I can’t wait to burn my sweats. Raise your hand if the thought has crossed your mind. If it has, you’re in luck because designers are, more or less, on the same wavelength.
If there was one unifying anthem for the fall 2021 collections, it was this, courtesy of the fabulous Diana Ross: “I’m coming out! I want the world to know, got to let it show.” In other words, introvert hibernation is over and head-turning opulence is in.
Of course, this wasn’t exactly a given at the start of the shows in February. The United States was still at the height of the pandemic, and what loomed ahead was largely unknown. It was fashion’s second season done in quarantine, and the big question remained as to whether the recent pivot to sweats, comfort, and ease would continue. While some stayed the course (Undercover opened with a PJs and oversized-sweater series) and others pursued an upcycling track (Antonio Marras, Coach), the majority ultimately let their fantasies and pent-up wanderlust take the lead.
There were sequins, so many sequins. Party dresses. And tulle. Tulle! For fall! Designers served up serious fashion—which, half a year ago, would have seemed woefully out of touch.
But as the show season came to a close in late April—yes, the shows, on a fragmented schedule, went on for nearly three months—and the vaccine rollout in the United States signaled an end in sight, that dressed-up dream actually felt within reach. Remember heels? Zippers? Buttons? How about glorious fringe and extravagant jewels, lavish earrings, and piled-on rings?
If you need further evidence of fashion’s collective optimism, consider this: Minis were a trend and crop tops too. And you know what they say about rising hemlines. So, jewelry lovers, get ready and get excited.
The Swing of Things
At the start of the new year, a meme linking the end of the 1918 pandemic to the Roaring ’20s started going viral on social media. “It has become very clear to me,” tweeted @JenniDigital, “why people were dressing up to go just about anywhere.”
Whether or not another period of prosperity plays out in the real world—we’ll let the historians quibble about that—we’ll certainly see it on the fashion stage. Because fall was all about freewheeling fun, with one of the leading trends coming straight from the 1920s: fringe. And this wasn’t hippie or deconstructed fringe, like we saw last year; this was glamorous cascades of the stuff—from the mammoth pearl fringe necklace at Jil Sander that streamed down to the waist to the light-catching beauties seen at Gucci, Prabal Gurung (pictured), Rokh, and Saint Laurent. Designers doubled down on the look too: Lanvin paired glittering fringe earrings with a quivering feather chubby, and Andrew Gn, shoulder-sweeping pearl tassels with tiered fringe boots.
Perhaps a consequence of the monthslong lockdown, movement was on a lot of the designers’ minds—Dries Van Noten, Etro, Erdem, and Kenzo all found inspiration in dancers and the body in motion. And fringe is the perfect expression of that. It’s a trend that demands to be outside, that begs for a dance party—or a street-style shutterbug nearby. Finally—goodbye, couch. Hello, making an entrance again.
Affinity 20k yellow gold necklace with pearl strands and tassel, diamonds, aquamarines, lapis beads, and malachite inlay; $19,000; Coomi; 866-867-7272; coomi.com
Sipan Tassel earrings with 2.51 cts. t.w. Muzo emeralds and natural blue turquoise in 22k yellow gold; $29,600; Loren Nicole x Muzo; firstname.lastname@example.org; muzo.co
Dusk necklace with cultured pearls, carved rock crystal, diamonds, and white enamel in 18k gold and platinum; $185,000; David Webb; 212-421-3030; davidwebb.com
2.5 mm–3 mm white freshwater pearl tassel earrings with 0.55 ct. t.w. diamonds in 18k rose gold; $3,310; Mastoloni; email@example.com; mastoloni.com
Padma earrings with emerald tassels and pavé diamonds in rhodium-plated sterling silver; $5,000; Modern Moghul; 361-239-8799; modernmoghul.com
The 1920s wasn’t the only 20th-century era with a hold on decadence. Fashion went grand in the big, brash ’80s as well. All that decade’s hallmarks were in the fall collections, from tulle (Stella McCartney, Christian Siriano, and Giambattista Valli) and taffeta (Molly Goddard, Dries Van Noten, and Oscar de la Renta) to serious sequins (Valentino, Prada, and Michael Kors, the last against a backdrop of Broadway’s bright lights, no less).
Pearls? There were plenty—lavishly strung. Just check out Moschino, whose fall 2021 video outing was styled after the fashion-show sequence in George Cukor’s The Women. (Watch the short on YouTube; it’s a delight.) Winnie Harlow wore a jumbo multistrand pearl necklace over a gown with a matching trompe l’oeil “necklace” and pearl-dotted shoes. And giant cabochon earrings to boot. Picture the ’80s by way of Old Hollywood: Joan Collins meets Joan Crawford.
If you can’t tell already, excess is the buzzword here. Jewelry, from New York to Paris, was supersized—like the hefty chain collars at Givenchy and the door knockers at Alberta Ferretti. There were big stones and big brooches galore and, at Osman Yousefzada (pictured), gargantuan chokers and earrings—the better to go with those massive, operatic pouf sleeves. But perhaps nothing captured the splashy mood better than the oversize earrings made from mirror shards at Tom Ford. What’s more reflective of the navel-gazing Greed Decade than that?
