Greetings, friends! I’m excited to share this post today because it’s always a fan favorite. These are the fashion and beauty items that I feel were my best buys in 2021.
When choosing items for this post, I look for things I bought last year that I liked enough to keep for my own personal closet, and the ones that I believe will give me a good cost per wear over time. It’s a bonus if I got a really good deal on a luxury item, which of course plays into the cost per wear factor.
It’s quite a challenge to single out only a few best purchases from the entire year when you do as much shopping as I do, so I’ve probably forgotten a few good ones, but this is a pretty good roundup.
Best Shoe Purchases of 2021
Shoes usually provide the foundation of my outfits, and I like to buy quality because they’re kinder to my feet. The ones I chose for my best shoe purchases are the ones I bought last year that I wore the most, and also the ones that are the most comfortable.
#1. P448 John Sneakers // These topped the list two years in a row because there isn’t another shoe in my closet that I wear more. I did update the style this year; in fact, I ended up with two new pairs. They’re similar, but they have different colors so I tend to wear them with different outfits. Of course, both are sold out. They change designs regularly, and right now there aren’t a lot to choose from, but I’m excited to see comes in for spring.
#2. Dolce Vita Izabel Sandals // I wore these sandals more than any other last spring and summer, which is really saying something because I’ve basically lived in my Tory Burch Miller Sandals for the past few years. I still have and wear those, but these studded slides with the asymmetrical straps were the ones I reached for the most. They’re super comfortable, and the polished silver studs give them a hint of bling and just enough edge to make them fresh and fun.
#3. Blondo Dagger Boots // These are some of the warmest and most comfortable boots I own, and they’re a little more stylish than any of my Sorels, so I find myself reaching for these most often this season. I love that buckle detail and the contrasting trim around the lug sole. Plus, the slight wedge adds some height to my looks. Best of all, they work with my trusty old skinnies, but they also look good under flares and straight leg jeans, making them highly versatile.
#4. Dolce Vita Paily Sandals // These were my go-to summer heels this past season, and I can’t wait to wear them again. I bought both ivory and taupe because I couldn’t decide between the two. I wore both a lot, but I actually prefer the taupe ones. I don’t seem to have a good picture of those, so ivory it is for this post! They also coordinate nicely with my ivory Tory Burch McGrew Hobo, as you can see here.
#5. Sam Edelman Sulema Boots // I wasn’t in the market for a new pair of knee high boots this season, but when I saw these, I knew they had to have a place in my closet. The suede looks super luxe, the shape of the toe and heel is eye-catching, and they have just the right amount of slouch. The slim shaft looks great with dresses and tights but also fits easily over skinny jeans. They’re also very comfortable, with a padded footbed and a walkable heel.
Best Denim Purchases of 2021
Denim trends really changed this year, and I’ve been in a bit of a transition phase. I tried TONS of jeans this season and kept more than I really needed because I was having trouble figuring out what worked with different shoes and tops. These are the ones that I think I wore the most, and the ones I’m excited to continue wearing this winter and into next spring and summer.
#1. Mother The Insider High Waist Crop Step Chew Hem Jeans in Dancing On Coals (28) // You probably all know the story of these jeans. I came across them while shopping at my local Nordstrom last spring. I liked them immediately, but I wasn’t sure about all the distressing and the ragged hems, and the price tag was a bit daunting. I couldn’t talk myself into leaving them behind, so I brought them home to see how they’d work with the rest of my closet, and the rest is history!
I wore these jeans a ton last spring and summer, and I’m still wearing them now, but not as much this time of year. For some reason, they have more of a summery vibe to me. They’re amazingly soft and comfortable, and I like how they fit snug to the hips and thighs and then flare from knee to hem… so flattering, and they help balance out wider hips. #yesplease
Before all was said and done, I ended up buying them in a lighter wash during the #NSale, as well as the white. Yes, they’re that good. They do go on sale occasionally, so they’re worth watching, if you like them. This exact pair is true to size, or size down if in between. I had to size up in the light wash pair, and the white ones are true to size.
