From the Naked Dress to Wedge Sneakers: The 32 Best and Worst Fashion Trends of the Past Decade
The 2010s saw us through a myriad of, let’s just say, interesting sartorial moments. There was the rise and fall of the peplum top. The emergence of dad shoes as something to covet and be proud to wear. And, of course, a collective decision to call sweatpants “athleisure,” thus making them appropriate for all kinds of social engagements. We're already looking back on some trends and wondering, What were we thinking? Some are still going strong into 2020, but all of these fashion moments deserve a second look. Here are the best and worst fashion trends from the past decade.
1. Best: Blanket Scarves
To whoever looked at a regular wool scarf and thought,Well, that’s entirely insufficient for keeping me warm. It needs to be at least three times that size! we are forever indebted to your brilliance. Our necks, shoulders and bottom halves of our faces have never been cozier. And while we would have thought there was an actual boundary to how large a blanket scarf could be, Lenny Kravitz taught us that the limit actually does not exist. Thank you for your sartorial service, sir.
2. Best: Peplum Tops
One of the most far-reaching trends of 2012 was the peplum. It popped up on going-out tops, work dresses and even knit sweaters. We saw it on the runways of Alexander McQueen, Givenchy, Celine, Peter Pilotto and so many more. It might no longer be the trendiest silhouette, but peplums will always be one of our beloved, most flattering styles. The flared hem works to make your waist look itty-bitty while simultaneously covering up any lumps or bumps you might not be too crazy about.
3. Best: Over-the-Knee Boots
Remember 2016, when seemingly every supermodel on earth was wearing thigh-high Stuart Weitzman boots? Well, turns out the trend still has legs (ha!). We keep pulling these sexy boots out from our closet year after year, and we don’t think that will stop, even after we enter a new decade. Not only are they warm and comfy, but these tall boots make us feel like Bella Hadid. Yup, we'll happily keep this trend around for as long as we can.
4. Worst: Wedge Sneakers
It all began with Isabel Marant’s Willow Sneaker in 2012. Suddenly, everyone needed to get their hands on a pair of wedge sneaks—Lindsay Lohan, Leandra Medine, Chiara Ferragni. No offense to Ms. Marant, J.Lo and everyone who considered this heeled athletic shoe a fashion win (us included), but we’re relieved to leave this elevated footwear behind. Where it belongs.
5. Worst: Festival Fashion
At their best, Coachella, Burning Man and other festival outfits look like over-accessorized beachwear. At their worst, they resemble bad Halloween costumes, guarantee you a slew of bizarre tan lines and are sometimes even guilty of cultural misappropriation. We’ll keep the denim cut-offs and wide-brim hats, but everything else is welcome to stay in the 2010s.
6. Best: Modest Fashion
Since 2017, hems have gotten longer, necklines have climbed higher and sleeves have continued to grow bigger and bigger. Prairie dresses and wide-leg jeans not only exaggerated our silhouettes but also swiftly replaced skinny jeans and body-con dresses as must-haves during the second half of the decade. Maybe it was runoff from our British royals obsession and their typically modest ensembles, or perhaps it was just another form of the comfy normcore fashion movement. Either way, we can expect to see styles featuring an abundance of fabric in the near future.
7. Best: Slip Dresses
We’re calling this the absolute best version of the “underwear as outerwear” movement, and we fully plan to continue wearing it for as long as possible. To be fair, the slip dress has been wavering in and out of style for more than 40 years and has been worn by ’70s icons like Jerry Hall, ’90s style stars like Kate Moss and, of course, some of the biggest names of the 2010s, including Rihanna, Selena Gomez, Emma Stone, Serena Williams, Jennifer Lawrence and Katie Holmes, just to name a few. The best way to wear them headed into the new decade? Dressed up with simple strappy heels and delicate jewelry for a night out, or under a chunky knit with tall heeled boots for a more casual afternoon affair.
8. Best: Dad Shoes
Remember how we used to laugh at how dorky Melanie Griffith looked in her white sneakers and power suits running through NYC in Working Girl? Well, never say never. The chunky sneakers most loved by podiatrists, working women of the ’80s and, of course, your dad have become best sellers for three years running, particularly the gray New Balance 990s pictured above and Balenciaga’s Triple S on the designer end. Sure, they’re a bit controversial, but our insoles have never been happier.
9. Worst: Colorful Skinny Jeans
It’s not that we’re opposed to colorful denim. We’re just not huge fans of what tight teal, pink or even neon green jeans do to our poor legs—which is to make them look like giant fleshy crayons. We could never quite figure out what goes with vivid purple jeans anyway.
10. Worst: Tiny Sunglasses
The backlash for this throwback accessory started almost as soon as it started to gain traction once more in late 2017. But that didn’t stop celebrities (like Millie Bobby Brown, Gigi Hadid and Kristen Stewart) and fashion publications alike (including Vogue, Who What Wear and, yes, even PureWow) from trying their hardest to make it work. Sadly, tiny sunglasses and regular-sized human faces just weren’t meant to be.