Emerald Solitaire Pavé Geo Link necklace with 9.83 ct. emerald and 12.57 cts. t.w. white diamonds in 18k yellow gold; $74,000; Shay; 424-777-0210; shayjewelry.com
Tudores Basel earrings with Czech glass stones in 24k gold–plated pewter; $155; Ben-Amun by Isaac Manevitz; 212-944-6480; ben-amun.com
Catena ring in 18k yellow gold with 2.9 ct. emerald cabochon; $5,000; Nadine Aysoy; firstname.lastname@example.org; nadineaysoy.com
Stena pearl earrings in 18k gold with freshwater button pearls and 0.75 ct. t.w. diamonds; $4,000; Misahara; 805-390-6326; misahara.com
Here’s another entry for fall’s more-is-more moment: statement rings, worn in multiples. And we’re not talking about dainty stacks. Designers served up outrageously bold cocktail pieces in the fall shows. The master of maximalism, Alessandro Michele at Gucci, gave us gold stunners with a pavé-covered center; Stella Jean, handcrafted rings with king-size semiprecious stones; Schiaparelli’s Daniel Roseberry, beguiling surrealist showstoppers shaped like teeth—one on each finger and complete with diamond stud “fillings.” Marine Serre, meanwhile, added dangling charms.
Sometimes it was hard to tell if the model had piled on the rings or was simply wearing flamboyant knuckle-dusters. But did that actually make a difference? Not really. It was the scene-stealing effect that mattered.
Another part of the trend’s allure is the ability to mix and match styles, allowing room for play and improvisation—just check out Tory Burch’s artful toppers (pictured) that mirrored the magpie button details down the side of a lovely sashed dress. We all know that’s part of the fun and joy of wearing jewelry anyway.
Grab n Go Ready 2 Release ring in 18k yellow gold and rainbow enamel; £4,450 ($6,309); NeverNoT; email@example.com; nevernot.co.uk
Lucent cocktail ring; $299; Swarovski; 800-426-3088; swarovski.com
Plastic Fantastic Palm Beach ring in vintage Lucite with aquamarine and 18k yellow gold; £2,500 ($3,543); Tessa Packard; firstname.lastname@example.org; tessapackard.com
Perpetual Motion spinning ring in 18k yellow gold with white pavé diamond ball; $8,500; Yael Sonia; 212-472-6488; yaelsonia.com
18k yellow gold Francis tourmaline enamel ring; $3,972; Sig Ward; 310-871-5360; sigwardjewelry.com
Hang in There
The collections had their fair share of chain-links and charms, chokers and collars, but one trend that felt fresh was the spotlight on pendants. They were bigger, more substantial than we’ve seen lately. Sure, there was a smattering of the familiar ladylike drops (Versace, Fendi), but it was much ado about statement styles that draw the eye to a conversation-starting focal point—such as the allover glitter fangs at Roberto Cavalli, the gemstone crosses at Saint Laurent, and the heart-shape drops at Carolina Herrera.
Curiously enough, this season also saw a vogue for more utilitarian takes. There were dangling keys and a sliver of a pouch at Hermès, water bottles (flasks?) at Givenchy, and compact containers, some blinged out with rhinestones, at Chanel, all hanging from the neck—consider this the next step of the ever-shrinking micro bag.
The award for most practical pendant, however, goes to the sizable healing crystals at Gabriela Hearst’s debut at Chloé (pictured). Jewelry with a side of talismanic self-care? After the year we’ve had, yes, please.
Istanbul pendant with brown and white diamonds and tourmaline in pink gold; $20,900; Selim Mouzannar; 96-11-331-299; selimmouzannar.com
Anchored Heart pendant necklace in 18k gold and leather; $5,800; Jenna Blake; email@example.com; jennablake.com
Twin Pyramid tiger’s eye necklace with 18k yellow gold vermeil 40-inch chain; $340; Crystals for Humanity; firstname.lastname@example.org; crystalsforhumanity.com
Alternating pavé diamond link rose gold bracelet with thick bone tusk charm; price on request; Jacquie Aiche; 310-550-7529; jacquieaiche.com
YOLO earrings with prehnite, citrine, and freshwater pearl in gold-plated brass and sterling silver; $220; Lizzie Fortunato; 212-777-1008; lizziefortunato.com
One could read each of the season’s trends as a reaction to our current state of affairs—dressing up to thrill the heart again, for instance, or fringe as a sign of our yen to simply get moving. So what better antidote to quarantine confinement than a celebration of nature? That’s exactly what designers gave us in abundant florals for fall—a reminder of the pleasures of alfresco living.
Blooms came every which way—in patchwork prints at Chopova Lowena, gorgeous embroideries at Oscar de la Renta, and sun-faded dyes at Marni. Jewelry followed suit, tapping into myriad moods from sculptural to playful to utterly romantic. Highlights included Simone Rocha’s baroque pearl drops with hand-painted roses and Y/Project’s art nouveau–style floral statement earrings (pictured), which—together with the occasional pops of blush and rosette-like twists and folds—offered an uplifting, poetic counterpoint to the collection’s gloomy palette.
And then there was fall’s nascent butterfly theme: Lepidoptera appeared on runways as varied as Joseph Altuzarra, Chloé, Undercover, and Jil Sander. It was the sort of motif we could embrace. Cue Miss Ross: “There’s a new me coming out.” Today, cocoon. Tomorrow, we emerge.
Turquoise butterfly earrings with resin in rhodium- and 14k gold–plated brass; $135; Mignonne Gavigan; email@example.com; mignonnegavigan.com
Tropical Flower necklace with carved turquoise and boulder opal in 18k yellow gold; $21,960; Irene Neuwirth; firstname.lastname@example.org; ireneneuwirth.com
Freedom butterfly earrings in 10k gold with white mother-of-pearl drops; $598; Jane Win; email@example.com; janewin.com
Necklace with lapis, carnelian, rose quartz, blue quartz, turquoise, chrysoprase, crystal, and iolite removable pendants; $792; Bounkit; 212-244-1877; bounkit.com
18k gold ring with jade, sapphires, rubies, tsavorite, and diamonds; price on request; Lydia Courteille; firstname.lastname@example.org; lydiacourteille.com
(Gurung, Yousefzada, Chloé, Y/Project: Imaxtree.com; Burch: courtesy of Tory Burch)