Fashion Insights:
Costume History in a Modern Setting

Trend to watch for Winter 21/22:
Costume History in a Modern Setting.

by Christine Boland | 27.04.2021

For winter 21/22 an important trend is costume history in a modern setting. Ruffles, bodices, puff sleeves, brocade, empire waists and taffeta are highly present. Of course, with a modern twist: at Gucci, a classic tulle dress is combined with a bright blue cable sweater. Marc Jacobs gives a brocade dress a makeover with silver glitter, while Rodarte sends a futuristic metallic evening dress with puff sleeves down the runway.

The origin of this trend? Several factors play a role. For example, the costumes from Netflix series Bridgerton, a historical drama set in London, contributed to the popularity of costume history. According to figures from fashion search engine Lyst searches for corsets, often worn in the series, have increased by 123% since its premiere. Headbands with pearls and feathers saw a 49% increase in searches, and dresses with empire waists grew 93% in popularity.

We can also simply explain the trend as ‘escapism’ After spending a year in hoodies and leggings, a beautiful dress feels transporting. An impractical accessory, be it a feathered hairpin or opera-length gloves, is practically an act of defiance. Dreaming away to days when we can dress in party wear again is one way to get through the lockdown.


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The trend is similar to another lockdown trend: the hashtag #tussenkunstenquarantaine that went viral on Instagram. The idea behind the hashtag – literally translated as ‘between art and quarantine’ – came from Dutch Anneloes Officier at the beginning of the pandemic. The prompt: pick a historic artwork, recreate it using three household items and post it on Instagram. Both trends reflect the same thing: the need to escape and admire beauty while at home. They bring the future and the past together in an uncertain here and now, in which creativity and fantasy reign supreme.

We can even compare the costume history trend to the surrealistic images we saw popping up at the beginning of COVID-19. The abandoned historical highlights in cities such as Venice and Rome, or pictures of a deserted Times Square in New York – usually packed with tourists. Both feel alienating and futuristic.


Christine Boland is a leading international trend watcher and analyst. Using Amsterdam, The Netherlands, as her home base, she has been identifying and translating trends in the consumer market for more than 25 years. She works closely with companies as a creative compass, providing insight and helping with strategic decision-making and innovation. Staying in tune with what is going on in the world today can help us see what the marketplace will look like tomorrow.

Christine Boland works for a wide range of client groups, from small and medium-sized businesses to multinationals and government organisations. The type of markets she is used to operate in, include fashion/apparel, beauty, consumer goods & services , retail and technology. Want to read more?


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