I am 28 years old and lagging behind millennials. When I was growing up in the late 1990s and early 2000s, all the girls wore miniskirts and everyone relaxed in velor tracksuits or low-rise jeans. Bobs weren’t just a beach staple.
I was in freshman or sophomore when Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake rocked their now-iconic denim-on-denim looks on Hollywood red carpets. I’m sure somewhere in the back of my childhood closet is a mini purse.
Teens and young adults today are reverting to the fashion styles that surrounded the year 2000. Chattanooga-area thrift stores are reporting buoyant activity in 1990s fashion, which seems to prove the axiom “what’s old is new again”.
Hit TV shows like HBO’s “Euphoria” fueled nostalgia for turn-of-the-century fashion. And Chattanooga resale stores like Plato’s Closet on Hamilton Place Boulevard are full of 20-year-old clothing styles.
A Cosmopolitan magazine article reported earlier this spring: “Everything you loved about the 90s (ahem, spaghetti straps and bucket hats) – plus everything you weren’t the biggest fan of (socks and bags banana) – is officially back and sleeker than ever.” The trending magazine’s list of upcycled clothing includes cardigans, sheer dresses, chokers, chunky headbands, Adidas sliders, butterfly hair clips, bike shorts and cargo pants.
“There’s a campy, garish element to it,” which is fun and enjoyable, says Chloe Frailley, an 18-year-old creative writing student at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Frailley, who uses the pronouns they/them, said fashion is actually their hobby. They are seamstresses and hope to one day have their own line of affordable, ethical and stylish clothing aimed at helping members of the queer community dress fashionably and in style without breaking the bank.
According to Frailley, the resurgence of Y2K fashion is a tribute to a time when things were perceived to be simpler and better in the world.
“With Gen Z, our fashion slowly went through different eras,” Frailley says. We’re so far removed from the late 1990s and early 2000s, Frailley says, that it’s only natural that styles from the era have reappeared.
Meanwhile, thrift as a hobby skyrocketed, increasing the demand for vintage clothing. Malls are struggling to stay afloat as young shoppers flock to Goodwill and local thrift stores rather than H&M or Gap.
Do you feel thrifty? Try these local stores.
> Plato’s Closet — 2200 Hamilton Place Blvd.
> Bad Taste — 61 E Main St.
>Collective clothing — 40 Frazier Ave.
> Cause Cloth — 301 E MLK Blvd.
> Northside Neighborhood House — 209 Minor St. and 3605 Dayton Blvd.
As we said in the early 2000s: What gives?
Some say the vintage clothing trend is, in part, a backlash against so-called “fast fashion.” Fast fashion is the mass production of fashionable clothing, often made at low cost and with cheap labor. This maximizes corporate profits but ultimately comes at a price, some say, in the form of overconsumption, overproduction, pollution and human rights abuses in sweatshops.
“I think maybe part of it is a bigger political realization that fast fashion is not a good thing,” says Annie Haun, one of the workers at North Shore’s Collective Clothing. .
One of many thrift store options in Chattanooga, Collective Clothing is packed with clothing from the front door to the locker rooms in the back of the store.
Haun says that because the fashion cycle is happening so quickly now, some customers find it easier to buy vintage clothes than trying to keep up with current trends.
There’s also the unmistakable “cool factor” of being in tune with nostalgic trends.
“I think the older something is, the fact that it’s no longer made makes it kind of cool – you can go and get a piece that nobody else has and wear it,” says Lucas McKay, co-owner of Poor Taste, another Chattanooga thrift store.
Phone apps such as Depop have also become popular places for thrift stores. Users can scroll through selected clothing categories, all pre-owned.
“Thrift is just refreshing. It’s refreshing in terms of price as a college student, but it’s also an amalgamation of styles,” Frailley says. “You can get more separate pieces.”
Still, Frailley and others say saving has its downsides, including depriving low-income people of an adequate supply of discounted clothing.
Frailley recommends saving money sparingly — especially when shopping at places like Goodwill — educating yourself more about where clothes are coming from and remembering that trends are temporary.
“I don’t think the Y2K trend is going to stick. We’re too diverse,” Frailley says of their generation.
have the look
Chloe Frailley says two of her favorite “retro” pieces include a paisley print jacket and an oversized silk shirt. Meanwhile, Lucas McKay and Jake Curry of Poor Taste say vintage Levi jeans and band tees have been popular at their store. Here are several other items from the 1990s that are coming back into fashion.
> Mini backpacks
> Denim overalls
> Dr Martens
> Dresses with straps
> Platform shoes
> Belt bags