Every now and then, a fad comes around and makes you do a second take – quite literally in the case of co-ord sets. Co-ords, like bulky sneakers, cargo pants, and bucket hats before them, have progressed from antique to sarcastic to bonafide unisex style.

From more prominent brands like Gucci and Versace to homegrown brands like Advait, Johargram, HappiSpace and Space co-ords have undoubtedly been the hottest selling ensemble lately. If you were wondering, where did it all start from? Make yourself a bowl of popcorn, sit back, and relax, for it will be a long ride. 

What Exactly is a Co-ord Set?

Known as a two-piece set, co-ord is an ensemble comprised of matching colours, designs, or textiles. Co-ords are separates made to be worn together, such as a matching top and skirt combination or a coordinated jogger and sweatshirt set.

Co-ords have been around for far longer than just a few months. The pattern dates to the 1600s, when Elizabethan ladies wore separate, matching bodices and skirts. Then, shortly after the Great Fire of London, in the 1600s, King Charles II adopted a new form of the co-ord, akin to what we now call a contemporary three-piece suit.

King Charles II in 1600s

By the 1800s, co-ords had become synonymous with athletics, albeit they looked quite different from the co-ords we know and love today. 

Who Wore it Best?

Coco Chanel produced matching cardigan jackets and skirts in patterned jersey fabrics in the 1920s, which went on to become her most iconic outfits. 

Coco Chanel in the 1920’s

The next important innovation occurred in the 1960s when labels such as Mary Quant and Pierre Cardin experimented with colour blocking and graphic patterns to produce futuristic-looking co-ord trousers and skirt suits. Around this period, co-ords evolved into a more adaptable ensemble that could be dressed up or down depending on how you wore it. 

Co-ords from an early collection of Mary Quant

However, some of the most famous co-ords were from the 1990s, such as Cher Horowitz’s yellow plaid suit in Clueless or every leopard print twinset Mel B wore while she was in the Spice Girls.

Cher and Dionne in a Dolce & Gabbana yellow suit in Clueless

These styles often influence today’s co-ords: bright, vivid, and covered in high-octane designs. So, why is this age-old style seeing a revival today, as we emerge from a worldwide crisis that has kept us cooped up in our houses for months on end? 

Ciceroni talks to fashion designers, stylists and fashionstas about their take on these trending co-ord sets.

A Sudden Revival or Just Another Fad?

The trending influencer favourite label, Advait, creates garments that bridge the gap between fine art and fashion. When asked about the ongoing hype of co-ord sets globally and what made her opt for it, founder Advaitha Ravishankar explained, “As a designer, if I am working on a blazer, I would obviously want to do something about the pants. I want my look to be complete. So, I never really thought about the hype, or the fads created by co-ords. It came to me naturally.” 

Odalisque blazer and trousers by Advait

Meanwhile, Johargram’s Founder designer Ashish Satyavrat Sahu had a different route towards designing co-ords for his brand. An ethical and sustainable streetwear brand that promotes the wondrous textiles of Jharkhand, Johargram aims to support and revive ancient indigenous craft forms. 

“Coords have been in the Indian and global market for a long while now. Be it garments from the Rabari tribe or safari suits from our parents’ wardrobe or even our traditional kurta-pyjama sets, we see co-ords everywhere. Even if the fad disappears, India has always had cords, we still do and always will.”

A fitting explanation indeed when seen from Indian fashion context.

Kukhna Men co-ord set by Johargram

On the other hand, fashion stylist, Diya Basu tapped into a different aspect of styling. “It never fell out of style really, but I felt people were moving away from co-ords before the pandemic, owing to their monotonous designs and not-so-experimental approach,” she said, adding “But, people were stuck at home when COVID hit us, they wanted comfort first. So when the lockdown finally reopened, when everyone wanted to appear put together, co-ords turned to be the simplest and sassiest choice. They work for almost any and every occasion.”

Diya Basu wearing Advait

The Restyle/Repeat-wear Movement

More and more people are resorting to upcycling clothes and trying to be free from the fast-fashion chain. Climate emergency is spurring many movements, and the restyle/repeat-wear is a prominent one of them. People want to wear versatile styles and make their garments last longer. Co-ords as an ensemble provide the ease of wearing a put together look and allows you the convenience to mix and match as per your style and mood.

Kukhna men co-ord set by Johargram

Resonating with the versatility component, Ashish commented, ” I think the pandemic has influenced people to upcycle their clothes, restyle and repeat them with unique combinations. The fashion cycle is rotating as usual and every now and then, the trends recycle.”

A must-stay trend we say for the sake of environment.

Betra unisex cotton full co-ord set

“Everything is recycled, everything comes back in twenty-thirty years. I think it’s not very new, the idea of co-ords. We just adapt and recycle trends to the seasons and the generations we are catering to,” exclaimed Advaitha on the resurgence of co-ords in current times.

Young and old, fashionistas have been clamouring to lay their hands of coord sets in different forms, be it printed lounge styles or sophisticated colour burst evening sets, be it handloom jogger sets or be it colour coordinated kurta sets that double up as co-ords.

Three’s a charm co-ord set by LabelSugar

Juhi Ramrakhiyani, 29, make-up artist from Ahmedabad, feels co-ords have an optimistic future in the Indian as well as global market. “Co-ords are definitely here to stay,” exclaimed Juhi, adding, “I’ve been wearing them since the trend started and love to style them in diverse manners. I love to wear this trend in traditional style with bandhni and ikat pattern co-ords and in modern style with a solid-coloured jacket and shorts/pants.”

Talking about the future of co-ords, Diya , a NIFT Mumbai alumnus opines “Any trend cannot sustain if there is no expansion of vision in design. Like for instance, prints are a hot trend right now in co-ords and I could own a piece, but I would like to see some diversity if I am to be wearing or styling them for a longer haul”.

The Convenience of Being a Lazy Dresser

So, why exactly are co-ord sets such a hit among the global and Indian markets? Is it the convenience of not having to style them thoroughly, or is it just the trend people pick up?

Genelia d’souza wearing Advait

“As a brand owner, I don’t think co-ords would ever go out of style. Consumers are so comfortable having a whole look that you don’t have to really search for something else. When you give them a co-ord, everything is basically laid out. A piece that you can wear in multiple ways, so it’s very versatile in that sense,” said Advaitha as she explained how they stand out from the market with their co-ords at Advait.

“Essentially, I am a textile designer, and I have always done prints. We did try solid colours for our latest collection, but it did not satisfy my creative vision without adding some print to it. Now prints have become our brand’s identity and it’s the only thing I know how to do.”

Odalisque vest co-ord set by Advait

Advait is creating a cult following with its saturated colour burst prints that are luxe and artsy together.

The Ultimate Minimalist Approach

The minimalist fashion picked up its pace when the late industrial designer and Apple executive was famed for wearing the same clothes for decades, infamously admitted that it’s “one less decision he has to make every day.” He wore black turtlenecks, Levi’s 501®s classic fit jeans, and sneakers.

Unisex co-ord set by Johargram

Speaking on the lines of minimalism, Ashish was all about how Johargram speaks volumes with just two shades in their entire collection. “We started our brand in covid and launched our first collection with co-ord sets. Our fabric is very minimal and so are our colours. We only have red and white, and we play around with the shades, keeping our brand as minimal as it can be.”

Co-ords: Cop or Drop?

Now that you know all there is to know about co-ord sets, would you hop into the trend and cop the ensemble, or would you opt-out and drop it altogether?