#2. AGOLDE Toni Mid Rise Ankle Skinny Jeans in Precipice (28) // I wore these as much or maybe even more than the Mother Insiders because they’re so versatile and easy to wear with different shoes and tops. They’re also very comfortable. I like the mid-rise and slim, straight fit, and the length works well with most shoes. The fabric is thicker than the Mother denim, and they do give some with wear, so you can size down if in between. I stuck with my usual 28.
#3. Frame Le High Raw Hem Straight Crop Jeans in Bosworth (28; on sale at Saks) // I ordered these jeans on a whim, and I immediately loved the fit and the wash. The off-black wash is right on trend, and it has an elevated look and feel. They fit snug to the hips and thighs the way I like, and extend straight from knee to hem. I like them best with mules and sandals, but I’ve worn them a few times with boots this winter. They’re true to size; I have the 28.
#4. Mother The Insider in Fairest Of Them All (28) // These are the same as #1 but in the white wash, and I wore them a ton last summer. The crop length and raw step hem has all the summery vibes, but I recently styled them with an outfit for winter, and I was surprised by how good that looked, so maybe I’ll dust them off and wear them a few times this winter as well.
#5. Mother The Hustler Ankle Fray Jeans // I wanted to include a pair of Good American in here, since I have a few pairs and feel like I wear them a lot, but at the end of it all, I can’t get super excited about any of them. And while I haven’t worn these Mother Hustlers as much as the other jeans in this list, I think I’ve worn them as much any of the other jeans I purchased this year. I can definitely get more excited about the prospect of wearing them.
They’re supremely comfortable, for one thing. The fabric has a lot of stretch, but also good shape retention, and I love the ankle flare length with boots and mules. Plus the wash is really good too.
Best Clothing Purchases of 2021
Non-denim clothing is a pretty big category, so this was challenging, but I managed to narrow it down to these
five… okay, let’s make it six items.
#1. ATM V-Neck Tee (M) // I bought this white tee because I loved my ATM cheetah print crewneck from 2020 so much, and this v-neck was just as good… better, really, because a v-neck is more flattering on me than the crew. It has the perfect slightly shrunken fit, and the slub texture isn’t too see-through. It’s perfect for wearing alone or layering under jackets and cardigans. Unfortunately, this did sell out, but they make a white crew as well.
#2. Vince Easy Fit Wool/Cashmere Crew (S) // This was another #NSale purchase, and it’s such a good basic. I’ve worn it so many ways already this winter, and I know I’ll have it for years to come. It’s pretty much sold out, but Vince has one of these sweaters in the #NSale every year, so that’s always a good time to invest in a closet staple like this.
#3. Banana Republic Dolman Top (S) // This top came in very handy through the spring, summer, and fall. It dresses up or down, it’s conservative enough for work wear and church, but it also makes a pretty date night top. I’ve even worn it to a court appointment and to a memorial service. I will definitely pick this up in another color if they bring it back this spring.
4. Nordstrom Signature Cashmere Hoodie (S) // This hoodie was one of my favorite #NSale purchases this year. I love this gorgeous neutral shade of taupe, and the quality of this cashmere is outstanding; so plush and soft. I also like the way the neckline is designed; it keeps my neck nice and warm. It has a relaxed fit that front-tucks easily into mid-rise jeans. They’ve brought it back in a slightly lighter color, but that’s not on sale at the moment.
#5. Vince Crop Leggings (M) // These were an unexpected purchase. I ordered them more or less to compare to the Spanx pants that I have and love… and that were included in last year’s best purchases, in fact! Once I had them, I could see and feel the difference in quality, but I still wasn’t sure it was worth keeping them since I don’t wear black pants all that much.
