Then and Now: An 'Old Millennial' on the Y2K Fashion Revival

Complete with yearbook photos and debatable fashion trends.

y2k fashion

Nicole Kliest

The year is 2004. Mean Girls is playing in theaters, Britney Spears (and Destiny's Child, Christina Aguilera, Ashlee Simpson, and Justin Timberlake) can be heard through boombox speakers near and far, and in the small town of Lompoc, California an earnest millennial is working on her fashion spread for the high school yearbook.

Drumroll: It’s me. 

I’m what you call an ‘old millennial,’ meaning I was born on the slightly earlier side of the millennial age bracket (1987, to be precise) but nonetheless still participated in the generation’s defining trends and lasting zeitgeist. Regrettably, among my more predominant mediums of participation is that of fashion—or, what everyone is referring to now as Y2K Fashion (An Aside: I had hoped I could find a photo of my New Year’s Eve Y2K outfit to share, but fingers crossed my poncho portrait below will suffice).

yearbook photo

Nicole Kliest

You’d have to have been hiding under a rock to not have heard that Y2K style is going through a renaissance. And while I’m here for a nostalgia moment, having lived through this period in fashion history once before, I can’t say I’m too enthusiastic about its return. Here’s why.

Gen Z has a clever way of making everything look cooler than it is or once was. For example: Rowan Blanchard in shiny fuchsia separates—very cool looking and nothing at all similar to my blindingly sheeny homecoming dresses. Another example: Zendaya in a low-slung miniskirt. Again, very cool and baring no resemblance to my denim that went so low you could see my—cringe—teenage pelvic bone. And while these women are blessed with exquisitely good looks,  there's still something about the Gen Z crowd as a whole that always manages to translate even the most outlandish of fashion trends into its most rebelliously cool form; a gift that I did not and, sadly, do not possess. All this to say, the Y2K revival is fun for younger generations but a tad triggering for those of us who took their senior photo in a crochet poncho.

So, yes, I’ll round up some of my favorite so-called Y2K pieces but rather than drawing inspiration from the current iterations that don't feel like an entirely accurate depiction of what the Y2K years were like, I’ll take a cue from the aforementioned yearbook fashion spread spearheaded by yours truly.


Nicole Kliest

I can't believe it's not lingerie!

"These girls show us that you can still wear those cute lacey tanks without breaking the dress code!"

Get ripped

"No need to bring out the scissors this year, stores knew what everyone was looking for...ripped jeans."

Oh, baby!

"[Classmate] shows off her babydoll shirt, one of Cabrillo's cutest trends of the year."


Nicole Kliest

Guess who's back!

"Ugg boots are back this season, however, you can find them in three new colors: Black, pink, and blue!"

Product Picks

Bling bling!

"This year girls decided to break out the jewelry box and show everyone that J-Lo wasn't the only one with the rocks."

What a stud!

"Guys and girls expressed themselves by wearing shiny, studded belts."

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