Here’s a thought about how we might dress in this year: Fran Lebowitz. The consummate New Yorker is the subject of the recent Martin Scorsese-directed Netflix series Pretend It’s a City and amid her many quips and aired grievances we can learn a lot about this writer’s style. She has worn the same outfit for 50 years: blazers by Savile Row tailors Anderson & Sheppard, Cuban-heeled boots, Hilditch & Key men’s shirts and Levi’s 501 jeans. It is a philosophy that resonates with Miuccia Prada, too. As fashion designer Raf Simons said ahead of his and Prada’s co-creative debut for spring/summer 2021, “How Miuccia dresses is very often a kind of uniform one way or another, and that was a direct inspiration for me for the show.” That collection, pared back but with distinct Raf Simons and Miuccia Prada codes, speaks to the sense of versatility in minimalism that feels paramount for how we will be dressing in 2021. When much of the world went into lockdown in March last year, Amy Smilovic, founder and creative director of Tibi, started sharing styling tips and advice on her Instagram stories. It resonated with her followers in a way that took her somewhat by surprise. “I was figuring out in real time what people wanted to hear more of and it turns out there is a big white space out there for information on learning about your style and how to communicate it through what you wear,” Smilovic says. “I receive at least three to four letters a day from people not thanking me for helping them select the right top, but letters about how this information has really changed their life, that it’s stimulating their brain, and it’s making them stronger in many aspects of their life. I certainly never imagined this type of outcome.” Key to Smilovic’s current philosophy is the “creative pragmatist”, someone who has a strong sense of personal style, but with an element of utilitarian practicality mixed in. She plays with proportions and fit, and always knows when to French tuck a shirt or add another layer. Her style is not easy to categorise, but it is distinct and remains unchanged no matter what the situation. “That ability to retain your sense of self, through your style, whether you are at dinner, work or play is critical because we associate ourselves with how we are put together,” she says. “If our outer self doesn’t speak to who we are, we feel ‘off’.” Natalie Kingham, global fashion officer at Matches Fashion, agrees that versatility is in focus this year. “In reflection [of] the new way in which we are living, our everyday uniform has evolved towards a more relaxed, modern way of dressing,” she says. “Our customer is integrating active and loungewear items with existing fashion pieces to offer comfort, style and practicality.” This mindset is behind the retailer’s Wardrobe Foundations edit, launched earlier this year – a thoughtful curation of wardrobe workhorse pieces such as ready-for-anything trench coats, black slip dresses and interesting handbags. “Our idea was that if you were to clear out your wardrobe, these would be the pieces you would buy first: building block pieces to base any outfit around that offer both quality and longevity,” says Kingham. The idea of the perfect capsule wardrobe has been occupying fashion designer Misha Nonoo, too. In January, she launched her Perfect Ten collection, 10 pieces – including her popular husband shirt – intended to be the basis for any hard-working wardrobe: a right-for-now update to Donna Karan’s Seven Easy Pieces concept in the 1990s. Underlying all of this is a sense of timelessness. Lisa Aiken, buying and fashion director at Moda Operandi, says this has become increasingly important to customers as they curate a wardrobe to suit these uncertain, and for some, still homebound, times. “We have definitely seen a shift in consumer shopping habits, where the focus has moved from trend driven items to forever pieces,” she says. “She is shopping more thoughtfully and is willing to spend more, in fact, for Moda’s spring/summer 2021 trunk show season we saw a 35 per cent increase in average unit retail price. “But what really matters is that an item, be it a piece of jewellery or a perfectly worn-in pair of 501s, means something to its owner and that they intend to keep on wearing it. An ‘investment’ is unique to an individual. If a client has an immediate reaction to, say, a one-of-a-kind Gabriela Hearst patchwork coat, the emotion connected to that purchase will translate into her daily life, and it will remain in her wardrobe for years to come. Seeking out emotional connections and optimism in our clothing feels particularly relevant when times have been bleak. These can be found in the dedication to craftsmanship at fashion houses such as Loewe. As well as the knock-you-sideways colour palettes on recent runways: think fuchsia at Valentino, emerald green at Brandon Maxwell and sunshine yellow at Roksanda. At haute couture week in January, this year a digital only affair, Virginie Viard at Chanel sought inspiration from that most hopeful of endeavours: a wedding. There’s joy, too, in seeing the industry reinvent itself and imagining what this might mean for our wardrobes. One example is AZ Factory, the new project from Alber Elbaz, the beloved former creative director at Lanvin. AZ Factory is based on tight edits of seasonless, useful clothes to suit all women. The fabrics are innovative and sustainable, the silhouettes lovely and the size range wide. Libby Page, senior market editor at Net-a-Porter, agrees that uplifting fashion will be a focus this year: “For spring/summer 2021 we saw brands approaching their collection with an optimistic point of view, with a sea of bold, bright colours in a multitude of fabrics and textures. We believe that finding joy and exhilaration in fashion is more important than ever.” Kingham sees this mood-shifting buoyancy, too, with a “growing sense of optimism as we start the year”. “For spring/summer 2021 designers have embraced this outlook and focused on how fashion can lift the spirits, injecting colour and bold prints into everyday pieces, from Gabriella Hearst’s tie-dye slip dresses to Germanier’s crystal-embellished jeans. This is a clever interim step: bringing joy into the everyday before we can fully embrace going out again,” she says. This balance in fashion right now of the uplifting and the grounding and practical is perfectly illustrated by global colour forecaster Pantone’s decision to put out two colours in 2021: Illuminating and Ultimate Gray. Illuminating is described by Pantone as “a bright and cheerful yellow sparkling with vivacity, a warming yellow shade imbued with solar power”. Ultimate Gray, the colour of pebbles, has “solid and dependable elements which are everlasting and provide a firm foundation”. Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Colour Institute, said of the decision at the time, “Practical and rock solid but at the same time warming and optimistic, this is a colour combination that gives us resilience and hope. We need to feel encouraged and uplifted, this is essential to the human spirit.” Smilovic says that in 2021, “the connectivity between what you wear and how you feel will be greater than ever”. “We have all slowed down, in some way or another,” she says. “No matter your circumstances, you have likely had more time with your thoughts than ever before. And those thoughts are likely to be complicated and so I think that comes through in the way we dress. We are multifaceted, and that’s good. I think fashion will not be so easily able to categorise.” And as for Fran Lebowitz, in being so absolutely herself, she already had it right years ago.