Look, I love a good throwback photo, no matter how cringe-worthy my poses or outfits were—but, in hindsight, the fashion of the early '00s took a hefty toll on us all. Thankfully, many of the trends we swore by, like those Juicy Couture tracksuits and our favorite pair of True Religion jeans, have seen a fall from grace since the '00s.
That said. Avid fashion fans know that many early 2000s trends are coming back in this decade on the Fashion Week runways at brands like Blumarine, so don’t count these trends out just yet. I mean, it makes sense with how popular slightly older '90s-era trends have been of late. Handkerchief skirts and halter dresses, for instance, have been worn by modern-day It-girls like Bella Hadid and Devon Lee Carlson. While the new iterations are definitely updated with a few modern-day details, the early aughts DNA is still strong.
For old time’s sake, let's revisit some of the most out-there and daring trends that we all were convinced were cool in the years between 2000 and 2010. These were the pieces we begged our moms to buy us, after all! Whether or not you would actually wear any of these pieces now isn’t really the point—sometimes it’s just fun to take a trip down the fashion memory lane. From the lowest of low-rise jeans that showed our thongs to the surprising popularity of a cropped vest or cardigan, click through the gallery below to check out all of the trends that you loved back then, and the ones that you love to hate now.
There was one simple rule when it came to cocktail dresses in the early aughts: the tighter, the better. The most in-demand bandage dress brand was Hérve Léger, who became known throughout Hollywood for his uber-sexy silhouettes that were adored by the likes of Kim Kardashian and Kate Winslet (and me in my early teens).
Seeing celebrities wearing bubble dresses on the red carpet brings back visceral middle school memories. I'm not sure why these dresses with gathered, tucked-under hems ever came into style, but I'm happy that they're gone.
Printed Skinny Jeans
In the early aughts, your jeans had to be painted-on levels of skinny. But if you really wanted to be cool, they had to be either printed, come in a fun color, or (gasp) both.
Uneven hemlines had their moment in the early 2000s. The look was totally pirate-inspired but also somehow fashionable?
There's something about seeing a celebrity in a peep-toed heel that instantly puts me back in 2008. The style was everywhere at the time.
Hats were a major part of the fashion scene in the early 2000s—especially knit ones. They were often oversized and a little slouchy, too.
The Chloé Paddington
There were many It bags of the 2000s, but the Chloé Paddington was the first It bag my 13-year-old self ever wanted, but never got. It seemed like everyone owned this style, from Michelle Trachtenberg, pictured here at an event in 2005, to Halle Berry and Nicky Hilton. And if you lived in NYC around that time, there were also plenty of Paddington counterfeits on the streets—not that my mom ever bought me one of those either, but I digress.
The Balenciaga City Bag
Everyone who was anyone in Hollywood (and beyond) carried the Balenciaga City Bag in the early aughts. The classic silhouette is coming back into style again, so investing in one second-hand might be a good idea.
Jackets? Never heard of 'em. The early aughts were all about finding the most perfect vest. Celebrities wore different versions just about everywhere back then, including the red carpet.
You definitely owned at least one pair of capri jeans to match with your lace tank tops—and the jeans looked like Leighton Meester's. Bonus points if the bottoms were low risers too. The 2006 me would have fawned over this Gossip Girl's outfit.
Denim Maxi Skirts
If you remember the micro mini skirts of the early aughts, allow me to remind you that denim maxi skirts were just as popular.
White Tank Tops
The term "wife-beater" used to describe these ribbed tank tops has thankfully fallen out of use, but the style is still around to this day. You may recall the shirt having been re-popularized by Ryan Atwood in The O.C.
Stretchy, Ruched Tops and Dresses
In hindsight, who doesn't want a bit of stretch in their clothes? This stretchy, ruched design was everywhere in the early aughts and was incorporated into tops and dresses, like the one Blake Lively wore in 2005 to the Teen Choice Awards.
No matter what kind of jeans you had, from low risers to capris, there was probably one pair that had rhinestones, crystals, or some other embellishment stitched on to it. The most annoying part? When one of these jewels inevitably fell off and left an empty space.
Dresses Over Jeans
Kelly Clarkson was on to something here when she wore a dress over jeans in 2002. Sadly, she missed the style mark with her loud accessories and the type of dress and jean pairing. See how street style stars are making the dress/jeans combo look more appealing present day.
Skinny scarves were worn by everyone, regardless of gender. Here, Orlando Bloom diligently rocked the accessory with a blazer and jeans at the premiere of Beyond the Sea in 2004.
No top or dress was complete in the early '00s without the addition of a large wide belt. They came in shiny plastic options, woven patterns, and everything in between. The style was even good enough for the red carpet, as evidenced by Kim, who rocked hers at the Rock & Republic preview party.
Unfortunately, I was an adopter of this trend and had several pairs of pocketless jeans. Though unlike Christina Milian at the Crossroads premiere in 2002, I skipped the visible thong mania. Thankfully, both trends have faded out over the years and now I can happily stick my iPhone or lip balm into the back pockets of my jeans if I needed to.
Von Dutch Hats
Whether you were a Von Dutch and/or Ed Hardy person, these brands defined the glorious aughts. You had at least a Von Dutch trucker hat, or tried to convince your mom to get you one, and wanted to own everything from its pinstriped shirts to tees. Though the hats have faded out since it peaked in 2003, Kylie Jenner was spotted in the accessory in 2016, giving hope (fear?) to some that Von Dutch might make a comeback.