Then they went on sale over Black Friday, and I did the old order the sale pair and return the full price pair trick. I’ve worn them a lot already, and I’m so glad I have them. I know I’ll wear them for years to come. (I kept the Spanx pair too; it’s always good to have a backup since I don’t have any other non-denim pants.)
#6. LOFT LinenDolman Tee (S) // This is no longer available, but I wanted to include it because it was such a workhorse in my summer wardrobe. It’s such a simple top, but the linen is light and summery, and the black is super versatile, plus one of my favorite colors to wear near my face.
This top dresses up or down and layers easily too. The relaxed fit never clings, and it doesn’t bag out. I even wore it for a long day of travel, and it was still in decent shape to wear out to dinner that night. I seriously wish I’d bought a duplicate to keep as backup because I will cry when this top wears out.
Best Activewear Purchases of 2021
I try to walk or run outside almost every day, and I lift weights twice a week, so I like to keep my activewear up to date. I went into this year pretty well set, but I did add a few things to my rotation.
#1. Force Insulated PrimaLoft (S) // I had to look back at my emails to confirm, but yes, I did purchase this in 2021 — right at the beginning of January. I remember stalking it until it came back in stock after the holidays. It’s not cheap, but it’s such a good running jacket and super flattering.
#2. Vuori Halo Wideleg Pant (S) // I didn’t actually purchase these; they were gifted by the brand, but I love them so much I may buy the black ones to have as well. I’m never comfortable wearing leggings around as pants, but I feel good in these, and they’re super comfortable too. The fabric is so buttery soft.
#3. Zella Liana Long Sleeve Performance T-Shirt (S) // I love this tee so much that I just bought it in a second color while it’s on sale. It’s lightweight, buttery soft, and moisture-wicking. I wear it alone for gym workouts and layer it under jackets for fall/winter walking and running.
Best Outerwear Purchases of 2021
I actually added quite a bit of outerwear to my closet this year, especially if you include jackets. These are my favorites.
#1. Plaid To Be Said Coat // I fell in love with the color palette of this coat, and I was thrilled when it fit so well. I wasn’t sure the quality would be very good with this brand, but I was pleasantly surprised. Unfortunately, it is sold out. Womp… womp… I think it’s good to have a non-solid wool coat in your winter closet, if you wear coats a lot. It adds interest to my monochromatic outfits and breaks up the sea of black and camel that people typically wear in this style of coat.
#2. J.Crew Cocoon Coat in Sandstone // I haven’t worn this a ton, but I’m glad I have it, and I expect to have it for quite a few years. I had been wanting a camel car coat but I couldn’t find one in a cooler tone like I like, so I went with this cocoon coat. I feel like this style is a little more casual, so I’m more likely to wear it than a longer coat, and you can dress it up or down so it’s very versatile.
By the way, that scarf was a splurge last winter when it went on sale after the holidays. It’s very large and thick and plush and sooo soft. I don’t wear it a ton because it’s rarely that cold here, but I love it and hope to have it for years.
#3. Barbour Shaw Hooded Puffer Jacket (6) // This was yet another #NSale purchase, and I’ve worn it more than I thought I would. I rarely reach for a coat that isn’t black, but this one came in very handy last fall. It’s not quite warm enough for our current deep freeze, but it’s great for fall and milder winter days. The color is really refreshing and fun.
#4. KUT from the Kloth Coated Kara Jacket (S) // I jumped on this as soon as I saw it appear on the Evereve website, and I’m glad I did because it sold out quickly. This seems to happen with all of their jackets! This is such a perfect mix of edgy and casual; it’s very light and stretchy and worked nicely over my short-sleeved tees before it got cold.
#5. Marrakech Morrison Jacket c/o // And this was another Evereve jacket that quickly sold out. I actually had the Marrakech Bomber as well, but I like the fabric on styling on this a bit more. Marrakech does such a good jacket. I currently have my eye on this one and this one for spring.
Best Handbag Purchases of 2021
I love handbags almost as much as I love denim and cashmere. These are the contemporary bags I bought this year that I love and recommend.
