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No matter what your opinion is on low-rise jeans, there’s no denying that late 90’s and early 2000’s fashion is back, and its resurgence has dominated what we currently think of as partywear.

Retailers have taken notice, from Urban Outfitters stocking Juicy Couture bodycon dresses to ASOS encouraging us to “Party like it’s 1999” in a 2021 email campaign. Interestingly, a cursory search of large fast-fashion retailers such as Amazon Fashion or Pretty Little Thing will yield the same search results for “going-out clothes” and “Y2K fashion.”

It’s typical for trends to repeat themselves every 20 or so years, but how have styles that people love to hate become synonymous with partywear? And are they here to stay? Y2K’s revival is more than just the next decade in the trend cycle: it’s perfect timing.

The early 2000’s were the “golden age of partying.” High-profile socialites, actresses, and models from the Olsen Twins to Nicole Richie hosted extravagant parties and ran New York City’s nightclub scene. Fueled by the rise of the paparazzi, the lives of these so-called “it-girls” captivated public interest. With new ways to spread images through the internet, photographers raced to capture moments such as Paris Hilton faking a plane crash, Britney Spears’ shaving her head, or the chaos surrounding the release of Kim Kardashian’s sex tape.

The Y2K aesthetic is driven by a craze for these celebrities who were portrayed as unhinged, unapologetic, and provocative- and the prevailing trends reflected that spirit. This created the perfect combination of sex and nostalgia needed to push a trend to becoming a fashion staple.

An easily distinguishable Y2K moment was Paris Hilton’s 21’st birthday dress. The scandalous socialite wore a slinky, high slit, mesh metal and rhinestone encrusted Julien Macdonald dress, exemplifying her figure and personality. The party itself was a 5-day bender across 5 time-zones featuring a 21-tier cake, raising the standard for party life in the early 2000s. Almost 16 years later, Kendall Jenner wore a replica of the dress for her own 21st birthday.

Style icons such as Paris Hilton wore outfits otherwise unacceptable before the time period. With all the hype surrounding the 2000s “it girls,” their expression of hyperfemininity and defiance of traditional elegance can be channeled in order to amplify one’s own personal style. Looking back though, Kendall Jenner wore Paris Hilton’s 21st birthday not because of the revealing silhouette, but rather the nostalgic moment presented in the chainmail.

Today, Y2K fashion embodies what many hope to feel when they go out: bold and experimental. And the fact that we’ve lived through years of social isolation and lockdowns due to COVID only adds to the pent-up desire to make a statement.

There’s a demand for partywear to be as distinct as possible from our day-to-day wear. I probably wouldn’t wear a rhinestone encrusted “Baby” crop top to school or to run errands because it runs the risk of no one taking me seriously, but it’s fair game for a going-out outfit. In other words, it’s not just revealing silhouettes that solidify Y2K’s footing in partywear, it’s the willingness to be a little tacky and the freedom to not be taken too seriously that drives the designs we see coming back.

Today in 2022, large brands and celebrities are infusing 2010’s structured and minimalist styles with Y2K’s most memorable cuts and prints. Bluemarine’s spring collection featured renditions of the Mariah Carey-inspired butterfly top, which Dua Lipa paired with high-waisted jeans to create a look that adopts the Y2K aesthetic into our everyday wardrobes. It’s worth noting that the partywear styles that have really taken off – scarf halter tops, platform soles, or cow print - allow us to incorporate bits of irreverence and it-girl “personality” into the styles we find most flattering and comfortable.

Y2K fashion may not immediately come to mind when we think of “timeless” fashion, yet it has solidified its presence within partywear. As retailers stock more Y2K inspired clothing and references in the media become increasingly prevalent, consumers and fashion lovers alike are embracing the beauty in its chaos. With this, I encourage everyone to personally prepare to hear “I used to wear that 20 years ago” from your parents for a little while longer.

Princess Diana
YSL Cut Out Bustier Mini Dress
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