Sequins have never been worn casually. Used by designers from as early as the Bronze Age – spangled robes were found in Tutankhamun’s tomb – they have historically been synonymous with riches and revelry. (It’s no coincidence that the word “sequin” is derived from zecchino, the name given to 13th-century Venetian gold coins.)

In 2021, sequins have become less about displaying wealth and more about embracing liberty. There was Timothée Chalamet in head-to-toe embroidered Haider Ackermann at the Venice Film Festival, his structured crewneck glittering among a sea of traditional suit jackets. Actress Michaela Coel also embraced the all-over shimmer in a royal-blue Balenciaga one-piece to express the Met Gala’s “American Independence” theme. On the catwalks, meanwhile, sequins have covered coats, dresses and separates. Their irreverence denotes a season defined by punchy colours.

Peipei wears Prada sequin and viscose knit Ivy dress, £8,500
Peipei wears Prada sequin and viscose knit Ivy dress, £8,500 © Marc Hibbert
Peipei wears Halpern sequin and polyester dress, £1,080. Jimmy Choo suede boots, £1,125
Peipei wears Halpern sequin and polyester dress, £1,080. Jimmy Choo suede boots, £1,125 © Marc Hibbert

For New York-born, London-based designer Michael Halpern, “being able to put on a sparkly frock” is an inherent part of his collections – this year more than ever. “People want to really feel that full fantasy,” he says. Halpern’s current offering combines his signature embroidery with looser shapes: airy dresses, jumpsuits and palazzo pants. In other pieces sequins form structural patterns – “a bricklay motif” – that Halpern likens to structured tailoring. “It feels more refined, more severe in a way,” he adds.

This season has seen numerous takes on sequins – and not just at glitzy events. For Louis Vuitton’s resort collection, heavy beaded separates were worn with striped jersey cardies and aviators; Prada has a scoop-neck knit dress embroidered with serpent-like green scales; and Gucci’s chevron-printed midi skirt pairs round rainbow sequins with a vampy lace corset and riding boots – a case for counteracting girly with glam.

Maria wears Louis Vuitton silk and polyamide sequin dress, £11,100, and viscose panel dress (worn underneath), POA. Falke tights, £18
Maria wears Louis Vuitton silk and polyamide sequin dress, £11,100, and viscose panel dress (worn underneath), POA. Falke tights, £18 © Marc Hibbert
Maria wears David Koma Plexiglas-petal-embroidered crop top, £825, and matching skirt, £6,135. Purple top, stylist’s own
Maria wears David Koma Plexiglas-petal-embroidered crop top, £825, and matching skirt, £6,135. Purple top, stylist’s own © Marc Hibbert

“There’s something about glitter,” says fashion historian Aileen Ribeiro. “It can be costly or cheap, but makes one noticed, makes one stand out in a crowd.” She points to the Baroness Curzon of Kedleston’s early-20th-century peacock dress, a design woven with gold thread, feathers and shiny green beetle wings (symbols of high status). Her embellishments aren’t too dissimilar to more recent looks – see Alberta Ferretti’s autumn/winter finale, where shimmering ovoid sequins blended with light tufts of black feathers on an opulent co-ord set.

Peipei wears Alberta Ferretti embroidered viscose top, £2,430, and matching trousers, £6,190
Peipei wears Alberta Ferretti embroidered viscose top, £2,430, and matching trousers, £6,190 © Marc Hibbert
Peipei wears C+PLUS Series sequin dress, POA
Peipei wears C+PLUS Series sequin dress, POA © Marc Hibbert

Libby Page, Net-a-Porter’s senior market editor, has seen a notable uptick in glamorous purchases, as customers “continue to embrace a positive attitude for the new season in celebration of the uplifting power of fashion”. Evening separates by Valentino and Isabel Marant have proven popular, as have spangled accessories such as Gucci’s GG Marmont sequin bucket bag. Page is an advocate for a more subtle approach to sequins. “I’d style mine with a pair of simple strappy black sandals,” she says. “I also love the idea of an elevated simple white T-shirt with a super-short sequin miniskirt.”

Maria wears Dolce & Gabbana sequin gown, €4,950. Y/PROJECT patent-leather shoes, POA. Falke tights, £18
Maria wears Dolce & Gabbana sequin gown, €4,950. Y/PROJECT patent-leather shoes, POA. Falke tights, £18 © Marc Hibbert
Peipei wears Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello sequin and feather dress, POA
Peipei wears Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello sequin and feather dress, POA © Marc Hibbert

Maximalists, on the other hand, might look to pieces by Taiwanese designer CT Liu, whose emerging C+plus Series label makes use of unconventional cuts and fabrics. Recently, Liu has found inspiration in “mysterious ocean creatures”, resulting in a head-to-toe sequin tassel turquoise gown. More mermaid than monster, the gown is Liu’s offering for the season ahead, having designed the look while listening to festive tracks. His artist of choice? Mariah Carey, of course. 

Models, Peipei Tang at Milk Management and Maria Miguel at Viva London. Casting, Keva Legault. Hair, Alfie Sackett at LGA and Roxy Attard at Future Rep using Alterna. Make-up, Mel Arter at Julian Watson Agency using YSL Beauty. Manicure, Edyta Betka at Of Substance using CHANEL Le Vernis in Ballerina and CHANEL La Crème Main. Photographer’s assistants, Conor Clarke, Daniel Jackont, Ivano Pagnussat and Robert Palmer. Stylist’s assistant, Andreea Radoi. Make-up assistant, Aimee Joyce. Production, Kit Pak-Poy at Artworld Agency

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