Allow me to set the scene. It’s sometime in the 2000s. A commercial for Moon Boots interrupts What Not to Wear. The Black Eyed Peas just dropped a hot new single, and you’re checking out a little-known artist named Rihanna. You snack on an Uncrustable in the family computer room, multitasking between AIM and caring for your Nintendogs. You reek of Pink Sugar perfume. Your outfit is fugly, but life is good.
It was a wild time, wrought with maximalism and unnecessary layering. Now, Y2K fashion is hotter than ever. They say never look back because that’s not the direction you’re going, but truthfully, that sentiment doesn’t apply at all in the realm of fashion. If there’s one thing for certain, it’s that trends are cyclical. Now, with time distancing us from our cringey 2000-2009 selves, we can pick and choose which parts of the decade are worth bringing into modern day. Whale tails? Better not. Dippin’ Dots? Heck yes.
If you’re trying to figure out how to do throwback fashion well, or just taking a trip down memory lane, here are 24 of the best 2000s fashion trends.
At this point, it’s hard to go wrong when it comes to sunglasses. Big frames are back en vogue, as are teeny tiny lenses. Dark, light, colored, bedazzled, heart-shaped, reflective, futuristic, funky—nothing is out of bounds. Revel in it with a semi-clear pair adorned with gems, because why not?
If you ask this fashion editor, it was unjust for cargo pants to ever go out of style. Literally everyone loves pockets, and the more the merrier. While in the early aughts, you might have rocked cargos à la Avril Lavigne with sweatbands and skater shoes, modernized silhouettes such as cropped tops and fitted bodysuits help give the style a contemporary twist.
If it can be platform-ified, you can bet it will be. We can’t get enough of our favorite platform sneakers, platform heels, platform boots. So, who’s to stop us from leveling up our flip flops? Upgrading from a regular thong to a wedge sandal takes you from “I wasn’t planning on getting out of the car,” to “I’m the baddest bitch in this mall food court.” More of that energy, please.
There’s a Goldilocks metric to be used when it comes to purses. Some are way too big, others way too small, both of which we had way too many of stuffed into the nooks and crannies of our closets. But a small-to-medium baguette that fits perfectly under your shoulder? Just right.
Velveteen tracksuits were a truly unexplainable phenomena of the 2000s. Everyone seemed to know how absurd they were, yet they blew up in popularity regardless. The sight of one still harkens back to the Mean Girls era. The resurgence of the monochromatic tracksuit in recent years is a testament to the status symbol that Juicy Couture remains. And honestly, respect to Juicy for having that kind of staying power.
Low Rise Pants
Divisive, I know, but there’s enough room at this party for all varieties of waistlines! While I’m not sure we’ll ever fully integrate back to the lower-belly baring cuts of the early 2000s, it certainly is a fun style to mix into your wardrobe every now and then.
This comeback is a personal favorite. Flaunting shirts emblazoned with “MILF in training” or “I’m a Virgin! (But this is an old t-shirt),” Britney Spears was the bona fide queen of snarky tanks and baby tees. In more recent history, Gigi Hadid rocked a “lol ur not zayn malik” shirt in reference to her at-the-time beau, and wild child Cara Delevingne sported one that read, “Twerking is not a crime.”
Obviously, these hair accessories have never really gone out of style, but they’re having a moment right now nonetheless. Whether you opt for a larger, more artisan adornment like Tyra and Olivia, or go for the traditional small plastic butterfly clips, these are simple ways to add flair to any outfit.
Although I could drone on about platforms, there is, indeed, something to be said about a smaller heel. A kitten heel is simultaneously dainty and powerful. Wearing a pair is a definite boss move, be it with fabulous suiting or a casual pair of jeans.
Kind of a random trend, no? Still, the mesh paneling of a trucker hat is incredibly reminiscent of the early aughts. Top off your pink highlights with a Von Dutch hat, throw on some DC skater shoes, charge up your Sidekick, and you’re ready for a baller night with your peeps.
Admittedly, the 2000s were a pretty toxic time for women’s beauty standards. Point blank. Let’s not regress in that direction. But! One redeeming quality of the decade was that stylish women often experimented with menswear or menswear-inspired looks. Case in point: vests. Today, wear one with matching suit pieces or on its own.
While waist beads are far more than a trend for many cultures (namely West African ones), they have come and gone from the popular zeitgeist throughout the years. They’re back, obviously, or else they wouldn’t have a spot on this list.
In the same vein as vests, neckties are another garment traditionally associated with menswear that ladies of the 2000s made their own. All I have to say about ties is this: Don’t knock it ‘til you try it. They’re surprisingly flattering and have the potential to be oh-so-chic.
Hold for applause. Yes, mini skirts! They’re everybody’s favorite. As Shania Twain so poetically sang in “Man! I Feel Like A Woman,” there really is something about a short skirt that feels simply feminine in all the best ways. All leg and sex appeal.
I never thought I’d see the day when UGGs looked appropriate for New York Fashion Week, but I guess that’s what I get for underestimating Elsa Hosk. There’s no denying that the UGG brand practically owned the 2000s. The way these boots and slippers had a grip on American youth…
Rhinestones, gems, sequins—all that glitters is sartorial gold. Cross your fingers and hope your mother didn’t toss your bedazzler in the giveaway pile because this trend is alive and well, my friends.
You may have called them gauchos or even high-waters. Essentially, they’re wide-legged capris. Sporting a pair from roughly 2015-2021 probably would have been considered less than fashionable, but not anymore. A flowing pant that hits mid-calf is now considered whimsical and cool.
When I think of cowl necks, I think of the ladies of Sex and the City. Although I can’t explain why, that show is invariably linked to the fashions of the 2000s. Like…wildly so. If you’re looking for a sign of the times, you know what to stream.
I saw Olivia Rodrigo wear a butterfly top, so I bought a butterfly top. Is there anything cuter than these colorful shimmering numbers? Factor in the open back, and this is one very cool statement piece.
It’s giving manic pixie dream girl; it’s giving Amanda Bynes in What A Girl Wants; it’s giving leftover Chinese takeout in the fridge because she’s quirky. Slip skirts are the key to channeling your inner chaotic cool girl.
Any trend that hinges on multi-use items or DIY-ing is sure to be a winner. A top that also is a scarf, hair wrap, belt, bag accessory, and sarong? Say no more. I hereby declare that scarf/tube/handkerchief/halter tops shall never go out of style.
If you look up “bandage dress” in the dictionary, you’ll find a picture of Serena Van Der Woodsen in a Herve Leger dress. Not really, but you might as well. These dresses and skirts were everywhere—and I can’t stress this enough: everywhere—in the late 2000s. It appears their time has come again, as Herve Leger and Law Roach recently collaborated on a Resort 2023 collection.
Hot Pink Everything
Before there was Barbiecore, there was just plain pink. We could try to make up a name for when it trended back in the day, but let’s just call it like it is. Pink is omniscient. Pink is all-powerful. Pink is everywhere, everything, all at once. Pink is then, now, and forever.
Because why wouldn’t you want to look like you just left the boardwalk with a sweet personalized hoodie?
Meg Donohue is the Associate Fashion Commerce Editor at ELLE.com. Her passions include spicy foods, sustainability, and the Y2K remake of Charlie’s Angels. She will never stop hoping for a One Direction reunion tour.