Actor Katie Holmes lit a match and set the internet on fire when she wore a long navy strapless tunic top over a pair of loose-fitting light wash jeans to the iHeart Radio Jingle Ball on December 9. The look, which Holmes paired with black sneakers and long waves, was almost instantly derided by the keyboard fashion police, with many onlookers sharing their dismay that Holmes would dare to bring back one of the most divisive trends of the 2000s.
Sure, the look was shocking, partly because of who was wearing it. Holmes, who rose to fame in the late ‘90s as Joey Potter, the ultimate girl next door in the mega-popular Dawson’s Creek, is known for her sophisticated, streamlined style: She often wears simple and elegant pieces by designers like Khaite, Chloé and Tom Ford, as well as more accessible styles from easy-chic stores like Everlane. The long top-over-jeans look is a major departure for Holmes. If an Instagram influencer (or even Bella Hadid) showed up on the red carpet in a similar outfit, it might have garnered a small amount of attention but nothing near the magnitude of Holmes.
But here’s the thing—Y2K fashion is the defining trend these days, with everything from new millennium cyber girl style to “romcom-core” making a comeback in the fashion cycle, and Holmes’s look is so much more accurate to the ‘00s than some of the modern takes on the trend. Gen Z, if you wanna dress like it’s 2004, this is the style you should be searching for at Goodwill and on Depop, not artfully cropped tube tops and baggy cargos.
I graduated high school in 2006, so I very clearly remember a time when trends were fed to us via magazines and shows like E!’s Fashion Police or MTV’s House of Style, not the internet. My friends and I would pore over the latest issues of Seventeen, Cosmopolitan and YM as soon as they arrived in our mailboxes. Then, we'd recreate our favorite looks with whatever we could find at Gap, American Eagle, and Wet Seal. One look, in particular, reigned supreme among our favorite celebs circa 2004: the minidress over jeans.
Keep in mind that this was the era of super low-rise, light-wash flare jeans. Skinny jeans had yet to take over (I got my first pair during my senior year), so we were all shimming into the tightest, lowest denim our dress codes would allow. Pairing your jeans with a cute floral print minidress and a pair of pointed-toe boots was basically the height of fashion at that time, and stars like Anne Hathaway, Zoe Saldana, Britney Spears, and Rachel Bilson were proof. Think about it: It was romantic, flirty, and exuded an “I’m too cool” vibe, as though you may have to take off on your skateboard (Avril Lavigne’s impact) and head to an afterparty.
The look became a mainstay on the red carpet. Though shows like Fashion Police did cast more withering glances at celeb style, red carpets were much more relaxed and casual back in the ‘00s than they are now—and dare I say, way more fun? Dresses over jeans continued to dominate until the mid-00s, with celebs like Lindsay Lohan and Ashley Tisdale putting an unforgettable stamp on it.
Despite what social media might tell you, the 2000s were not a fashion-forward decade. If you lived it, you know what I mean. It was kind of a mess but in a fun way. “Anything goes” was the fashion mantra, and your cringe-worthy style moments weren’t guaranteed to be saved online forever, considering our phones couldn’t take pictures, and digital cameras required floppy disks.
I absolutely wore this trend the first time around; I remember the exact outfit in perfect detail because I loved it so much: a pair of light wash Express flares with a cut-off waistband and hems, worn with a pale purple floral minidress from Wet Seal with green embroidery on the spaghetti straps and bodice. I wore it to flirt with my soon-to-be boyfriend at a friend’s birthday party, and you could not tell me anything. I looked a-m-a-z-i-n-g, especially with a shimmery coat of sticky Clinique lip gloss and my trusty John Freida coconut-scented Beach Blonde Sea Waves Spray. (Sorry, no photos of this major look exist.)
Holmes is only getting flak for her daring red-carpet fashion choice simply because we’re not ready to admit that the dress-over-jeans style is on the precipice of a comeback, as cringeworthy as it may seem. Even the most hideous (to me) trends of the ‘00s have come screaming back into the spotlight, like Bella Hadid wearing accordion headbands. And honestly? I’ll never re-wear a dress and jeans, but Katie looks amazing; she honestly looks as though she time-traveled from 2005 It’s only a matter of time before asymmetrical silky dresses paired with flares becomes de rigeur on Instagram, TikTok, and awards show red carpets. Are you ready? Katie Holmes is.