future. Lifting us out of our comfy rut, this year’s wardrobe refresh is a blend of nostalgic looks and elevated basics.
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To help with the revival of your closet, we asked a few style experts for their top fashion trends for 2022. What you can look forward includes pleated maxi skirts, explosions of joyful colors, clean-cut collegiate styles and iridescent pearls that remind you the world is your oyster, even if your runway continues to be the hallway between your home office and the kitchen.
1. Preppy sweater vests
When prepwear—a.k.a. clothes you’d picture on Ivy League coeds—strutted its stuff down spring 2022 runways, the nerdiest of fashionistas golf-clapped with delight. The star pupil of this smart, buttoned-up style? The sweater vest.
A favorite in the ‘90s of Clueless icons Cher and Dionne, these sleeveless knit toppers are set to have a big year. And according to stylist Lauren Rae Levy Vigneron, founder of New York City-Malibu styling and consulting firm LRL Group, the nerdier, the cuter.
“Cable knits and dorky prints are all rage,” she says, giving a shoutout to trendsetter Harry Styles and his vest-heavy wardrobe. “My favorite way to rock this look is with a cozy fabric, such as cashmere, in a solid or fun printed neutral shade, and a crisp white or ivory button-down shirt underneath it.” If your vest is oversized, pair it with a straight- or wide-legged pant, mini-skirt, leather pant or—another 2022 trend—a pleated skirt.
“I love a vest, and there are so many options for them right now,” says Los Angeles-based Emma Trask, stylist to celebs Scarlett Johansson, Beyonce and Carrie Underwood, and founder of The Chrysalis Lab, a lifestyle brand that upcycles vintage pieces into new ones. “Take a masculine/feminine approach to styling by wearing a sweater vest over a maxi dress or an oversized suit vest over a slip dress.”
While Britney and Justin shook red carpet style at the 2001 American Music Awards with their infamous all-jeans matching moment, today’s monochromatic vibe will change the way you view denim. Designers are taking a more subtle approach to this dare-to-wear trend without lessening its wow factor.
“[Modern] shades of denim are smoother, less washed,” says Vigneron. “The patchwork we’re seeing is cleaner than in previous trends, which is why some [designers] are calling it ‘paneled,’” she explains, noting that stitching is hidden inside of the garment for a seamless transition from one color denim to the other on the outside.
To approach the denim-on-denim look conservatively, she suggests you keep it clean. “Don’t wear denims that are almost the same shade,” she says. Instead, be intentional—either match them perfectly or don’t.
3. Knitted and crocheted textures
Apologies to your favorite Athleta hoodie and joggers, but it’s time to upgrade from loungewear to items that knit comfort with style. Knitwear became the top-ranked shopping fabric amidst the pandemic, according to Brooklyn-based fashion stylist and TV expert Denise Caldwell. “You can wear it to lounge around the house or, if you need to run a quick errand, you have some knitwear on that makes you feel good and like you got dressed with minimal effort.”
2022 is trending to go beyond basic sweaters in favor of crochet sets and styles, like ankle-long dresses, and crop tops work with wide-legged pants. “A knitwear set is something that has become a fashionable take on glam leisure,” she says of the alternative to the traditional jogging suit. “Imagine a matching snug top and bottom.”
Knits make garments immediately cozier and more luxurious, says Trask. “Knit sweater dresses are so versatile. Pair them with a boot and a coordinating belt for an elevated street style look, or glam one up for evening with heels, a long blazer, and jewels.”
4. Pleated skirts
That famous fold is returning. Rather than giving off school uniform vibes, the playful pleat takes on a more grown-up look in 2022, with iterations ranging from Dior’s feminine mini skirts to elegant maxis a la Proenza Schouler.
“This style oozes femininity,” says Vigneron. “I’m loving tight pleats that are midi length as much as wider pleats on shorter pieces.” Pair your pleats with a blouse or sweater and sneakers or flat boots for day, and heels for a dressy evening look. “I’m also a huge fan of vintage concert tees with pleated skirts for feminine with a touch of edge.” Alternatively, top them off with a denim or leather jacket, paired with a sneaker, for rockstar status.
“I love a leather—preferably faux—pleated skirt with a sweater, which can either be fitted or slightly oversized and tucked,” says Trask. “Add a statement belt and coordinated heel or boot.” For a high-end yet breezy elevated look, she suggests going soft with a knit pleated skirt and matching sweater.
Iridescent accents in the form of real and faux pearls are all over the runways, from head, like with pearl-encrusted headbands, to toe, like a pair of pearly booties. Lately, even pearl skin and nail accents have graced the red carpet.
While this trend isn’t novel—Caldwell dates it back to the 16th century—the delicate dressing of adorning yourself with pearls is bolder this year. “Pearls have a glamour and statement effect to them,” she says. “They have been modernized with oversized and encrusted details.” Styles range from collegiate wear on cardigans to bustiers made of pearly accessories.
“Pearls subtly embellish and elevate a piece,” adds Trask. “They transform all sorts of fabrics.” Designers have been peppering pearls on everything, from chiffon to silk, cashmere to wool. “Mixing pearls, rhinestones and fringe can create a super glam rocker look, while pearl embellishments on sheer or mesh fabric can elevate a sexy look.” Creatively placed pearls on knit pieces offer a new take on the classic prep, and pearls mixed with denim or leather and metal brings edgy street style.
6. Statement cut-outs
Whether it’s strategically placed along the waist of a blazer or along the arms of a bodysuit, small peeps of skin are drawing big attention, beyond the cut-out dresses you’ve seen in the recent past. It’s up to you to decide what you want to expose, making each outfit truly individual.
“Cut outs are a great way to make an outfit unique and unexpected,” Trask says. Clearly this style calls upon your sexy side, but to tone things down, she suggests pairing an item with more concealing pieces—a cut-out dress with a duster and boots, or baggy low rise pants with a cut out top.
7. Dopamine dressing
As we struggle to come to terms with the past two years, you could take “escaping” into our closets both literally and figuratively. Enter dopamine dressing—or the wearing of joyful attire, often full of color, that boosts your mood. Named after the “happy hormones” released by your brain that assist give you that feel-good high, this trend is just what the doctor ordered.
“Dopamine dressing took new meaning after lockdowns,” says Vigneron. Pinterest’s 2022 trend report shows a 16-fold increase in searches for “vibrant outfits,” proving that now is the time to head somewhere over the rainbow.
“Cheerful bright colors make people happy, and who doesn’t want to do all of the things that brighten their moods, as well as those around them?” she says. While it began in the DIY world of tie-dye athleisure wear in spring and summer of 2021, the trend evolved to bold color blocks. “If it makes you feel happy and confident, go for it,” says Vigneron. “I like mixing textures and layers with this trend, but I also love seeing folks experiment with it and making it their own.”
Dopamine dressing isn’t always about color. It can be about textures, patterns, or whatever makes you feel good.
“Joy dressing with bright colors is a trend about look-good, feel-good outfits you can wear on repeat,” says Caldwell, who also reaches for florals, rainbows, and abstract patterns for a pop of personality. “This year is all about dressing with comfort, but also wearing things that boost your mood. Adding color can rejuvenate your daily attitude and update your style in an instant.”
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