Ava Caudle ‘25
Low-rise jeans, baby tees, statement shoulder bags—the early 2000s are experiencing a revival in fashion, a trend that has expanded into cultural rhetoric. Snappy catchphrases and aesthetic homages from the first decade of the twenty-first century are back in full swing, complemented by increased popularity towards the era’s defining icons (Paris Hilton, anyone?). While the upswing in Mean Girls references and hair clips can be perceived as innocuous, these pop culture features cannot be brought back without an acknowledgment of the toxic, anti-feminist time period that they came from. By sporting corsets and cargo pants reminiscent of the early 2000s fashion yet refusing to take a stark look at the era’s impact on women and girls, we unintentionally reiterate said impact rather than reclaiming it.
It is easy to claim that this problem is a non-issue blown out of proportion, but it is truly not just about the clothes. This topic pertains to the mental health of American women, and the contrast of modern efforts to embrace uniqueness with the 2000s’ relentless bullying of any woman in the spotlight who showed the slightest imperfection. Even seemingly untouchable celebrities like Britney Spears were torn apart by vulturous journalists seeking to profit off their vulnerability. Every slight stomach roll, every hint of cellulite, every quiet tear shed under the pressure of being in the spotlight, was documented as an event worthy of mockery rather than a facet of being human. The tabloid torments of these household names set a dangerous precedent defining the decade from the top down: an emphasis on utter conformity to what these media sources deemed attractive, complete without stretch marks or any sign of body fat, as the pinnacle of beauty. The notion would consume mothers, college students, teenage girls, and any woman who viewed popular media at the time, ensuring that ideas of never being “pretty enough” would stay cemented in their heads for years. For many women, a pair of low-rise jeans represents not just a piece of denim but a struggle to accept themselves as worthy regardless of size.
On top of the belittling nature of 2000s culture using fashion as a method of shaming others, the time period’s distinct beauty standards still persist in our modern style interpretation. When one scrolls through social media for 2000s style inspiration, their explore page is saturated with primarily blonde, rail-thin influencers. There is nothing bad about fitting into either or both these categories, but this becomes a pertinent pattern to mention given how much it resembles the makeup of fashion magazines from twenty years ago. We claim to have made fashion and beauty more diverse industries since the beginning of the century; if this is the case, why are our explore pages still filled with the exact same bodies that dominated the business back when these trends began?
Everybody wears clothes; the lack of progress on our screens is indicative of the massive leaps that still need to be taken towards representing the majority of clothing consumers. This is relevant, not for the sake of barring individuals from wearing and sharing the styles they love, but for revamping these dated trends with the modern spin of inclusivity. Those who enjoy this era of fashion deserve to unapologetically wear what makes them happy, just as those who grew up under the microscope of body scrutiny in the 2000s deserve to view said clothing as a mode of expression rather than a reminder of their past struggles.