Retro Outfits for Women: As we look forward to more hopeful times, designers and fashion icons alike have dipped into the stylistic choices of yesteryear and brought them forward in a way that feels both nostalgic and wonderfully fresh. We are talking about the retro style trends we are seeing, both on the runway and peppering the catalogs of our favorite retailers.
Retro fashion has had a resurgence in popularity of late, from bold and shimmering colors à la disco era to old-fashioned paisley dresses to everything crochet. Bucket hats have been holding their own for over a year now and it’s not looking like they are going anywhere. These are just some of the trends that have been joyfully taking precedence both on the runway and off.
If you are wanting to bring some of that retro goodness into your own wardrobe – or you are just curious about what’s trending in 2021 – this is the post for you.
What are the Best Retro Fashion Trends 2021?
We did the research so you don’t have to. Here are the top eight retro fashion trends for this year.
- Tie-dye. Tie-dye is everywhere in the fashion world, from Jimmy Choo’s tie-dye platform sandals to this Sea Tamara high-neck tie-dye top. But to keep it on-trend, avoid the highlighter yellow and neon green color scheme in favor of soft pastels.
- Bucket hats. Influencers and Instagram models have really been rocking this trend. Even Gucci has created its own high-end take on it.
- Crochet. Crochet had its heyday in the ’70s and it’s back for round two. From sheer tanks to sun hats, Gen-Zs have discovered the summertime favorite and have made it their own.
- ’60s-style floral prints. If it looks like it belongs on your Grandma’s kitchen walls, you’ve got the right idea. Wallpaper florals are back and they are decorating the likes of midi skirts, chiffon dresses, and more.
- Thong sandals. The ’90s called… and they like what we are doing.
- Paisley dresses. Paisley isn’t just a scarf anymore. Here’s a paisley dress by Mango that we are totally in love with.
- Denim skirts. Denim skirts are also trending in the fashion sphere. Check out these two midi options from the GAP and from the Banana Republic.
- Bohemian dresses. Boho dress styles are always an on-and-off-again trend but with beauties like this Lulu’s maxi dress or Free People’s “Ari” dress, we are pretty stoked they are ON.
Now, let’s look at some retro outfits!
How to Wear Retro Outfits This Year?
What is a retro outfit? Let’s start by talking about what retro clothing is and what it is not. Retro clothing is not technically vintage clothing. It is totally new, modern clothing that is created in a way to reference the styles, motifs, or materials of yesteryear. It doesn’t refer to a specific time period or decade (although we are seeing lots of the ’70s inspired looks right now!) but gives a nod to the styles in which that clothing was first worn.
↓ 18 – Retro Outfits For Women Over 50
When I came across this absolute STUNNER of a lady, I was bowled over. Not only is this a seriously stylish look I might possibly want to steal for myself, but it’s such a great example of how women of all ages can rock a retro style. You may not feel confident enough to wear tie-dye or a bucket hat, but you can definitely try this eyelet dress accented with hot pink accessories!
↓ 17 – Retro Outfits for Teenagers
Teens have been incorporating vintage styles and retro pieces for the last couple of years (the nineties are having a full renaissance over on TikTok) so some of the trends of this year are no surprise to the younger crowd. From Grandma-style cardigans to wide-legged jeans, here you can see how the Gen-Z gals are rocking retro trends.
And when it comes to endless style inspiration, Emma Chamberlain is a thrift-ing queen who has been rocking vintage styles for years. There are definitely some retro outfits in here to give you more ideas.
↓ 16 – Retro Street Style
When in doubt as to the current trends, all you need to do is take a look at what is being worn on the streets during Fashion Week. Here are a few highlights from Copenhagen’s Spring 2021 Fashion Week. Retro styles abounded.
↓ 15 – Graphic Sweater & High-Low Skirt
Graphic sweaters are also very much on-trend right now, and lucky for us, they can definitely be considered retro pieces! (Very ’90s.) I love how this gal created a comfortable, casual look that is also uber stylish by pairing a graphic sweater with a high-low skirt (there’s our wallpaper floral!) and white sneakers.
↓ 14 – Retro Outfit ’90s Style
I love this baggier style of overalls (they look SO comfy) worn over a long-sleeved tee and paired with white sneakers. I’d take these over too-tight jeans any day.
↓ 13 – Pretty in Paisley
These paisley dresses look so light and airy (perfect for summer) and they come in the prettiest colors too. I love the idea of padding around in my house in these – they are a one-and-done look you don’t have to put much effort into and that’s a major score in my book.
↓ 12 – Bright Blue Jumpsuit
There’s something about this look that just screams “eighties” to me. It could be the bold blue or maybe it’s that subtle yellow stripe down the side. The belt over the zippered front and the elbow-length sleeves are another giveaway. This looks like a great outfit to wear to a retro-themed party or, you know, to visit your local Target because why not?
↓ 11 – Wide, Wide Pants
If there’s one trend I love this year it’s the wide-legged pants one. I’ve been anti-skinny jeans for years (I have worn them under protest only) and the fact that the rest of the world is finally catching on thrills me to no end. (Don’t worry, we can still be friends, even if you are an avid skinny-jeans wearer!) Here’s a fantastic wide-legged pants look, paired with a baby blue print tee, round tinted sunnies, and some fantastic gold hoops.
↓ 10 – How to Wear Retro Tops?