#1. R Minkoff Megan Hobo // This bag is a great size for everyday, and I love the slouchy hobo style. I also appreciate that it’s unlined, as I don’t care for the cheap polyester linings in most bags, and it has a nice sized exterior slip pocket on the back for my phone. The best part is the black hardware — I never have to think about matching my jewelry! I got mine on sale at Bloomies, but the only place I can find it now is on Amazon.
#2. Tory Burch Perry Triple Compartment Tote // I actually bought this bag twice this year, so I guess I like it! I bought the ivory last spring, as I wanted a good laptop travel tote. It was perfect — very functional, but also chic. I used it quite a bit, but then when fall came around, I found myself wishing for the black version. I snagged that one during the Shopbop Spend More, Save More Event last fall, and I’m really glad I have both. I don’t carry them a ton, but they’re perfect for travel.
#3. Loeffler Randall Alicia Dark Sand Shoulder Bag // This was more of a trendy purchase, but I love it. It’s such nice quality and very fun. I believe I also got it on a sale. I haven’t carried it a ton, but I’ll hold onto it for another few seasons.
#4. Clare V. Simple Tote // This was an #NSale purchase, and I love the pop of pattern with all my solid outfits. It has such good slouch, and it holds a ton. I bought a different strap to go with it, because I wasn’t crazy about the red and navy.
#5. AllSaints Edbury Shoulder Bag // Speaking of good slouch, this bag has it perfected, and I tend to reach for this smaller size more. The pebbled leather is buttery soft, and it just has such a chic/edgy vibe. The only reason I don’t carry it more is the color — it’s kind of yellowy for the rest of my wardrobe, so I don’t always feel like it goes as well as some of my other bags. I’m kind of digging this quilted version in the Parchment White… I love the contrasting black strap.
Best Accessory Purchases of 2021
I don’t have any major accessory purchases I’m excited about this year. I’m sure I bought some, but I can’t think of anything I wear on repeat. I tend to wear my nicer fine jewelry and designer pieces for everyday, and when I want to jazz up an outfit, I pull out some fashion jewelry like Victoria Emerson bracelets and Kendra Scott earrings or necklaces. Here are some pieces I bought this year that I’m very happy with.
Best Beauty Purchases of 2021
I changed up my beauty routines a lot in 2020, and I’m still using everything from this section in last year’s best purchases, but I went through my beauty archives from this year and came up with a few additions that I love and highly recommend.
#1. Tarte Lights, Camera Lashes // This was definitely my biggest discovery this year. It has totally replaced my favorite mascara from the past 30 years. I also appreciate that it’s a cleaner product than most.
#2. RevitaLash Advanced Eyelash Conditioner (also at Amazon) // I started using this back in the summer, and the results are tremendous. My lashes are so long and thick now, I have to go easy on mascara or I look ridiculous for everyday life. It’s pricey, but it does last a while.
#3. Dyson Corrale Straightener (also at Ulta & Sephora) // This hair straightener may sound gimmicky, but I grabbed it during the Sephora sale earlier this fall, and I love it. It has flexing copper plates that give you more control with less heat, and when it’s fully charged, you get up to 30 minutes of cord-free styling.
I use it for both straightening and curling my hair, and my daughters come into my bathroom and use it almost every morning, so it’s definitely getting a workout. It’s a crazy price, but if you can find it on sale or have a gift card, grab yourself one. You will love it!
#4. IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Pores Anti-Aging Silk Pressed Blush w/ Brush // I discovered this duo through a sponsored post with QVC, and it’s now my go-to blush and brush combo. I just really like the color and the way it applies. It’s buildable and very blendable, so it looks very natural
I couldn’t come up with a 5th, but I expect something will occur to me over the next day or two. I’d love to hear about some of your best purchases of 2021! Feel free to sound off in the comments.
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photos: Alison Cornell