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Y2K Style Guide | What Is Y2K Fashion & Tips for Wearing Y2K Clothing (If You’re Cool Enough)

Written by Helen Boogzel


Posted on May 03 2024


If you’ve been anywhere on social media lately, you’ve surely heard that Y2K style is back. If you haven’t heard…where have you been?! Love it or hate it, 00s fashion, often considered as the worst fashion decade by those exposed to it as teens, is back with a vengeance and it’s seriously cute. Are you cool enough for Y2K?

What is Y2K Fashion?

Y2K fashion gets its name from…well, Y2K. For those of you born after Y2K - so, most of you - Y2K was a huge milestone when we reached the year 2000 and a potential crisis for computers worldwide.

 You see, a new millennium drastically changed the date format, and it was widely believed that once the clock struck midnight and we moved into January 1st, 2000, that entire systems would go offline, records would become messed up, and chaos would reign.

 Turns out, none of that happened and we all just worried for no reason.

y2k aesthetic

The History of Y2K Fashion

There were a few prominent currents, trends, and points of inspiration for this fashion style, the first time around, and most of them centered around hip-hop, rappers, and black culture. Missy Elliot, P. Diddy, TLC - these were just a few of the figures that inspired major trends for both men and women, like baggy clothes, low-rise pants, and chains as accessories. If you can identify a trend, chances are it was inspired by a subculture that gained prominence and started inspiring designers, and in the 00s, it was very much the hip-hop and R’n’B scene that was “IT”.

But even if you weren’t around for Y2K, I’m sure you’re familiar with some of the biggest fashion icons of Y2K fashion. Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Lindsay Lohan, Hilary Duff, Destiny’s Child are just a few of the celebrities we envied, idolized, and used as fashion inspo. Christina’s low rise jeans, Paris’ pink bags, Mariah Carey’s butterfly top, Beyonce’s belly chains are all items that have remained ingrained in the public consciousness.


Beloved and, at some points reviled, Y2K fashion brought something to the table we’d never quite seen before. Bellybuttons, tramp stamps, and what was largely seen as “trashy” fashion by the media at large. But that’s exactly what made it so interesting. Following an angsty decade where grunge reigned supreme with baggy, oversized fits and an overall undone, messy aesthetic, Y2K came in with a wave of girly pink, tight clothes, rhinestones, feathers, and well…*fun*. And that’s exactly what it’s bringing in 2024, in stark contrast to the classy neutrals of the quiet luxury aesthetic.

The Most Iconic Y2K Fashion to Wear

There’s a lot to take in with 2000s fashion, but here are some of the most iconic styles of the decade to replicate:

1. Low rise bottoms

When you say Y2K fashion, most people immediately think of one item: low rise jeans. 

Few fashion items have been as ubiquitous or as controversial as low rise jeans. Almost inextricable from Y2K, they were mostly flared. Worn with chunky sneakers or pointy toe heels, low rise jeans would make up for what they lacked in rise with an extra long hemline that dragged on the ground.

Pair them with the age-defining crop tops and baby tees - although with that rise, any top becomes a crop top - or with a layered look, for more coverage: a t-shirt with a longer strappy cami on top. Alternatively, a longer long-sleeve top underneath a cropped cami.

Biggest inspo: X-tina in her Dirrrty era 

Christina Aguilera wearing a quintessential Y2K outfit featuring low rise jeans
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2. Baby tees

What’s a pair of low rise flares without a baby tee? One of those pieces that seems ridiculous when it’s off-trend, when the baby tee gets you in its chokehold, it’s over. In a way, it’s a really versatile piece, because it doesn’t interact with your bottoms. It’s small, tight, and cropped, so it’s a quintessential part of the small-top-big-bottom silhouette.

Pair it with baggy low rise cargo pants, and some platform sneakers, and you’re on your way. Make sure the tee has a cheeky saying on it for maximum impact.