11. Best: Headbands
This Blair Waldorf–approved style has been steadily gaining popularity since 2017, along with basically every other hair accessory on the planet (scrunchies, barrettes, clips, etc.). They add a little something special to any look, even a plain white tee and jeans, and are incredibly easy to just slip on without requiring that you actually do your hair. For those reasons, we hope they continue on.
12. Best: The Cult Gaia Ark bag
This vintage-looking handbag was not without controversy: Designer Jasmin Larian was involved in a complicated lawsuit intended to discourage knockoffs but instead called attention to the fact that the design was appropriated from traditional Japanese bamboo picnic bags of the ’40s. But before all that, Cult Gaia’s bamboo clutch became a must-have item almost immediately upon its debut in the summer of 2017, leading to the rise of a slew of bamboo and straw bags for everything from a beach day to brunch with friends or even your cousin’s wedding.
13. Worst: Cold-Shoulder tops
Why, in 2016, we felt the need to cover our arms and sternums yet leave our shoulders exposed is beyond us. Even designers like Proenza Schouler, Milly and Jason Wu bought into this odd take on the off-the-shoulder top. What felt edgy and out of the box at the time now just feels odd and unnecessary. In the words of Ariana Grande, “Thank you, next.”
14. Best: Bodysuits
The bodysuit finally found its moment of glory in the late 2010s, and these one-pieces show no signs of slowing down. The first iteration of the trend, in 2017, was more about wearing lingerie-inspired versions (or in some cases, actual lingerie) with jeans or high-waisted pants for a night out. It has since evolved to a more wearable place, with slimming solid-color T-shirts, V-necks, turtlenecks and, yes, low-cut backless options. They’re a flattering and simple solution to the issue of trying to keep a shirt tucked in and work for everything from date night to casual weekend plans or even a day at the office.
15. Best: Ankle Boots
We will never stop buying, wearing or loving this, the most practical and versatile of all the boot silhouettes. Although one could argue they were never truly out, the latest version of the ankle boot first became popular way back in late 2010. Since then a variety of more specific trends have each taken their turn as the must-have ankle boot of the moment (black wedges, western inspired, sock booties, stark white, kitten heels, etc.), but in general you can pretty much never go wrong with this short style.
16. Best: Arm Parties
The arm party, aka a stack of mismatched bracelets, may have reached its peak sometime between 2012 and 2013, but we’re not opposed to keeping the soirée going. Go ahead and pile on those metallic bangles, hand-stitched friendship bracelets and glittering rhinestone tennis bangles (on both wrists if you want) and just know that Leandra Medine, founder of ManRepeller and coiner of the term arm party, is smiling somewhere.
17. Worst: Clear Shoes
Love it or hate it, if Kim Kardashian wears something, however out-of-the-box it may seem, the rest of us are probably going to attempt to wear it too. Much like we did with bike shorts and tiny sunglasses, we tried, we really tried, to make PVC footwear work for us. But between the inevitable sweat and stress of trying to figure out how to make our poor squished toes look nice in a Cinderella-inspired pointy-toe pump, they’re just not worth the struggle.
18. Worst: High-Low Hems
Is it a mini? Is it a midi? We get that you want to show off your adorable new summer sandals, but an asymmetrical hem all too often just ends up looking unfinished. Despite being called fashion’s equivalent of a mullet, this was the “it” style of 2012 and 2013, loved by street-style stars like Olivia Palermo and celebs like Miley Cyrus and Blake Lively. Going forward, however, we plan to pick one length and stick to it.
19. Best: Athleisure
This might be our favorite trend to come out of the past ten years. We don’t know why it suddenly became acceptable and rather chic to wear our sweatshirts, track pants, sporty sandals and yoga pants to basically any event on our calendar, but damn, are we glad it did. And of course, the trend likely wouldn’t have survived without the likes of Rihanna, the Kardashian/Jenners (again) and basically every supermodel on the planet. May the marriage of comfort and style be a long and happy one.
20. Best: Mom jeans
Along with the rise in athleisure and normcore came the return of denim that didn’t stretch or cling to our thighs and had higher, more-flattering waistlines. Ah yes, mom jeans. These are not the bizarre pleated pants made famous by that SNL skit, but they instead have a casual, cool vibe more reminiscent of jeans from the ’50s worn by Marilyn Monroe.
21. Best: Sock Boots
The slim-fitting, streamlined silhouette of these surprisingly comfortable booties were all the rage in 2017, thanks in part to Kanye West’s Yeezy collections that prominently featured the style, but we still love them for making our legs look super long and lean. Plus, they’re way easier to tuck under jeans than our old go-to western ankle boots.
