16 Wardrobe Essentials For Your Spring Awakening

16 Wardrobe Essentials For Your Spring Awakening

If you, like us, find yourself in a state of preoccupation right now, it’s possible that you’ve forgotten the fact that March not only marks one year into This Weird Life as we now know it, but it’s also the start of spring. Temperature-wise, however, this month is anyone’s guess. For some people, getting dressed between Fool’s Spring and Third Winter makes their heads spin with frustration — but for those ready for a wardrobe awakening after months of cozy sweats, it poses a welcome challenge. (*raises hand*)

As spring 2021 marks the start of a semi-vaccinated society feeling a bit more hopeful and raring for a good time, we’re agonizing about what we’re going to wear … around people … IRL … and likely outside, in open air (baby steps to normalcy). We thought long and hard about the most essential pieces for this sartorially challenging season, and added in a few nonessentials just for the sake of some fun after hibernation. Wake yourself up with one of the 16 transitional buys ahead.

At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.

A Breathable, Well-Fitting Face Mask

Clearly, a story about spring 2021 wardrobe essentials has to start with a face mask. You may feel like slinging every mask you own straight to the moon at this point — and we’re here to say that we feel you and we see you. But, for now, they’re a necessity. So get one that fits, that you can breathe in, isn’t oppressive to your nose, and won’t fog your sunglasses. Baggu’s ridiculously comfortable mask is made with 100% organic quilter’s cotton, has an adjustable nose wire (this feature is key!), double-layered construction, and adjustable ear loops. It’s sold in a set of three and comes in dozens of adorable spring-happy patterns and shades including gingham, fruits, madras plaid, and one of our editor’s favorites: the daisy.

Shop Baggu
Shop Baggu on Amazon

Shop Baggu on Nordstrom

Baggu Fabric Mask Adjustable Loop, Set of 3, $, available at Baggu

A Giant Shirt That’s Secretly A Jacket / AKA The Shacket

You may be able to find this item hanging in the closet of the nearest male, but if not; head straight to your favorite workwear site and snag the button-down most to your liking. Or if you’re partial to a good portmanteau, the shacket (shirt + jacket) is the way to go. Our associate writer Chichi Offor recently penned a whole story about shackets, so for plenty more options, click over here. An oversized shirt with a bit of heft will fit nicely over nearly everything and will keep you warm without stifling you.

Shop If By Sea

If By Sea Bobbie Plaid Shirt Jacket, $, available at Anthropologie

A Vintage Scarf

This accessory provides a small but crucial extra layer on those days that you got too cocky and left the house in naught but a shacket, only to be confronted by a heavy breeze that just won’t quit. The tightly woven silk scarf is a useful accessory that can be tied around your head to keep the ears from that burning frosty feeling or around your neck to protect from wind chill factors of all kinds. A vintage style is eternally chic and can always be upcycled into wall art and back again when the weather turns.

Shop a huge assortment of vintage designer scarves at the Floral Street Art shop on Etsy

Floral Street Art Vintage Silk Scarf, $, available at Etsy

Off-White Sneakers

Not to be confused with Virgil Abloh’s brand, Off-White (which also sells sneakers), a pair of off-white sneakers have the satisfying blank-slate crispness of a white tennis shoe, but won’t prompt the anxiety of sporting gleaming white on the part of your body that touches the ground. Scuffs and schmutz don’t look so horrifying against shoes that are already off-white, and the color itself works nicely paired with the latte-sunset color trend that just won’t quit.

Shop New Balance
Shop New Balance at Nordstrom Rack

New Balance 45 Classic Running Shoe, $, available at Nordstrom Rack

Fancy Pants

Have your legs spent the last few months indoors on pandemic lockdown? *said in screaming infomercial voice* Do you want to splash out in something eye-catching and full of optimistic flare? *more convincing yelling* Then you want FANCY PANTS. Fancy pants — they’re the extroverted wardrobe essential for introverted gams.

Shop Paloma Wool at Lisa Says Gah

Paloma Wool Puerto Pants, $, available at Lisa Says Gah

A Loosey-Goosey Sweater

It’s definitely gotten too warm for your chunky cable knits, but that doesn’t mean sweater weather is over for good. We recommend this loose ribbed soft alpaca wool/recycled polyester blend that won’t suffocate you as a second layer. The button-down collar style will look handsome layered on top of a turtleneck while it’s still freezing out, and effortless worn unbuttoned over a cami once the mercury swings into the 50s.