Biggest inspo: Britney Spears’ Dump Him baby tee

Britney in her iconic Dump Him baby tee, days after breaking up with Justin Timberlake
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3. Belly chains, navel piercings, body glitter

When the silhouette centers around showing your stomach, what do we do? That’s right, we accessorize it. This is the era of belly chains, belly button piercings, and a ton of body glitter smeared on your stomach and we LOVED it. If your outfit shows it off, why not embellish it?

Maybe don’t do all of them at once, but consider a subtle piercing that would give you a bit of sparkle and something to draw the eye. Alternatively, a belly chain can look surprisingly elegant and it’s not just limited to rhinestone jeans outfits. Imagine a subdued, maybe even minimalistic outfit of a tight top and a low to mid rise slip skirt with a delicate chain around the hips. Modern Minimalist aesthetic with just a touch of vintage Y2K.

Biggest inspo: Beyonce before, during, after Destiny’s Child 

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4. Corsets, cinched waists, feminine silhouettes

Eve wearing a Y2K corset alongside Nick Carter from the Backstreet Boys

The 2000s were the heyday of the casual corset and the queen of corsets, Dame Vivienne Westwood, may she rest in peace. I know “casual corset” may sound like an oxymoron, but hear me out - a feminine corset embellished with bows or lace paired with much more casual bottoms, like jeans, can do a lot for your silhouette, and checks a lot of aesthetic boxes. It can be Y2K, coquette, Lolita, 90s - it’s surprisingly versatile. The 2000s were the era of the cinched waist, so boxy 90s coats were out, and coquette little blazers with a wasp-ish waist were in. And that’s exactly what we’re seeing in fashion right now.

Biggest inspo: Jessica Simpson, Eve 

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5. Armpit bags & baguette bags

I don’t have hard proof that Carrie Bradshaw blew up baguette bags, in general, but I have it on good authority that she was the one who popularized the Fendi baguette bags. I’m sure Sex And The City has made the rounds with gen Z but just in case it hasn’t, you have to stop reading this just long enough to see the iconic scene that made pop culture history.

Alongside Carrie Bradshaw, we also have Lorelai Gilmore, another iconic lover of the baguette or the armpit bag as it’s also known. Her style is plastered all over TikTok, Instagram, and Pinterest boards alike. Wear it with your slip dress, a matching bucket hat, or a cool burgundy leather jacket to get the authentic 00s look.

Biggest inspo: Carrie Bradshaw’s Fendi baguettes 

Carrie Bradshaw wearing a pink sequinned Fendi baguette
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6. Preppy

The 2000s were peak preppy times, and if you’re confused about what, exactly, that is, think Abercrombie, High School Musical, Ralph Lauren, or even Blair Waldorf, towards the tail end of the decade. A clean look inspired by classic American sportswear, so a lot of pastels, navies, whites, reds, polo shirts, khakis, dress shoes, and clothes a really rich person would wear on their yacht.

So, the “old money” aesthetic of yesteryear, if you will. More colorful and less dour than old money seems to be, it allows for a more youthful interpretation, hence its wide adoption among teens. If you didn’t wear a cropped polo shirt from Abercrombie with your low rise jeans, you weren’t cool. Modernize the look with a collared crop top paired with a pleated skirt, white socks, and mary janes - a preppy Y2K coquette.

Biggest inspo: Abercrombie catalogs/Cher Horowitz 

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7. Pink & girly

2000s fashion didn’t shy away from pink, frills, ruffles, bows, and other hyper-femme detailing. The extremely feminine aesthetic wasn’t just brilliant and iconic costuming in Mean Girls, but was reflective of a whole era of over the top, unapologetic femininity the likes of which we’re seeing glimpses today. Paris Hilton alone was a purveyor of pink and girly, always dressed in over the top feathers, Hello Kitty branding, and other high femme details.

We’re seeing a revival of it today across several aesthetics, from Barbie-core to Y2K, nymphette, coquette, and other high-femme styles. Pink goes with anything, so don’t shy away from a head to toe pink look.