I’m not a fan of tie-dye myself, but if all tie-dyed tops looked like this, I just might convert! This breezy summer top is a great example of the retro trend. What to wear with it then becomes the next question. Some high-waist jeans are an obvious option but I also like the idea of wearing this with a denim midi skirt. Also, have a look at Tie-Dye Outfits – 30 Ideas on How to Wear Tie-Dye Outfits.
↓ 9 – What to Wear With Retro Pants?
Anything style-wise from over 20 years ago is technically eligible for retro status. Whether that’s ’40s style slacks or ’90s style jeans. So here are a few examples of retro pants you can try. I think they look best with a vintage-looking top so that can be a blouse, a knit sweater, or a floral button-down. Footwear is also fun to play around with. You can try two-tone mules, patent white booties, or little kitten heels, just to name a few!
I LOVE the detailing on this puff-sleeve blouse!
And these jeans are pretty fantastic.
↓ 8 – Where to Buy Retro Clothing?
There are many places you can find retro clothing (I share a few more in the FAQ at the bottom of this article!) but when you want a retro-exclusive shop full to the brim with vintage styles, Simple Retro, a lovely clothing brand started in New York City, has lots to choose from. If you are like me, you will fall in love with the whimsical photo styling and lovely clothing styles, too!
↓ 7 – Flared Plaid Pants
Here’s a ’60s inspired look that makes me want to rock some plaid pants myself! Also, check out Cute Outfits with Flare Jeans-26 Styles to Wear Flare Jeans.
↓ 6 – Retro Outfits for Plus Size Women
If you love a look with some edge, this is the one for you. I love the juxtaposition of a beaded necklace (which echoes a pearl necklace, of course) with a belted biker jacket. Not only is it super flattering and gives this lady the most gorgeous silhouette, but paired with a bold print skirt, some slight cat-eye sunglasses, chunky strappy heels… And girl? You’ve got a winner.
It is possibly the most retro vibe ever to wear a shoulder padded sweatshirt with bright green joggers! I love how she styled this look, finishing it off with some block heel mules.
↓ 5 – Giant Polka Dots & Denim Midi Skirt
There’s our denim midi skirt… And it’s being worn beautifully. I love this giant-polka-dot button-down which definitely has a vintage feel to it. Also, have a look at Outfits with Denim Skirts – 30 Ways to Wear Denim Skirts.
Shop for similar outfit picks here:
↓ 4 – High-Low Skirt and Knotted Top
I think this outfit is just the cutest!
↓ 3 – When to Wear Crochet Bucket Hat & Top?
If you have been wanting to try the crochet trend, here’s one way to do it. Combine it with the bucket hat trend and you will have nailed 2021 fashion. Great for poolside tanning or days at the beach.
↓ 2 – What to Wear With Retro Outfits?
At first glance, this might not seem like the most retro look. But I wanted to include it because it is a great example of how you can give any outfit a touch of retro in a really subtle way. After all, this might be your first time trying out the trend. Maybe you feel like you want to experiment a little before diving all in! If that’s you, then check out this sweet summer ensemble.
What gives the retro vibe to this look is the fact that is a boho dress (which we’ve already discussed is very on-trend right now) and it includes a couple of key accessories. Namely, some funky tinted sunglasses and a cute weaved basket style purse. We’ve got some silver jewelry as well, with a fantastic monocle pendant necklace. Super chic!
The footwear you wear with retro outfits varies, but these Banana Republic sneakers are so fun with an innate “throwback” vibe to them. It’s an easy way to make a dressy look seem more casual as well, perfect for days where you might be walking around a lot.
↓ 1 – Boho Style Summer Dress
Finally, here is another example of a boho-style dress that I am so in love with. The pretty detailing really lets this dress shine; the stripes are fun, and they are vertical, which is a plus in my book! (Horizontal stripes will always seem risky to me: they have the tendency to make you look quite wide, which may or may not be a goal you particularly care for.) I also love the round (but not totally bottle-cap) sunglasses that have a whiff of the old-school about them.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some frequently asked questions about wearing retro-style clothing. Check them out!
Q. Where can I buy retro style clothing?
A. Where to find retro clothing is not as tricky a task as you might think. While there are specific vintage-inspired clothing brands like Unique Vintage or Modcloth, the great thing about this trend is that we see our everyday favorite stores and brands adopting the style as well and putting out their own takes on it. Here are a few places you can find retro-style clothing:
- Urban Outfitters
Q. How do you dress retro?
A. Dressing retro just means utilizing the trends of yesteryear in a way that feels modern and nostalgic all at the same time. It can mean donning a full ’70s style outfit your mom would approve of or it can mean bringing a few retro pieces into your look. What decade you focus on is also up to you. The ’70s seem to be most popular for style inspiration right now!
Q. What is the difference between retro and vintage clothing?
A. We are most of us familiar with vintage clothing. Vintage clothing is an original item aged between 20 and 100 years that is authentic. You might find vintage clothing in your local thrift store or by rifling through your mom’s closet. Retro clothing is basically new but mimics the old. It’s not original clothing pieces from the time it echoes, but it certainly imitates it. An example of this would be a pair of Levi’s jeans made in the ’90s versus a pair made today, that looks like it would have been worn in the ’90s.
Are you in love with the current trend of retro clothing? If so, which of these are you most excited to try? Let me know in the comments below!