Shop H&M

H&M Wool-Blend Sweater, $, available at H&M

A Swishy Pleated Skirt

The swishy skirt is probably the most nonessential wardrobe “staple” on this list, but also the item most likely to add a little swing to your step. Sashays are a welcome upgrade to clomping around the house, and nervously tip-toeing around the aisles of grocery stores, and this crinkle pleat maxi skirt will ramp up your rhythm. It’s also nearly as comfy as a pair of sweats, super low maintenance (wrinkly pleats are rad like that), and pairs quite nicely with that loosey-goosey sweater.

Shop Ines De La Fressange at Uniqlo

Ines de la Fressange for Uniqlo Chiffon Twist-Pleated Long Skirt, $, available at Uniqlo

A Solid Pair of Sunnies

Your eyes deserve a new pair of really good sunglasses as you transition from winter/indoors to spring/outside as much as possible. Our Beauty & Wellness Writer, Karina Hoshikawa recently had a great experience buying Warby Parker frames online using the virtual try-on tool which saved her a trip to the shop.

Shop Warby Parker

Warby Parker Tabitha Frames, $, available at Warby Parker

A Catsuit / Onesie / Unitard

We’re not sure what they’re calling this all-in-one style these days but, me-ow! — she’s got range. Arm yourself with one of these while it’s still cold — to keep things toasty under sweaters, blazers, and whatevers — and when it gets a little warmer out, go onesie à la mode for al fresco meetups.

Shop Universal Standard

Universal Standard Next–to–Naked Bodysuit, $, available at Universal Standard

An Oversized White Button Down Shirt

Whether the year is 2021, 2041, or 4012, a white button-down shirt will still save the day (in matters of getting dressed, not global warming or bigger predicaments). You will never regret adding a quality white shirt to your wardrobe and this one is unique in its oversized fit, longer, curved back hem, and asymmetrical button placement to create a cinched waist. Get thee a solid white shirt into your closet now and then treat it well with underarm sweat pads — which are a whole other story.

Shop Oak + Fort

Oak + Fort Oversized Shirt, $, available at Oak + Fort

Notice-Me Jewelry

Rather than “statement” jewelry, we’re all about “notice me” bling that’ll show a subtle flash of personal style via tiny Zoom square during that camera-on meeting (where you contributed absolutely nothing after making sure your coworker knew she was on mute). Yes, we realize we’re splitting hairs between the two definitions — but bear with us, we haven’t had a professional haircut in a year (insert maniacal chuckle). They’ll never realize you haven’t washed your hair in three days when it’s pulled back in a ponytail and you’ve got some masterfully mixed metals swinging from your earlobes and wrapped around your neck.

Shop mixed metals at Baublebar

BaubleBar Aiko Earrings, $, available at BaubleBar

An Asymmetrical Top or Sports Bra

We’ve seen asymmetrical tops popping off all year long — perhaps it’s because they create neckline-intrigue on video calls or people are just sick of the expectations that a tank top have two straps. If your regular sports bras and undershirts are feeling a bit yawn-y, get wild this spring and switch it up with this style from Girlfriend Collective, available in sizes XXS – 6XL. Whether it’s for your first group workout class and you really want to shine, or you’re looking to spice up your layering game, this silhouette is breathing life into basics.

Shop Girlfriend Collective

Girlfriend Collective Bianca Bra, $, available at Girlfriend Collective

A Leisure Suit

Now that we’ve gone matching sweatsuit, we may never truly go back. If you’ve been loving the set life, consider this elevated take — the modern leisure suit. Trade up sweaty terry for soft tailoring and smooth weaves. It’s slightly more polished but still offers that good ol’ reliable, mindlessly-chic matchy-matchy goodness for easy living. 

