There are many things we never could have predicted about the year 2021, but the return of all our favorite Y2K fashion trends is definitely one we never saw coming. Whether you love them or hate them (or even remember them from the first time around), scarf tops, kitschy prints and cropped cardis are back en vogue as folks embrace the idea of dressing to the nines for our re-emergence into society. Of course, the late ‘90s/early 2000s isn’t exactly remembered as the most fashionable point in history, so bringing these trends back to life comes with a little bit of sartorial risk. But there is a way to do it right and combine all the best things about the turn of the century and modern post-Covid fashion. Here, eight 1999/2000 trends you can and should bring out of retirement in 2021.
Y2K Fashion Is Back. Here’s How to Wear It in 2021Without Looking Like a Spice Girl
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1. matching Cropped Cardigan Sets
How we wore them in 2000: With slip skirts or low-rise jeans and likely a heavy dose of butterfly clips.
How to wear them in 2021: While you can certainly still rock a daisy-printed set if you like, we prefer Kelly McFarland’s solid-hued set for a more grown-up approach. Pair them with brightly-color high-waist trousers or dark-wash denim with no distressing in a tailored fit (aka straight leg or wide-leg crops vs. boyfriend jeans) to keep things modern. Close just the top button for a throwback vibe, or leave it open entirely.
2. scarf Tops
How we wore them in 2000: With low-rise, bootcut denim and strappy sandals.
How to wear them in 2021: We still like the contrast of a sexy silky top and casual denim, but avoid bootcut and wide leg styles unless you’re headed to a costume party. Instead, try denim cargo pants or joggers, like Coterie member Monroe Steele, or high-waist skinny jeans. And while Steele’s classic black sandals certainly work, slipping on some sporty or chunky sandals will read more modern.
3. nylon Baguette Bags
How we wore them in 2000: With coordinating scarf-hem dresses and a kitschy bag charm.
How to wear them in 2021: This chic shoulder bag style first gained popularity in the ‘90s with sleek leather designs, however the Y2K version is much more casual, typically made from sporty materials like nylon and available in any color or pattern under the sun. Back in the day, we would’ve gone wild mixing and matching lots of busy prints, but for 2021 you’re better off choosing something in a solid hue with a more streamlined silhouette. If you do want to rock one with a ruffled strap or crochet flowers, keep the rest of your ensemble simple (like jeans and a white top) to avoid looking too overdone.
4. hair Bandanas
How we wore them in 2000: With at least two other hair accessories, like pigtails done up with scrunchies or colorful clip-in hair braids.
How to wear them in 2021: Less Lizzie McGuire and more old-Hollywood starlet on a boat. Keep your earrings, sunglasses and necklaces (basically any accessories that surround your face) on the minimalist side to let your pretty silk scarf shine. As for your for your hair, leave it loose to do its own thing rather than attempting anything complicated.
5. one-shoulder Tank Tops
How we wore them in 2000: Cropped with a graphic or logo like “J’Adore Dior” in rhinestones or a trio of hibiscus flowers, and paired with our favorite low-rise jeans or cargo pants.
How to wear them in 2021: For starters, avoid rhinestones. Secondly, go monochrome in color for a look that’s chic and easy to dress up. As for what to pair them with, follow in Caroline Juen’s stylish footsteps and tuck yours into tailored bottoms in a complementary hue and keep your jewelry simple. You can also opt for a bodysuit to avoid having to retuck your top throughout the day.
6. kitschy Prints
How we wore them in 2000: Bold butterflies, hibiscus flowers, cloud prints and ying yang symbols on everything from baby tees to minidresses to matching cardigan sets.
How to wear them in 2021: These prints will never be subtle, but you can tone down their “in your face” vibes by wearing just one at a time and keeping the rest of your look neutral (i.e., black, white, gray or brown).
7. middriff Ties
How we wore them in 2000: String-tie tops were most often worn with sporty bottoms, like joggers or track pants, but the other most common variation of this trend was the whale tail (*shudder*), achieved by pulling the back of your thong undies up over the waist of your low-rise pants.
How to wear them in 2021: The 2021 verison of this midriff-baring trend is much simpler and has nothing to do with underwear (thank God). Rather than bikini-inspired tops, we’re rocking cropped T-shirts or puff-sleeve blouses with a simple wrap-around feature at the waist. Pair them with a high-waist slip skirt, just like Taye Hansberry’s matching set, or with Bermuda shorts, skinny jeans or even leggings.
How we wore them in 2000: Black slide sandals with a two- to three-inch platform (à la Posh Spice) or white or pastel sneakers (à la Sporty Spice).
How to wear them in 2021: We’re calling flatforms the top shoe style of summer 2021, but they’re nothing like what the Spice Girls would have worn. This time around they’ve got a boho flair with espadrille soles, brown leather straps and colorful stitching. Chunky sandals with an elevated platform are also gaining traction, but we think it’s smart to veer towards dad-approved Tevas rather than puffed-up flip flops.