The 12 Fashion Items That Defined 2020

Numbers don’t always tell a complete story, but at the end of each year, we’re always curious to see which fashion items got the most clicks or highest spikes in search volume. Forget the runways; what did people actually buy and wear? More often than not, the must-haves can be explained by major headlines or moments in pop culture. But in 2020, a year marked by a global health crisis, what we liked and bought arguably meant even more. If we purchased anything new, it was likely comfortable – loungewear remains the best-selling category on the market – or sent a message about our beliefs.

Below, we’ve narrowed down 12 of the year’s most-wanted accessories, shoes, sweatshirts, and more. In some cases, we looked to data – see: Harry Styles’s TikTok sweater – while others came from our own observations, like Bottega Veneta’s oddly uplifting rain boots.

Telfar’s Shopping Bag

The Bushwick Birkin, as it’s come to be known, isn’t new. Telfar Clemens started making his vegan Shopping Bag totes in 2014, and while they’ve always been hard to get, the obsession reached a fever pitch in 2020. A surprise restock in July reportedly sold out in seconds, and the resulting frenzy became almost as newsworthy as the bags themselves. The tote got another boost when congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wore it on Capitol Hill; according to the global search engine Lyst, searches for Telfar spiked 163 per cent the following week. Telfar’s slogan, “not for you – for everyone,” jibes nicely with AOC’s own beliefs.

© Photo: Courtesy of Parkwood Entertainment / Disney+

Marine Serre’s crescent-moon prints

Following the debut of Beyoncé’s Black Is King film, many of the designers she and her back-up dancers wore saw triple-digit spikes in search traffic. Marine Serre’s crescent-moon body stocking saw a particular surge: According to Lyst, it became the most popular design of the year, with searches spiking 426 per cent in the 48 hours after the film’s release. 

Like a few other items on this list – the Telfar tote, the Nap Dress, Birkenstocks – it isn’t exorbitantly expensive. Serre’s long-sleeve brown top is £255 on Marineserre.com, and considering you can layer it under dresses, sweaters, blazers, and just about anything else in your wardrobe, the cost per wear could end up being pennies.

Birkenstock’s Arizona sandals

It’s hard to recall when people weren’t wearing Birkenstock Arizonas. Influential women like Phoebe Philo and Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen gave them fashion cred in the early 2010s, but it was 2020 that made the ugly-chic shoe an actual must-have. Lyst put the chunky two-strap sandal at number two on its list of the top 10 most-wanted items of the year, with a nod to Proenza Schouler, Valentino, and Rick Owens, who have all collaborated with the German shoemaker. Still, you’re more likely to see people on the street wearing the brand’s classic two-strap sandals in black leather or ultralight EVA foam. The Arizonas on every Vogue editor’s list? Fluffy wool shearling in black, which retail for £115 at Birkenstock.com.

© Photo: Courtesy of Mugler

Mugler’s sheer bodysuit

Beyoncé, Dua Lipa, Miley Cyrus, Kim Kardashian West – those are just a few of the über-influential women who have worn Mugler’s sheer bodysuit. This isn’t your average shapewear: The brand’s creative director, Casey Cadwallader, told British Vogue he’s been developing the design since he joined the house back in 2017. Comprising 64 panels, it’s a couture piece most women couldn’t justify for daily use (ditto Lipa’s crystal-embellished version), but its popularity is likely to inspire more Mugler and Mugler-like bodysuits, base layers, and lingerie in 2021.

Bottega Veneta’s Puddle boots

Birks aside, the most-wanted designer shoes of the year were easily Bottega Veneta’s bulbous rubber Puddle Boots, which retail for £465 at Bottegaveneta.com. They were a constant on our Instagram feeds, beloved by editors and Danish influencers alike, and came in a range of happy, impractical colours, from kiwi to lollipop pink. Daniel Lee showed them with fringed gowns on the runway in February, but they became newly relevant in light of the tumult we faced this year. Weatherproof and nearly indestructible, they’ll get you through anything.

Christopher Kane’s More Joy accessories

Christopher Kane’s autumn/winter 2018 show included a few dresses printed with sketches from the book The Joy of Sex, plus a new slogan: “More Joy.” Two years later, Kane has developed a full line of subtly subversive iPhone cases, blankets, face masks, sex accessories, and underwear stamped with “More Joy” (as well as “Sex” and “Special”), and we’ve been seeing them everywhere. In a pretty joyless year, the concept feels newly meaningful; each item serves as a tiny reminder. Also very 2020: Kane’s “More Joy” face mask, which retails for £30 at Christopherkane.com, was the first fashion mask made with an antiviral fabric.

JW Anderson’s patchwork cardigan

Harry Styles was the man of the year, literally. Lyst named him the number one most influential celebrity on its report, up from number nine in 2019. When he wore a JW Anderson colour-block cardigan during a Today Show rehearsal, the sweater sparked an interesting TikTok trend: Crochet enthusiasts made their own versions of it, with some videos amassing hundreds of thousands of views. Anderson encouraged the fun by sharing the original pattern on his website, telling Vogue Business: “I quite like that we designed something that has taken on a new type of meaning, a new life. And I think that’s important for fashion today; to be about inclusion, not exclusion.”

© Photo: Courtesy of Dior

Dior Men’s Air Jordans

Young men and women are willing to wait hours for Kim Jones’s couture-meets-streetwear trophies, his Air Dior sneaker collaboration with Nike especially. Worn by the likes of Travis Scott, the grey Jordans with a logoed swoosh are now fetching resale prices upward of £6,000. For those who couldn’t get their hands on a pair, classic Nike Air Jordans (which retail for closer to £95 at Nike.com) were trending this year too; The RealReal chalked it up to the success and influence of The Last Dance.

© Photo: Courtesy of Louis Vuitton

Louis Vuitton’s face shield

Our approach to PPE has changed dramatically since March, from wearing no masks at all to splurging on face shields. Louis Vuitton’s monogrammed plastic shield is one of the more over-the-top items on our list, but you can’t say it isn’t functional. It may just be the thing that defines 2020 fashion the most. A face mask (or shield) has become the accessory we can’t leave home without, and it makes sense that luxury brands would create their own versions. 

Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars

Kamala Harris’s fashion choices weren’t widely discussed this election cycle, and intentionally so. But there were a few constants you couldn’t help but notice in her wardrobe, including a pearl Irene Neuwirth necklace and classic Converse All-Star sneakers. They were a relatable choice in a year where glamour simply wasn’t a priority for most women. Converse was unable to comment on Harris’s influence on sales or site traffic, but let’s just say they’ve never looked more appealing to us.

The North Face’s Retro puffer

Chances are there will be a few contenders for the coat of the year, but we’re betting on one in particular: The North Face’s 1996 Retro puffer. It’s been spotted on celebrities (like Emily Ratajkowski, above), but beyond popularity, what it really has going for it is serious warmth. You’ll need a good coat for your socially-distanced walks this winter, even better if it’s one you’re excited to wear.

Khaite’s cashmere bradigan

Khaite’s plush, oatmeal-coloured cardigan and bra technically went viral last autumn when Katie Holmes wore the cozy set to hail a taxi. But 2020 was the year the look went mainstream. We’re seeing copycats and dupes everywhere, and despite restocks on Khaite.com, it’s still pretty difficult to get your hands on the original sweater and bra (despite the luxury price tag – both items will cost you close to £2,000). In our era of #WFH and staying in, the set was predestined to become the ne plus ultra in chic loungewear. For those of us looking at six more months of working in our homes, it might just be worth the splurge.

This article was originally published on Vogue.com

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