Budget Fashionista has been covering fashion trends since the early-2000s. In that time, we’ve amassed a huge library of styles du jour, including this still-popular post that walks through the fashion trends of 2012. The funny thing is, most of these “old fashion trends” don’t feel dated. Many of them are back in style today, in the post-pandemic summer of 2021.
The similarities are so striking that I converted this 2012 post into a fun look at how 2012 fashion compares to today’s hottest looks. But be warned, the comparison may change the way you clean out your closet. You might have a hard time following that old recommendation to throw away or donate clothes you haven’t worn in a year. After all, last year’s pieces could have a second life in just a few years’ time.
2012 old fashion trends vs. 2021 styles
If you’ve ever had the feeling fashion recycles the same trends, you’re not wrong. In 2012, Budget Fashionista had this to say about the season’s trends:
Spring and summer fashion trends this time around are all about extremes. Think super-bold colors like bright orange and soft pastels like baby blue, very lady-like sheath dresses, and straight-from-the-gym sportswear.
Sound familiar? Except for the sheath dress, that’s an on-point description for the trends of 2021. Tangerine and baby blue are everywhere, and stylish, edgy sportswear is the casual standard of the day.
I like to think recycled trends get more refined with each iteration, but you can be the judge of that. Take a look at these seven trends from 2012 and how they compare to the hot girl summer of 2021.
In 2012, we called it “sporty.” In 2021, it’s known as athleisure.
Today, sporty styles are still the comfy shapes we love — joggers, cargo pants, leggings, bombers, etc. But now they’ve evolved to find a middle ground between baggy cotton and body-hugging spandex. Today’s sportswear also experiments with more sophisticated fabrics, including sheers and faux leather. The upgraded construction opens the door for dressing up those sporty pieces with jewelry and even heels.
How to wear, where to get sporty styles
To dip your toe in the edgy athleisure trend, start with a pair of faux leather or shiny joggers. Try a crop length if you’re worried about hot summer days. You can pair your joggers with a nice sneaker, sandals, or even heels if you’re feeling bold. Add a tidy tank or t-shirt that’s tucked in.
You can find a nice selection of joggers at ASOS or Revolve. Revolve can be pricey though, so check the sale section first. The pair shown above is from ASOS and priced at $36.
2. Sheers and meshes
In 2012, designers were layering sheers and meshes over everything, from mini dresses to bikinis. In 2021, the see-through trend has matured, become more delicate and ladylike. You don’t see too much in the way of heavy mesh loops in 2021, but an opaque sheer top over a bra or covering a cutout is on point for the summer.
How to wear, where to get sheer styles
Even modest fashionistas can partake in the peekaboo game. Look for a dress with a sheer panel that doesn’t put a spotlight on your undergarments. Or, go big with a sheer top layered over a bralette. This is a sexy look that’s more forgiving than a tiny crop or bandeau top. Sheers have a nice way of fuzzing out the details of a less-than-perfect bod.
The ivory dress shown is by Weekend Stories and available at Revolve. At the time of this writing, it’s discounted from $278 to $70. You can pick up the patterned mesh top from Nordstrom for $35.
Pastels came to the forefront of fashion in 2012 after several years of strong colors. The kelly greens and burnt oranges gave way to soft blues, sherbet oranges, and lemony yellows. In 2021, pastels are everywhere once more. What’s nice this time around is you can experiment with softer pastel tones. Read that to mean: more wearable, less Easter egg.
How to wear, where to get pastels
You can find pastel pieces practically anywhere, from Amazon to Target to Off Fifth. The trick is identifying the shades that work with your skin tone. Baby blues are a good starting point as they’re quite versatile. If you want to dabble in the yellows and oranges, you may need to do a lot of online ordering and returning. Or, set aside a day to get to the mall.
Also, you don’t have to go head-to-toe pastel. You can start with a single piece — a top or even an accessory like a bag or scarf is an easy entry point to this trend.
Shown here are mineral dye cotton pants from Mango, currently on sale for $39.99.
4. Shades of orange
In 2012, we said: Designers really, really want you to wear orange, so much so that the color has dominated the runway for three straight seasons. While the color is a fav of designers, it’s a difficult color for most women to wear. So we suggest using the wonderful power of accessories to add orange to your wardrobe.
How to wear, where to get orange fashion
Not much has changed, there. Orange is everywhere, and it’s still hard to wear. As with the pastels, try experimenting with different shades of orange. If you can’t quite settle on the color you love, stick with orange nail polish or accessories.
The Taylor mock neck dress shown is available at Macy’s for $42.49, discounted during the retailer’s fourth of July sale.
5. Bold prints
If you have a pair of palazzo pants in the closet, you may have bought them in 2012 — and 2021 is the year to wear them again. You could also wear a printed jumpsuit or mix-and-match patterns. Honestly, anything goes with prints this summer.
How to wear, where to get prints
Try H&M, Marks and Spencer, and Nordstrom Rack for affordable prints. You could wear a patterned top, of course, but the printed trouser will be a bigger statement. Personally, I don’t love the look of mixed prints on me (though I’m in awe when I see other women do it right). I’d play in this trend by pairing a printed bottom with a solid neutral top.
I have my eye on these cotton trousers from Marks and Spender for $39. They’re stylish, sophisticated, and constructed of sustainably sourced cotton.
6. Floaty layers
In 2012, we called it ethereal fashion — dresses made of soft, floaty, and pale layers. Today, chiffon may be less of a player, but the glamorous dress that drapes elegantly to the floor is right in the mix.
How to wear, where to get floaty layers
Try Amazon for affordable gowns that have that angelic quality. This one retails for $42. It’s also available in seven other colors if you don’t wear white.
You may not have many occasions to wear a floor-length gown. I know I don’t. In that case, swap out the floor length gown for a sheer, layered tunic or a shorter dress you can team with sandals.
7. Dresses — sheath is out, slip is in
The only 2012 trend on our list that isn’t a player in 2021 is the sheath dress. That workwear staple has gone by the wayside as this year’s fashion gal reaches for the sexy, slinky slip dress.
How to wear, where to get slip dresses
Slip dresses are not hard to find, especially online. What might be challenging is finding a slip dress that fits properly. Satiny or shiny fabrics that don’t fit well tend to cling or gather in all the wrong places. Don’t be discouraged by that. Try different fabrics and fits until you land on the combination that makes you feel like a super model. Shown here is the UO Rhea Midi Slip Dress for $69 by Urban Outfitters.
During the day, pair your slip dress with a loose ponytail, sneakers, and simple earrings. Switch to heels at night, adding a bracelet and a pretty lip color if you want. The slip dress that fits well will be the star of your outfit, so you don’t need much else to pull off the look.