Biggest inspo: Paris Hilton’s entire existence

Paris Hilton in one of her signature all-pink girly ensembles
Paris Hilton Wearing Pink
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8. Baggy pants & cargo bottoms

Y2K fashion is defined by one major silhouette: tiny top, big bottom. Since the top half is ruled by baby tees, tube tops, crop tops, and corsets, we balance it out with baggy pants - low rise, wide leg, flares, and cargo pants - or skirts!

Majorly inspired by hip-hop culture, baggy bottoms are perfect with the chunky shoes of this era. It’s not just super cute, it’s also really comfortable, and never boring. You can never have a bad fit when you’re wearing a big pair of jeans with a million pockets.

Biggest inspo: Missy Elliot 

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9. Shiny, metallic & bedazzled

As we mentioned, the 2000s were all about having fun with fashion, so bedazzling, rhinestones, and sequins were all du jour. And after so many years of timeless classic neutrals and quiet luxury, we’re ready to bring back the bedazzled jeans, jackets, skirts, purses - the only thing that escaped bedazzling the 00s were the tiny purse dogs.

You can go all out with a fully bedazzled pair of jeans, or you can opt for a more subtle rhinestone accent on a belt or hair clip. You can also embrace a shiny texture by wearing metallics; silver was huge in the 2000s and it’s coming back with a vengeance. A little more youthful than gold, silver is the go-to choice for accessories that lean more alternative.

Biggest inspo: Disney Channel 

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Tips for Wearing Y2K Clothing in 2024

Worried about wearing a Y2K outfit in 2024? Here are some ways to modernize typical Y2K items and wear them in a current way that isn’t costume-y or outdated.

  1. Don’t wear head to toe vintage

I know, I know, there’s nothing cooler than vintage. But the danger with wearing head to toe vintage or all your cool pieces at once is that it might end up looking more like a costume than a real outfit.

Trends and styles never come back in the exact same way, it’s always some sort of reinterpretation of the original style, so wearing a fully vintage outfit can come across as trying too hard, or ironically - dated.

  1. Style in a modern way

And because styles always come back reinterpreted, you also have to style it in a modern way. That means you style your Y2K pieces in a way that’s more current. For example, a lot of what defined authentic Y2K style was the “more is more” approach when it came to accessories. One would wear a skinny scarf, a long necklace, a low slung belt, 14 bangles on one arm, and a newsboy cap with their low-rise jeans and satin cami.

To style the same jeans and cami today, perhaps just wear a choker or a necklace to keep the focus on the fit and not on the multitude of accessories.

  1. Choose the trends that suit you the most

The excitement about a Y2K comeback can be overwhelming, but you have to rein in the impulse to throw on *everything*. Not everything will suit you or be authentic to your personal style, so wearing a low rise leopard mini skirt with a corset when you normally wear hoodies and sweatpants may not be a successful look for you.

What you want to do, instead, is choose the trends that suit you and your style most, and incorporate those into your existing style and fits. That will make these newer Y2K inspired silhouettes look natural and less try-hard or awkward.

  1. Get inspired, but style in your own way

When trying out new styles, it helps to get inspiration - it’s why we follow so many cool fashion girls on TikTok - but knowing how to use the inspo is also important. Copying rarely results in a good outfit that feels like you; so if you want to wear Y2K, make it your own.

The easiest way to do that is to take a classic Y2K piece and wear it in a new way. Take a skinny scarf and wear it in your hair instead of around your neck. Wear platform flip-flops with a milkmaid dress, or a studded belt with joggers. The look will be fresh, but still Y2K inspired.


Final thoughts

Y2K is an iconic era in fashion and one we’re excited to welcome back. There is a lot happening in the Y2K aesthetic , which means there are also a lot of elements you can adopt. Anyone can wear a Y2K outfit , you just need to pick the right items and styles and leave behind the ones that don’t suit you or don’t fit your current vibe.

Check out other related aesthetics:

Keywords: y2k, y2k fashion, y2k aesthetic, y2k outfit, y2k style



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