Long Tunics Over Jeans
Longer than a regular top but shorter than a dress, the long tunic is a lewk everyone knows. Back then, you usually wore a tunic with leggings or jeans, in Mischa Barton's case. She didn't know it then, but she dressed down in the most 2000's outfit ever at the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards.
From name plate necklaces (I still have mine) to flashy belts with your name or phrases, these accessories took the idea of monogramming to a whole new level. The belt designs were loud and definitely not subtle, which is why we haven't forgotten about them even in 2020. Thank you Mariah Carey for this outfit.
If you didn't spend your time tugging up your tube top or worrying they'd slide down in 20002, what were you doing? This piece was the perfect way to flash your belly-button ring or show off your shoulders and collarbones.
Leggings as Pants
Remember the whole "are leggings pants" debate?. Ask anyone in 2005, like Sienna Miller, and they will say yes. From It girls like her to the girls in your high school, leggings were the universal comfy, booty-hugging bottoms to wear with everything from tunics to crop tops. Leggings are still part of our everyday wardrobes.
UGG boots have managed to survive the early aughts (back when they were worn with miniskirts, the horror) and are now a key part to anyone's dressed-down look. This throwback image of Bey from 2004 defined how seasonally confusing we must have all looked with our UGG boots and skirts. Never again.
Did anyone else spend hours trying to untangle their long beaded necklaces? The accessory style was sold everywhere from your neighborhood store, Strawberry, to Claire's and American Eagle. Lauren Conrad even wore hers on MTV's TRL (#RIP) with a tank top and capris for the pinnacle outfit of 2005.
Speaking of capris, Riri (yes, this same Rihanna) also took a liking to the trend, wearing her low-rise denim bottoms in 2005 while posing backstage during an MTV Networks Tempo Channel launch event. She styled hers with strappy pumps and a sequined vest blazer—a look we probably will never see on her again.
Juicy Couture Tracksuits
Juicy Couture, the brand made famous by celebs like Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, debuted in the spring of 2001. If you owned Juicy matching separates, you were basically part of the in-crowd and it was a pretty fun time. Eventually, like all trendy things, people moved on from the Juicy suits look to the athleisure you know today (hello, Bandier). However, if you're nostalgic for Juicy, you can still shop the brand today.
Maybe you weren't the name plate belt type, maybe you loved these boho-meets-western coin belts instead. You wore them low on the hips with jeans or flowy maxi skirts. This was definitely a cool look back then, since even Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen wore them in 2002.
As The Black Eyed Peas once said, "They say they love mah ass in/Seven jeans/True Religion..." Like the Juicy tracksuit, owning a pair of True Religion jeans in the earl 2000's were a cool-girl symbol. And you could tell when a pair was from TR. The bottoms were defined by the horseshoe stitching on the back pockets and the laughing Buddha label.
Tank Tops Over Another Shirt
If you owned a lace cami in 2004, you were probably layering it over a t-shirt or another shirt like Alyson Michalka's. It was a relatively easy look, achievable with any colored camisoles (I had a rainbow of colors that I wore under my one hoodie). These days, the cami style is still around, though now I opt for silk or satin pieces.
Your school might have had a dress code, so short tiered skirts like this were a no-no, but on the weekends? All rules were out the window. The tiered miniskirt was often worn with a camisole or white tank top, which made you feel like the coolest kid on the block.
Raise your hand if you owned a halter-neck top or dress during this era. The style was seemingly everywhere and even Michelle Trachtenberg hopped on board with the design, wearing this halter-neck yellow minidress to the premiere of Eurotrip.
One way to rep your favorite causes in 2004 was wearing a one-size-fits-all silicone bracelet from the organization. (You'll recognize the ubiquitous yellow Livestrong ones). Both the athlete for which the bracelet was named after and its other silicon cause bracelets have fallen from popularity as time passed. It's no longer cool to simply rep a cause just for the sake of looking fashionable.
Everyone and their grandmothers loved a good pashmina in 2000. It was a scarf, a shawl, a blanket for your legs on the airplane. They came in all colors and were made of cashmere wool or in some cases, just plain ol' polyester. Jennifer Lopez wore her pashmina with a matching pink dress for the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards in 2000.
True story of me in 2000's trends: I had cropped cardigans in every color (to go with my camis, of course), and now I own zero. They were useful layering pieces and looked alright with any top, though in hindsight the styles weren't all that cute. Still, Sarah Jessica Parker managed to rock it while filming Sex and the City in 2003, so this look couldn't have been that bad. Carried Bradshaw liked it back then, therefore I liked it too.
Alexander McQueen Skull Scarves
Alexander McQueen's skull print scarves were the epitome of logo mania around 2002. They were lightweight and looked cool and edgy on the necks of anyone who splurged on them. From the print alone, you could tell it was a McQueen piece and a status symbol of some sort, which made the accessory even more covetable.
Low-rise jeans are predicted to make a comeback in 2020 after designer Kirk Millar of Linder NYC included the style in his spring collection and Levi's (the OG of denim brands) announced its releasing low risers in 2019. If you're tired of high-waisted fits digging into your skin, you might just be inclined to give low-risers another chance. Though personally, I shall pass.
Micro Denim Skirts
The only thing that would make this outfit look more 2003 is if Nicole Ritchie wore UGGs with her micro denim skirt. (Notice the cami layered underneath her sweater too.) As we've moved away from the super short denim miniskirts, we can take comfort in the fact we avoided any underwear wardrobe malfunctions.