Close your eyes and imagine it’s summer 2019 — you’re walking down the cobblestone back streets of Soho (mask free, of course) passing by fellow pedestrians clad in bright tie-dye pieces left and right. Fast forward two years later and the trend is still very much beloved, and has even become a go-to quarantine craft for many. But, if you’re feeling a tie-dye burnout coming on, that’s OK. Luckily, you don’t have to completely forgo the happy, giddy feeling it provides. Enter: Summer 2021’s watercolor trend — the sophisticated older sister to tie-dye’s youthful energy.
“Both tie-dye and watercolor have a similar freeform to them which is appealing,” Paloma Lanna, founder of Paloma Wool, tells TZR. “I started experimenting with watercolors on my last trip to the USA before the pandemic, and now watercolor drawings remind me of what things were like before, which is funny because tie-dye also feels nostalgic.”
The founder of the Barcelona-based brand found the inspiration for her popular Nucleo Top’s watercolor design through Biology lesson illustrations. “I used to love drawing cells in my science classes, but I always had to be very detailed and I longed to draw them more freely — [so] this piece was an abstraction from the memory of those drawings,” she explains.
For those wanting something a bit less abstract, London-based label Olivia Rubin is pioneering a resolutely feminine take on the watercolor pattern trend. “My pastel ombré watercolor has been a bestseller since I launched it for spring last year,” founder Olivia Rubin tells TZR. “I combined my love of painting and my obsession with rainbows to create a more romantic aesthetic.” The designer, who was introduced to watercolor by her grandfather, says the Aubrey Pastel Ombre Silk Satin Slip Dress has become a cult-favorite item for the brand (influencers like Tamu McPherson and Nina Sandbech are fans).
If you’re ready to upgrade your summer lineup with an intriguing swirl of watercolor, keep scrolling to see how to style the emerging trend.
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Trying to get a quick five-minute snooze in between work calls? In that case, a slip dress should be your new go-to workwear uniform. Choose the silky piece in a deep or pastel watercolor and you can transition from your nap to dinner in a pinch.
Go For A Swim
Kai Collective’s Kaikini String Bikini Top is a show-stopper thanks to its rich color palette. Stand out on the beach in the bright, strappy swimsuit, and add on the matching sarong to complete the summer-approved look.
Tie In Your Accessories
When you think of mood-boosting outfits, Tamu McPherson’s pastel look should sit at the top of your inspiration list. Take styling notes from the influencer and accessorize a pastel watercolor dress with coordinating soft hues via your handbag and shoes.
A fitted long-sleeve tee is a great layering piece to have in your arsenal come summer (you never know when a restaurant AC will be on full blast). Layer the top underneath a strappy dress in similar hues, or if you’re pairing it with bottoms, consider a vivid pair of trousers for a joyful ensemble.
Owning a soft matching set that doubles as pajamas is a good styling trick to have up your sleeve. This watercolor set from United In Motion can be worn with luxe, strappy sandals to the office, or slippers while lounging around at home.
Easy & Breezy
If you’re planning on a relaxing vacation (or staycation) this summer, you’ll still want to look cute while staying cool in the heat. A floaty mini dress is perfect for an outdoor brunch, just keep your iced coffee far away.
Everyone should own at least one summery workout set. If you’re currently shopping for one, try out Hosbjerg’s purple and green watercolor look above. The one-sleeve top and biker shorts combination will certainly keep you comfortable, even if exercise means walking from the couch to the kitchen.
Though it typically exudes a carefree vibe, a watercolor print can work for formal dressing, too. Choose a subtle pastel puff-sleeve dress with pleats for a fancy take on the up-and-coming trend that would fit the dress code of a black-tie wedding if need be.