PEOPLE's Best Dressed Stars of 2021
From Lady Gaga and Zendaya, to Regina King and Leslie Odom Jr., these are the celebs who swapped cozy sweats for chic couture and reminded us just how fabulous fashion can be
The Icon: Lady Gaga
The superstar delivered a parade of over-the-top looks this year— without ever setting foot on a red carpet. While promoting the upcoming film House of Gucci and an album with Tony Bennett this summer in New York City (during a heat wave, no less!), the performer, 35, strutted the streets in high-fashion designs, from a sculptural seersucker number to a black lace corseted gown—accessorizing each with elegant updos, sky-high heels and retro shades—like it was no sweat.
The Jaw-Dropper: Zendaya
No one delivered more "wow" factor this year than Zendaya, 25. "She's a woman now, so we've been doing a little more skin," explains the star's longtime image architect Law Roach of her recent penchant for daring cutouts, plunging necklines and major slits. Be ready for her to continue to change things up, says Roach. "Her looks are so unexpected, and she's constantly evolving."
The Breakout: Leslie Odom Jr.
Menswear has never looked so fresh, thanks to the One Night in Miami actor, 40, who kept fashion followers on their toes during awards season by embracing bold colors, cool prints and even all-over gold. Says his stylist Avo Yermagyan: "The cuts are classic, and the tailoring is impeccable, but there's always an element of surprise."
The Belle of the Ball: Anya Taylor-Joy
Because of the pandemic, the Queen's Gambit actress, 25, had to accept her first Golden Globe remotely—but that didn't stop her from topping best dressed lists in a striking green custom Dior Haute Couture dress and more than $1 million in Tiffany & Co. jewels. "The way she moves and talks is like Old Hollywood glamour," says image architect Law Roach, who worked with the star on the look. Her style may be reminiscent of the past, but it's clear Taylor-Joy has a bright fashion future ahead.
The Ray of Light: Mindy Kaling
Since the start of the pandemic, the actress and screenwriter, 42, has been inspiring her 5.9 million Instagram followers with her passion for fashion. "She can pull off anything," says stylist Jessica Mulroney of the star's "eclectic" style. And she accessorizes every #OOTD with a smile. "It shines brighter than anything she wears," adds Mulroney.
The Risk-Taker: Cynthia Erivo
Though it's impossible to predict what the Harriet actress, 34, will wear next, you can always count on her to deliver the drama. "Cynthia embraces flamboyance and fun," says Erivo's stylist Jason Bolden. "She loves all fashion and will try anything." And that means anything, from a right-off-the-runway neon-green number to jump-start awards season to a galactic silver design that (appropriately) heralded the premiere of Dune. "For every event, we try to push it a little further," says Bolden. "We never play it safe.
The Champion: Viola Davis
The Oscar, Emmy and Tony winner, 56, knows how to make a fashion statement. And this year she sent a powerful message by showcasing looks from designers of color. "She supports diverse and modern designers, then adds a dash of Old Hollywood glamour," says Davis' stylist Elizabeth Stewart. The effect, she adds: "bold, vibrant and strong, just like Viola."
The Free Spirit: H.E.R.
For her Oscars debut, singer-songwriter H.E.R., 24, channeled the legendary Prince in a sparkling custom Dundas jumpsuit. She added one personal touch: the lyrics to her nominated song "Fight for You" emblazoned along the cape. And like her idol, she took home a trophy for Best Original Song— and scored a major fashion win.
The Fan Favorite: Dan Levy
Like his beloved Schitt's Creek character David Rose, the Emmy winner, 38, adores dressing up. But unlike his TV counter- part, he doesn't take fashion too seriously. His goal when choosing a look — be it a citron-colored suit or a zodiac-embroidered shirt — is to "make you smile," he said. The actor-writer-producer brings some of that playful vibe with his signature glasses: "It's such a fun way of expressing yourself and certainly a fun way of dressing up even the simplest outfit."
The Pro: Regina King
The actress has nailed it with her flawless fashion one awards season after another for years. So how did the One Night in Miami director, 50, raise the bar once again this year? By experimenting with angular necklines, daring hemlines and dramatic details. "It's a balanced blend of cool and edgy yet still comfortable," note her stylists Wayman Bannerman and Micah McDonald, who add that the key difference to making it all look so effortless is the star's "strength and confidence."