Counting Down The 20 BEST Celebrity Style Looks of 2021: The TOP FIVE

Posted on December 22, 2021

This is it, kittens! The TOP FIVE LOOKS OF 2021, as chosen by an international judging committee known as us. As always, we expect a lot of pushback, but that’s kind of what these sorts of lists are for. So let’s get the arguments started, shall we? Wait. You did read parts ONE, TWO and THREE before you got here, right?



5. Kelly Marie Tran in Thai Nguyen at the “Raya and the Last Dragon” Premiere

Asian and African cultural styles made their way onto the red carpet several times this year (and several times on this year-end list). But when Kelly Marie Tran stepped out onto the red carpet for the premiere of Raya and the Last Dragon in this stunning áo dài and headdress, she was not only presenting herself as a queen of some stature, she was reclaiming her rightful space on the red carpet after a vicious tenure being harrassed by Star Wars fans. Not just a gorgeous cultural statement, but a powerful personal one as well.



4. Emmys 2021: “The Queen’s Gambit” Star Anya Taylor-Joy in Dior Couture

This is, we suspect, another controversial choice. It’s certainly one of the most conventional choices on this year’s list. And yet, we kept coming back to this look and ultimately ranked it so high for the simplest of reasons: we love looking at it. Anya Taylor-Joy has that Audrey Hepburn-esque quality that makes her model-perfect for high fashion, but in possession of a face unusual enough to make those fashion choices look different or even other-worldly. Like Audrey, she leans way into her open facial features and lithe body, putting both to full effect by choosing highly dramatic, sometimes theatrical ensembles that set them off. She also has a team that really knows how to play with her hair and make it do all sorts of fun, strange, and dramatic things. While this design is conventional, no one else really hit a red carpet in 2021 looking quite like this. That’s all her.



3. Bad Bunny at the Grammys in Burberry

As we said earlier, we tend to compile these year-end lists within hours of posting the first entries, but this was one of the few looks of the year that automatically got added to the list within hours of it appearing. This is, quite simply, one of our favorite menswear red carpet looks in years. It’s unique, whimsical, chic, modern, ever-so-slightly envelope-pushing, perfectly suited to the wearer, lightly sexy, and just cute as hell. The pairing of the yellow shades and the sunflower is chef’s-kiss perfect. No one ever really knows where fashion’s going to go decades into the future, but this is one of those looks that feels like a sign of things to come.



2. Kumail Nanjiani in Umar Sayeed Couture at the “Eternals” Los Angeles Premiere

Like Kelly Marie Tran’s treatment at the hands of genre fans, Kumail Nanjiani found himself at the receiving end of a lot of racially tinged trolling when he did the same thing so many white actors have done to applause and acclaim: he went on the Marvel movie fitness plan and transformed himself into a superhero. Unlike the Hemsworths and Pratts, or even the Rudds and Cumberbatches who buffed themselves to bodily perfection for their films, Nanjiani was ridiculed and body-shamed at a time when he was very clear about feeling a responsibility to present an image of muscular heroism not normally offered to young South Asian fans of mainstream superhero films. Showing up at the world premiere of Eternals in this stunning ensemble from Pakistani menswear designer Umar Sayeed was, like so many of our choices for this list, a powerful personal and professional statement made through fashion. It was also just freaking gorgeous in every way.

And finally, our choice for the Number One celebrity style look of 2021. Brace yourselves, because we don’t think a lot are expecting it:



1. Lady Gaga in Schiaparelli Couture at the Biden Inauguration

Two weeks to the day after the U.S. Capitol was engulfed in violence, smoke and ultimately, death, Lady Gaga was tasked with coming out onto those very steps and somehow doing her best to pull us all together for a moment of tradition and a cornerstone of democracy. She did not manage to unite the country, of course. She did not address or solve any problems here. No minds were changed by this Schiaparelli gown, nor did the course of history shift in even the smallest of ways. That’s not what fashion does, though. And besides, the times are far too complicated to expect moments full of symbolism to result in anything approaching real-world change. But again, that’s not what those moments are for. As we’ve tried to recount several times through this list, to us, great style in 2021 was all about making some sort of statement and serving a look so dramatically pleasing that it makes you feel something in response. Gaga’s look spoke of tradition and solemnity, but it also spoke of hope, beauty, and a patriotism that encompassed both. It was gorgeous, it was meaningful, and it quieted the world for just a second, asking no more of us than to simply look at it.



[Photo Credit: Thai Nguyen Atelier/Instagram, Wayman + Micah/Instagram, Gold House/Instagram, Francis Specker/CBS, Rich Fury/Getty Images, Cliff Lipson/CBS ©2021, Francis Specker/CBS ©2021, Chris Kleponis/Cnp/, Jonathan Ernst/Cnp/, Susan Walsh/Cnp/]

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