In October 2011, the blogosphere was buzzing with news that ’90s clothing had just been declared vintage. I pitched a throwback story that month, for this very website, and became completely and utterly absorbed in my photo research. What I found most fascinating about all those Kate Moss for Calvin Klein campaigns, grainy snapshots of Marc Jacobs’ career-defining Perry Ellis show and images of Christy Turlington looking, well, exactly the same as she does now, was both how familiar and foreign it all was. You see, although I was most definitely around for each picture’s first media cycle (I’m 27), it was during my elementary school years. Seeing everything again, through the eyes of an adult, seemed so new and exciting.
Clearly, a lot of people my age felt the same way. Shortly thereafter, Gen Y bloggers were filling their feeds with black leather knapsacks and creepers and Clueless references; younger designers, like Charlotte Ronson and Lisa Mayock and Sophie Buhai of Vena Cava began tapping the era of Nirvana for ideas. Overalls and the type of Levis that Donna, Kelly and Brenda wore slowly usurped skinny jeans as the coolest type of denim to wear, and Birkenstocks victoriously returned to the fashion fold. But after three ’90s-obsessed years, pockets of the fashion community are growing restless and looking for new inspiration. I think they may have found it in millennial style.
Take, for instance, this season’s crop top craze. While there were certainly plenty of belly-baring baby tees happening in the 1990s, all the halter and tube tops hitting stores lately would be way more at home on The OC than 90210. Even more telling is the way street style stars have been pairing them with denim, à la the day of the "going out top." All they need to complete the look is a skinny scarf (which walked down the runway at both Marc Jacobs and Prada during February fashion month), a newsboy cap (declared "the hat of the season" by Fashionista last November ) and pointy-toe flats (see: every single show from Spring/Summer 2014).
Another major sign that aughts fashion is on the up and up is the recent gaucho pant craze. While the aforementioned crop top was a carry-over trend from the late ’90s, loose-fitting cropped trousers are purely a post-millennium product. Fortunately, though, the look has changed a bit this time around; while the style started as stretchy jersey lounge pants, it’s newest iteration is crisper and more refined. Denim skirts, too, have become more polished since it was cool to wear them with Ugg boots and trucker hats (both of which, if Lucky‘s Megan O’Neill and Laurel Pantin have anything to do with it, will also be making a comeback); not only have they evolved from minis to pencil shapes, but these days women are dressing them up with lace-up sandals and button-down shirts.
But if you, like me, were in high school and college during the early aughts, fashion from the last turn of the century doesn’t give you the same hazy sense of nostalgia as ditsy floral dresses and oversized fisherman sweaters. It hits a little too close to home to feel exotic and different: we remember unfortunate outfits worn on bad first dates and in awkward yearbook photos. Turns out it’s not all that fun to revisit the questionable wardrobe choices of one’s past.
That’s certainly how I felt upon spotting a ridiculously chic editor with a monogrammed Louis Vuitton Speedy in the Condé Nast elevator last week. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Louis Vuitton handbags, but I’ve avoided any purses with the brand’s signature motif since they were ubiquitously paired with Juicy Couture track suits (also, you guessed it, on track for a big splashy return) and Tiffany heart tag toggle necklaces. Yet, because this woman’s outfit was the antithesis of all that—relaxed frayed-hem denim, slinky silk shirt, d’Orsay flats—the print actually felt fresh. And while I’m not sure if I’m ready to go there myself yet, I’m definitely starting to consider it.
To see a few of the biggest ’00s trends making a comeback, click through the slideshow above.