22. WORST: Overly Distressed Jeans
We're fine with buying our jeans new with a raw hem or a bit of wear to give them a vintage vibe. But when you tear apart the entire front half of your pants, what's the point of even putting them on? Purposefully worn-in denim started gaining traction before 2010 but it wasn't until 2012 that we reached peak destruction. Jeans became shreds of fabric loosely held together by whisper bleaching and sheer determination. Thankfully, the trend died out again before 2015 (although 2019 did subject us the equally horrifying "jantie").
23. Worst: Hipster Fashion
Flannel and vests and fake glasses, oh my! The hipster movement, which reached its pinnacle in 2011, wasn’t so much about specific clothing items as it was about rejecting anything anyone else found cool or trendy or mainstream, thus becoming impossible to keep up with and really pretty contradictory. We must admit, we’ve grown pretty fond of the flannel shirts, though we suppose that means they’d no longer be considered hipster.
24. Worst: Bike Shorts
We know that both Kim Kardashian and Princess Diana managed to figure this one out, but the rest of us were not so successful. Instead, we looked like we’d struggled so hard to get into our Spanx shorts that we forgot to pull a skirt on over them during the summer of 2018 and 2019. Kudos to Kim and Diana, but we’ll pass on carrying bike shorts into the New Year.
25. BEST: Suits of Every Kind
It started with a rise in matching sets in all categories before being narrowed down to a classic blazer and pants combination. But the love didn’t stop there: Every style of suit has since become a wardrobe staple, no matter your lifestyle. Casual shorts suits, Hillary Clinton-esque pantsuits, even slouchy knit versions are only growing in popularity as we head into 2020.
26. Best: The Amazon Coat
It was the coat seen round the world. Or at least seen all around Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and apparently the suburbs of Illinois during December 2018. In fact, the Orolay Thickened Down Jacket became a winter must-have seemingly overnight as every woman who has ever shopped for clothing on Amazon (so, all of us) stopped and thought, Wow, a puffer coat that’s both cute and warm. Add to cart! Some may call it basic, but we call it beautiful. And we have yet to stop seeing these everywhere…
27. Best: Gucci’s Fur-Lined Princetown Loafers
It feels hard to believe that Gucci’s impractical fur-lined shoes made their debut in 2015, but they have indeed managed to remain a wardrobe staple for four full years and can almost certainly be credited with the rise of all backless loafers in general. As with the dad shoe, we’re a fan of any footwear that is both comfortable for all-day wear and looks stylishly on point.
28. Worst: Chokers
While not the worst accessory trend to pop up over the years, 2015’s choker craze was pretty uncomfortable, not all that flattering and reminds us too much of either the Victorian era or those ’90s plastic tattoo necklaces, neither of which is high on our list of style inspirations.
29. Best: Crop Tops
The crop top is about as divisive a fashion item as Crocs or dad shoes, but we are firmly in favor of the half shirt. That said, much of our love for the crop top depends on the styling. When paired with high-waisted pants or skirts, it can look wonderfully chic and help create the illusion of an itty-bitty waist. Crop tops get a bit less fabulous when worn with a low-cut bottom (yes, even if you have J.Lo-level abs), but seeing as this trend has been going steady since at least 2011, we think it’s safe to say that women will continue wearing crop tops into 2020 and beyond. If you’re a fan, we say keep on rocking it. (And if you’re not, well, then follow the advice of John, Paul, George and Ringo and let it be.)
30. Best: Fanny Packs
Once reserved for Midwestern dads on vacation, Napoleon Dynamite Halloween costumes and ‘80s theme parties, the fanny pack became so cool in 2017 that high-end designers like Gucci, Chanel, Fendi and even Dior created their own signature versions. They may call them “belt bags,” but we all know what they truly are: super-practical, wonderfully weird fanny packs, and we plan to keep on rocking them into the New Year and beyond.
31. Best: Valentino Rockstuds
Despite the rather hefty price tag, Valentino’s Rockstud collection, featuring ladylike pointy-toe pumps with spike-studded straps, took the fashion world by storm upon its release as part of the brand’s fall 2010 ready-to-wear collection. It spent the next three years (at least) enjoying its reign as the “it” shoe that every fashion-obsessed woman from Angelina Jolie to Vanessa Hudgens to Beyoncé absolutely needed to get their hands on. Although the style has since been dethroned, the Rockstud is still one of the most coveted items on design resale sites like TheRealReal, while new versions consistently sell out at retailers Nordstrom and Bergdorf Goodman.
32. Best: The Naked Dress
OK, so the general public didn’t really participate in this fashion trend (or maybe you did, in which case, good on you), but celebrities have never shown off more of their bodies while pretending to wear clothing than in the 2010s. There were countless variations on the skin-baring trend worn by everyone from Catherine Zeta-Jones to Gwyneth Paltrow to Kendall Jenner, but the most iconic will always be Rihanna’s crystal slip with matching cap and gloves and a faux-fur boa (for modesty’s sake) worn the 2014 CFDAs.
Despite the return of more modest silhouettes for the rest of us, we expect to see just as many, if not more, naked styles over the next ten years. Here’s to the Roaring Twenties, take two!