Life&Style writer Lula Izzard discusses the popularity of Y2k fashion, the trends association with the diet culture of the 2000s, and what this could mean for body image today
Content Warning: this article contains discussions of body image and eating disorders.
Recently, fashion trends of late 1990s-2000s have seen a resurgence in popularity. Y2K has become popular on TikTok, the costumes in Euphoria are influenced by Y2K fashion, and celebrities such as Bella Hadid and Alexa Demie have been seen wearing Y2K style outfits. Y2K, a style which dominated the late 1990s and mid 2000s, includes crop tops and vests with various logos and graphics, denim mini skirts, and low-waisted jeans. This style of fashion contrasts massively with high waisted jeans which have been popularised during the 2010s, such as mom jeans. It is easy to see the appeal of Y2K fashion, considering the aesthetics’ colourful, bold makeup looks, bright, vibrant clothing and lots of accessories. However, many people who lived through the era from which it originates have raised concerns about the implications of this Y2K revival, such as the impact it will have on beauty standards.
In the 1990s and 2000s, Y2K clothing sparked anguish within the body image of many, with Angela Benedict stating it was ‘like the clothing was built in a way that made your body look distorted’, and arguing that Y2K fashion ‘gave’ her an eating disorder. Others have highlighted the exclusivity of Y2K clothing, which was specifically designed to fit and emphasize thin bodies, while often not being available in larger sizes, with one person stating that the ‘most famous accessory of the 2000s was skinny’. Y2K in the 1990s-2000s was inherently linked with thinness, rigidly encouraging people to conform with this standard in order to access this style, while ostracizing anyone who wore larger sizes.
Various articles have illustrated the changes in beauty standards throughout history regarding the ideal body type for women, with changes in fashion signifying a change in the ideal body type and each decade promoting a different ideal body type and size. In the 1990s and 2000s, extremely thin bodies were exclusively celebrated. In this sense, it is understandable that many are worried that the resurgence of Y2K fashion, a style which was intertwined with the extremely thin beauty standards of the 1990s and 2000s, will cause people to attempt to fit these beauty standards, which are unattainable and dangerous for many people.
The rampant fatphobia and perpetuation of thinness as the ideal beauty standard in the 1990s-2000s is evident in popular films from this era, such as Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001), The Devil Wears Prada (2006) and Mean Girls (2004). Such media has a heavy focus and preoccupation with weight and clothing size, as well as fat-shaming of characters. This kind of writing displays the normalization of this attitude towards body size in society, which promoted thinness and seeking to fit particular clothing sizes.
It can also be seen in the misogynistic treatment of celebrities such as Jessica Simpson, who was viciously body-shamed by various media outlets, and Alicia Silverstone, who was similarly body-shamed in the mid-late 1990s following her roles in films such as Batman & Robin (1997). Sirin Kale highlighted how misogyny was intertwined with diet culture and toxic beauty standards, with plus-sized women either being portrayed as ‘figures of fun’ or ‘unlovable’, the bodies of celebrities being cruelly scrutinised, with a ‘celebrity cellulite special’ published in Heat in 2004, and the rise of the size zero, representing a new level of thinness women were pressured to reach. This had a dangerous impact on teenage girls, with eating disorders becoming normalized; Kale even stated that ‘Emerging from the toxic swamp of 2000s diet culture without an eating disorder was a real challenge’.
Others who grew up during this era have discussed the harmful impact of the prevalence of diet culture and rigid beauty standards of the 2000s. Alex Tee highlighted the romanticization of the early 2000s on TikTok, with people stating this era appeared ‘a cooler, better, friendlier, more inclusive time’, however refuted these claims, emphasizing the ‘trend of ultra-slenderness in 2000s media and the prevalent cultural fixation on extreme thinness at the time’, and arguing the ‘decade between 2000-2010 had its own very distinct flavour of toxic body image’. The early 2000s may appear a more fun time, with bright, colourful clothes and makeup, pop-punk and dance music we still listen to, and a lack of social media in the way that it exists today. However, this era was clearly not more inclusive or kinder than our current society, and was a difficult place to grow up in due to the pressure to conform with its harshly restrictive beauty standards.
Overall, I think Y2K, like other fashion trends from the past, can be enjoyed in the present day, however it is important not to glorify the past and forget problematic aspects of it. Plus size fashion bloggers have experimented with and ‘reclaimed’ Y2K fashion on social media, fighting against the original exclusivity of Y2K fashion in the 2000s and demonstrating that this style can be enjoyed by people of all sizes, despite the previous links between thinness and Y2K. Although there are style guides online and in magazines instructing us on the most flattering outfits for our figures, it is okay to defy these rules and wear clothes and experiment with styles that you personally like, regardless of how ‘flattering’ they are deemed by others. It can also be fun to incorporate aspects of styles such as Y2K with your own personal style and clothes you feel comfortable in.
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