Shop & Other Stories

& Other Stories Cropped Polo Top, $, available at & Other Stories

& Other Stories Wide Press Crease Chinos, $, available at & Other Stories

Mud-Stomping Chelsea Boots

Spring is also referred to as “mud season” by realists and humbugs, but that won’t get us down, especially with a pair of fighting shoes. These Hunter refined stitch Chelsea boots have a waterproof natural rubber construction — perfect for getting into the muck and washing it right off with no cares.

Shop Hunter
Shop Hunter at Zappos
Shop Hunter at Amazon

Hunter Refined Stitch Detail Chelsea, $, available at Zappos

A Long Sleeve Floaty Dress

File this billowy number under the “If you dream it, it will come” train of thought. A pretty, airy dress can be thrown on with boots over jeans on a chilly spring day, but once it heats up, the shoes come off and it’s showtime. Also, if you choose to continue to hunker down and float around the house, we envision naps for days in this oversized gem.

Shop this dress in 7 colors on Free People

Free People Edie Dress, $, available at Free People

Hard Pants

It was bound to happen. The year that disappeared might have left you with a pile of jeans that no longer fit (do not stress this), or perhaps you’re just up for something new in the denim department. For those looking for an alternative to basic skinnies — and not because TikTok teens said they were dead — “balloon” jeans offer a little bit of everything. The modern mom-style jeans have the tiniest bit of stretch and come in petite, tall, and plus sizing. Are they the most flattering jeans you’ll ever own? Heck no. But if you’re looking for something a little off balance and comfortable in that protective-layer-of-woven-sustainable-cotton kind of way, you’ll want to check out these funky hard pants.

Shop Madewell

Madewell Balloon Jeans, $, available at Madewell

A Rent-A-Wardrobe

If your head is absolutely spinning with the paradox of choice paired with the elation of going outside and getting dressed for both yourself and other people — or you’re truly not about spending money on owning clothes you may only wear for one or two weird-weather months of the year — then now’s the time to try a rental service. Nuuly is owned by the Urban Outfitters group and has clothes from UO, Anthropologie, Free People, BHLDN, and a bunch of denim and designer brands that you can rent (instead of own). For $88 a month you can rent any 6 items you like so you can try something fun and fancy without committing. The clothes come sparkling clean, super fast, and there’s free shipping and returns. Your transitional spring wardrobe conundrum is solved.

Sign up for Nuuly

Aje ambience Shirt Dress, $, available at Shopbop

The Heavy Trouser

Hold your horses, eager beaver: it’s not the time for featherweight poplin TK just yet. You can, however, trade out your actual nightgowns, that will insulate your legs when the mercury drops, but won’t suffocate your dermis if the temperature begins its midday climb.

Stelen Enya Suiting Pant, $, available at Need Supply


Sandal season is so close you can taste it — but temperature fluctuations between 40 and 60 degrees mean that your tootsies will be too exposed in a straight-up flip-flop. Introducing these mini-heeled sling-backs.

Charles & Keith Cylindrical Heel Slingback Pumps, $, available at Charles & Keith

A Turtleneck

You know the feeling: you open your closet to grab a coat as you walk out the door, and ever fiber in your being rejects it. What to do when it’s still chilly, but you can’t bear the thought of putting on your jacket again? We’re here to tell you that the turtleneck is a three-season friend — throw it on under a button-down or a sleeveless dress to ward off chills without the addition of another layer.

Everlane The Pima Micro Rib Turtleneck, $, available at Everlane

A Wool Blazer

You may not think of wool as a transitional fabric, but hear us out — the winter-into-spring moment is actually the perfect one for your heavier blazer. Think about it: this piece could never cut it as an actual coat during freezing temps, but it’ll be way too toasty when it warms up for good. Right now, however, it’s the perfect outdoor/indoor top layer.

& Other Stories Hourglass Houndstooth Blazer, $, available at & Other Stories

Socks That Put The FUN In Functional

Forget no-show socks — these are show-off socks. You may not need the heavy-duty winter variety anymore, but now is the time to break out the lightweight styles that weren’t quite insulating enough for colder temps. There’s a brief window to let these weirdos shine, so you’d better take advantage.

Hysteria Emma Ankle Socks, $, available at Shopbop

Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?

PSA: Every Season Is Clog Season

Skinny Jeans Are Out, Baggy Pants Are In

What’s Your TikTok Fashion Aesthetic?

Comments are closed.