The Aughts are Hot, Again

Y2K fashions are back, within limits
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A flock of brightly colored butterfly clips accent Alaina Bludworth’s hair. Are they as bright as Alaina’s smile? Not quite. Her sweater has so much heart, it seems to pulsate. Photo by John Harrington

Ah, the aughts. The 2000s were a time when lip-syncing divas reigned supreme, everyone knew their Harry Potter house and MTV somehow convinced us that the Jersey Shore bore some relationship to reality.

While the world did not end at the change of millennia, fashion took a few years off. Red carpets were filthy with dresses over jeans, exposed thongs and layered tank tops. I was in middle school, and those trends did not translate well to everyday life. 

But for the Gen Z crowd, who narrowly missed out on the trauma of sitting down in low-rise jeans, Y2K is the latest source of fashion inspiration.

Not convinced? Check your feed. Hashtags like “Y2Kfashion” or “Y2Kstyle” have accumulated well over a million posts. Popular fast-fashion retailers like Shein have entire collections dedicated to the look. 

Of course, not everything is coming back. Some of the more out-there styles remain safely in the fashion vault, but versatile pieces like plastic hair clips, baby T-shirts and mini-skirts have returned in a big way.

Grace Racadio, manager at Tally + Fin, says the boutique keeps hundreds of claw clips in stock to keep up with demand. These “mom clips” sit beside a row of the same lace-trimmed tank tops that I rocked under my old Hollister polo shirts back in 2008.

When Crystal Stejskal, owner of The Pink Pineapple, went to shop for her boutique’s spring collection, the market channeled Chanel from Clueless with sweater vests and crochet tops galore.

As a baby millennial or older member of Gen Z, depending on where you draw the line, it seemed to me like we were not quite far enough removed from the Justin Timberlake/Britney Spears dynamic denim duo to call the comeback of 2000s fashion a “resurgence.”

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Model Nautica McEnteein goes grunge in a de-sleeved denim vest, which she has paired with a black plaid skirt from Ross and accessories from Hot Topic. Underneath, she wears basic black. Photo by John Harrington

But Stejskal, mom to a 15-year-old aspiring fashionista, reminded me that this is just the way fashion goes.

“It’s really fun for me to pull out old pictures from my college days and show her how years ago we were wearing the styles she thinks are new,” Stejskal said. “Sometimes these kids don’t even know where their fashion influence is coming from.”

When it came to the fashionistas — the Beckhams, Aguileras, the Hiltons — aughts fashions could be a bit extreme. Most of us never hopped on the whaletail train. My school had a dress code, after all — and gym class. The off-runway trends fell somewhere in the middle — inspired by the red carpet but approved by Mom.

“I think it’s really interesting how fashion trends tend to follow a cycle,” Racadio said. “That’s why so many of my friends are worried skinny jeans are going to make a comeback. Right now though, I am seeing a lot of people gravitating toward the more baggy ’90s style jeans with the Y2K tops. Even though things do go through a cycle, there’s always a bit of a spin on things to make the look more modern.”

Today’s social media trendsetters are following much the same pattern, taking the best of the aughts and combining it with modern silhouettes. 

If you’re looking to get in on the trend without looking like you’re on your way to the premiere of The Lizzie McGuire Movie, try pairing one or two staple Y2K pieces with your favorite boyfriend jeans or a flowing peasant top. The aughts were all about skin-tight tops and plastered-on jeans. It didn’t look great then, and it doesn’t look great now. Instead, throw on that baby-doll tee with a pair of today’s high-rise, looser fitting jeans and some jelly sandals. If you find yourself reaching for that old tennis skirt at the back of the closet, try tucking in a blousy top and pulling your hair back in a clip.

Categories: Trends