The late 1990s and early 2000s was the period of Y2K fashion. From flip-phones to over-the-top high-contrast colors, the low-rise jeans, the flared pants and space-age clothes jumbled up with pigtails, dazzling sneakers, metallic sheens and unique textures, Y2K fashion reflected the breakaway time from one millennium to another. As the 2000s settled down and the Y2K-technolgy anxiety faded away, so did Y2K fashion, replaced by a more toned-down sartorial expression which the millennials fostered.
Then Gen Z arrived and decided they were not the millennial followers after all and set the fashion trend and tone for their generation. That’s when Y2K fashion got its seat back at the fashion table as Gen Z was its new patron. Paris Hilton, Brittney Spears, Sarah J Parker, Jennifer Lopez came out from the woodwork with their metallic tops, short and pleated skirts, baby t-shirts with zany graphics, sparkles everywhere and a lot of multicolored sass. Celebrity stylist Samantha Brown said in a recent interview in New York that Gen Z is moving the needle in fashion because they’re young, fresh and all about looking cool and casual. They’re determining what’s in style and watching the ‘IT’ girls, who are making each resurfaced trend their own.
Top influencers of Y2K fashion amongst Gen Z
They aren’t hard to spot at events, sporting the revival of Y2K fashion. A-list fashionistas like Sydney Sweeney, Bella Hadid, Sophia Richie and Kendall Jenner are out there, defining the fashion trends for fashionistas worldwide. They’ve won the thumbs up from Gen Z with the exposed bra, the micro-shades sunglasses and jorts. While gaudiness was a core component to the aesthetic that dominated the late ‘90s and early 2000s, the excess isn’t the only defining feature of fashion from that period. Y2K fashion re-emerged with labels like Versace and Blumarine including some of the trend’s nostalgic influences into their Spring/Summer 2023 collections. Blumarine teamed butterfly tops and low-rise jeans, while Versace enlisted Paris Hilton to model a sequined mini dress, essentially a pink version of her iconic 21st birthday party look from 2002.
The 2023 version of Y2K wear has combined a mix of style –genres. The looks have been remixed to be much more than bejeweled butterflies, low-rise jeans, boot cuts and diamante belly piercings. A new trend amongst TikTok fashionistas is to showcase bits and bobs of grunge, rave and the 2010 bling fashion into the mix. The extravagant Y2K fashion has been toned down just a little bit as if it’s an attempt to be a genre of its own.
A New York trend analyst Casey Lewis points out numerous micro trends — often tagged with the suffix ‘core’ — have emerged in the past few years. In fact, she created a newsletter about them. From ‘Barbiecore’ to ‘mermaidcore’, which highlight the hot pink reminiscent of Mattel Inc.'s Barbie doll or sheer materials with ocean-like hues and sequins. And there is ‘coastal granddaughter’ that emerged from the youthful update of the ‘coastal grandmother’ trend featuring oversized cardigans and linen sets. The list is long indeed. What’s more retailers have been pushing these trends and consumers have been quick to pick them up.
For example, sales of women’s cargo pants increased a whopping 81 per cent from January to May, reveals Circana data, which tracks retail purchases. Fast fashion brands H&M and Zara saw success with biker jackets, denim garments and crop tops. Chinese fast-fashion retailer Shein, saw its baby tee sales triple this year, making them by far the hottest T-shirt style of 2023.
Some fashion revivals from Y2K
Exposed bras are a thing teamed with over-size T-shirts where the collar continues to slip off the shoulder or into cleavage. Wearing innerwear as outerwear are back in town as thongs peek boldly above low-rise jeans and embellished bras pass off as tops, teamed with jorts, i.e. jeans cut off just above mid-thigh. Supermodels Bella Hadid and her best friend Kendal Jenner brought back the “no pants” look in one-piece upper torso body suits paired with sheer stockings in late 2022 and early this year Jenner’s other sister Kylie killed it with her Instagram post “No pants, no problem #Y2K”. Another trend that returned was the Brittney inspired dress over jeans, but this time it could be termed as layered dressing over jeans as summer dresses are accessorized with bell-sleeved cut-away cardigans, all worn over a pair of jeans. The over-sized belts with chunky and sparkly buckles are now quite the rage coupled with at early 2000s trend on undone top buttons on jeans and skirts.
Revival to reform
The good news that will certainly calm those concerned with sustainability and circularity in fashion will be pleased to know that the revival of Y2K fashion has brought out the best in pre-loved clothing as many attics are being plundered to bring out an aunt’s long cherished pieces back into play.