Harriet Pudney casts her eye back on the defining beauty and fashion moments of 2021.
The end of the year always feels like one big, long Friday afternoon. Minutes feel like hours if you’re bored and pass in a blink if you’ve got heaps to do before you can sign off. The siren song of a glass of wine in the sun is almost deafening. Please, we silently and collectively beg. Release us.
I think that’s particularly potent in 2021. Melbourne, where I live, surpassed Buenos Aires in October to claim the dubious honour of being the most locked-down city in the world. Earlier in the year Aucklanders had been stuck at home for months. The mood has been bleak, exhausted and grey; not exactly conducive to conversations around style and beauty.
And yet, this period of restriction and isolation can’t last forever. Victorians are just emerging, wobbly on our legs and yet eager to return to the world. Let’s take a look back at 2021 in style, and hazard the odd guess at what we might take with us into 2022.
For better or worse, they’re the look of the year. Mask mandates vary by region and over time, but in much of the world, they’re going to be with us for the foreseeable. You might as well have ones you like. I’ve focused on breathable fabric, enough room for my ears, and a plain black colour, but the nicest I’ve seen are from a US brand called Sundae School. Silky, pleated and elegant, these masks are a cut above. Those who would like to make their own can download a free pattern from local brand Liam. Nice touch.
* I’m too old for TikTok, but it highlights how far our beauty looks have come
* Laura Daniel on experiencing burnout, being BFF’s with Hilz Baz & finding balance
* Kim Kardashian empathises with Britney’s trauma: ‘I couldn’t leave the house for months’
* Forget the resolutions, just decide what scares you most
Business up top comfort down below
In the era of the Zoom meeting, we’ve all become newsreaders: dressed for the public from the waist up, and for ourselves below. I know I’m not the only one taking calls in a nice top, subtle makeup, and gym pants, socks and Birkenstocks. Be honest. No one’s wearing anything with a waistband if they don’t have to. It’s the mullet of outfits. It’s also – God this is an unlikely segue – making Kim Kardashian a lot of money. Her Skims line of ‘solution wear’ (read: Spanx) and loungewear was valued at US$1.6 billion in June, according to the New York Times. Fair play to her.
When I couldn’t get my hair done between June and October, and wound up with regrowth most of the way to my ears, people kept suggesting I let it grow the rest of the way out. I wasn’t keen – my hair is halfway down my back, that would take years, and plus at 31 I’m just not ready to go grey. However, it would seem not everyone feels the same. I’m seeing more and more women leaving the salt in their salt and pepper hair, and letting some really very ashy tones show through their blondes. While I’m not yet among their number, I support it 100 percent. It feels very Isabella Rosselini. Think of the money they’re saving. I think the joke is on me with this one.
We weren’t all feeling that warm glow of self acceptance. When the end of lockdown was announced here, the first call many people made was to their cosmetic injector. I don’t just mean seasoned Botox regulars, either: two years of staring at ourselves in the corner of a Google hangout have left many ready to take their anti-ageing efforts beyond the ‘sunscreen and retinol’ level. Clinics in the US were fully booked in April, per the New York Post. I anticipate a similar surge in New Zealand. You may want to book in advance.
End of lipstick
This one is purely practical: when a night out involves masking and unmasking as you hop in and out of the Uber, and every time you leave the table to go to the bathroom, you’re not going to wear lipstick. Tinted balms, stains and lip oils are much more practical, and honestly, after five years of flakey, peely liquid matte lipsticks, they feel more modern too. Bobbi Brown Extra Lip Tint, $65, and Benefit California Kissin’ ColorBalm, $41, will both serve you beautifully.
I haven’t had someone else look at my eyebrows in almost five months, and I used to go every three weeks. Now, instead, it’s me, a pair of tweezers, and a prayer. The situation isn’t terrible – I still have two eyebrows – but it’s a long way from ideal. I think we’re well past the carved-out precision of a 2013 Instagram brow, but there’s something to be said for a slightly intentional look. If you’re happy with your untouched brows, I salute you, but personally this is a look I’ll be leaving in 2021.
In this step-by-step video, Brow Theory manager Kiara Sumague shows us how to handle an at home brow tidy like an expert.
The roaring ‘20s (again)
The Delta variant may have scuppered our plans for a hot vax summer, or at least given them more than a few conditions. But there’s room for a little optimism. As restrictions ease and life comes back, there’s bound to be an appetite for glamour and decadence, for excess and impractical shoes and clothes you don’t really want to sit down in. People talk a lot about the 20 year trend cycle: this is the 100 year version. We’re going back to the 1920s, with all the beads and sequins and swimming pools of Champagne that implies. Sure, let’s not think too hard about what happened in 1929, but putting that aside: keen. I want every couple I know to get married and invite me. I’m harassing every friend with a backyard to throw a house party this summer. I can promise you I’ll be overdressed.
This has been a quiet, indoor year of DIY facials and introspection. It’s been necessary, but it’s coming to a close, and we have to believe that what’s coming next is going to be a hell of a lot more fun.