In the Bubble: Fashion’s Cocooning Shapes Stage a Spring 2021 Comeback

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Comme des Garçons spring 2021

Photo: Courtesy of Comme des GarçonsModel Diane stands looking into the camera wearing Balenciaga's double-balloon black taffeta evening capePhotographed by Irving Penn, Vogue, September 1, 1950

Simone Rocha spring 2021

Photo: Courtesy

In these confinement times, everything old is new again. We’ve traded high-tech performancewear and pantsuits for the comforts of homesteader smocks and mid-century house dresses and given up hard-bottomed shoes for shearling-lined slippers. People are darning their socks, crocheting their own cardigans, and otherwise taking solace in the proven comforts of the past. But this twee nostalgia could only last for so long; as we approach eight months straight of COVID restrictions in the United States, the practical hygge of fleece pullovers and Crocs is giving way to drama. Thank heavens for that! 

Nowhere was this return to an irrational exuberance more evident than in the spring 2021 collections that lit up screens across the world. Sure there were sweatshirts—brands love a bankable piece of merch—but we saw improbably elegant ideas for a life lived mostly at home, too, from the cascading rainbow ruffles of Dries Van Noten to the long hand-woven tunics of Kenneth Ize. One trend that has only gained traction since Paris Fashion Week came to a digital close on October 6? The blob. 

Junya Watanabe spring 2021

Photo: Courtesy of Junya WatanabeModel Christy Turlington wearing an ensemble by Romeo Gigli: an oversized white cotton "bubble" shirt and cotton/Lycra below-the-knee skirtPhotographed by Arthur Elgort, Vogue, January 1988

Jordan Dalah spring 2021

Photo: Courtesy of Jordan Dalah

Few can cut a bubble, a pouf, a complete and perfect sphere like Rei Kawakubo. Her Comme des Garçons collections, as a whole, are a big endorsement of orb dressing—a rejection of sleeves and armholes and trousers in favor of cocooning one’s body in a perfect little bulb. And CDG’s spring 2021 collection didn’t disappoint as far as bulbous ensembles go: Plastic-covered and in cartoony shapes and prints, Kawakubo’s dresses strike a dissonant chord between protection and pleasure. An oversized ball of a dress shields you from your environs just as much as it prizes stillness and comfort over hurried movements.

Comme’s bubble dresses have plenty of kindred spirits. Simone Rocha knotted together taffeta cape dresses that call to mind Cristobal Balenciaga’s double-bubble taffeta number from 1950. In Vogue’s September issue of that year, Cristobal’s pouf was touted as a “specialty,” something as “light as two clouds.” Jordan Dalah’s giant-sleeved top and the many cocktail poufs of Ashley Williams, Jonathan Anderson at Loewe, and Guillaume Henry at Patou look similarly weightless.

Ashley Williams spring 2021

Photo: Courtesy of Ashley Williams

Loewe spring 2021

Photo: Courtesy of Loewe

Patou spring 2021

Photo: Kira Bunse / Courtesy of Patou

These ovoid dresses, with their soft curves, feel less like the showy poufs of the Emanuel Ungaro ’80s and more in step with the gentle blouson lines of Ungaro’s peer, Romeo Gigli. For all their disco glamour, Junya Watanabe’s sequined poncho tops are in fact quite similar to Gigli’s “bubble” shirt worn by Christy Turlington in a late ’80s issue of Vogue. Elsewhere there are drawstring’d cocoons, a set of transformative pieces from Marques’Almeida, Anrealage, and Angel Chen, that allow for adjustable bubbles. 

The return of this enveloping shape comes with a psycho- and physiological bonus: As one adjusts to a life lived sternum-up on Zoom, the finer points of below-the-belt dressing become less important. Enter the chrysalis for the spring season—maybe you’ll blossom into something new.

Marques’Almeida spring 2021

Photo: Courtesy of Marques’Almeida

Anrealage spring 2021

Photo: Courtesy of Anrealage

Angel Chen spring 2021

Photo: Courtesy of Angel Chen
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