Optimistic, romantic, sexy, flirty and fun. Stacey Bendet ticked all those boxes in her outlook on summer 2021 dressing, presumably the first season of reunions in a long road to recovery from COVID-19.

For a designer all about empowering women with eclectic occasion dressing, quarantine has been a time to pivot the brand — first with a much-needed celebration of NYC’s creativity during September’s fashion week, then with the launch of a casual collection fronted by Nicky Hilton, Selma Blair and Addison Rae, among others, benefiting various charities. She kept a level of comfort throughout her collection here, with textured cardigans, short sweat sets in bright colors and knit dressing both easy and elegant.

But nine months after the first stay-at-home orders and now with a vaccine on its way, Bendet was getting ready for an endless summer of renewed optimism and happy bohemian romance. That vibe is right up her alley, where she can craft a cohesive world with colorful yet subtle prints, playful embroidery and a carefree spirit all in one place.

There were some bold fashion standouts that seemed familiar: an effortless ikat maxidress; rainbow embroidery and tassel beading on a cool intarsia robe knit and cotton skirt, and an ornately beaded and ribboned skirt that could easily pair back to colorful techy knit crop tops that help shape the body.

Dresses were a big push with the return of occasions: playful minidresses for weddings, and dressier ones featuring fringe, braids or intricate lace for parties and events. Each occasion piece was slightly sexy with little hints of skin, like a standout mint pleated jumpsuit with chain strap detailing. As Bendet so definitively put: “She’s back and she’s flirty.”

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