Let's face it, Y2K had some really cute fashion trends but the body trends of the time were not cute. Bodies are not trends! For those that survived the era, its been a bit of a scare to see the trends of the time cycle back into style with rose tinted nostalgia glasses. Lets dive into how we can enjoy trends of the early 2000s with much more mindful and inclusive intentions.
***Trigger Warning*** This blog post will discuss EDs, anti-fatness, and racism of the early 2000s. It will include photos from the era.
First we must discuss the climate of the era.
The Y2K era was a time of extreme conformity. In a post 9/11 world anyone existing outside of the white, thin, straight, able-bodied and cis ideal was ostracized. Nationalism was at an all time high and the white supremacist view of who an American was unfortunately shaped the fashion of the early 2000s.
Just look at how this Abercrombie & Fitch ad displays the idealized American of the time. Thin, muscular, white models in black and white evoke the feeling of nostalgia for a 1950s America. Another age of extreme conformity. Jocks and mean girls reigned supreme. Almost all of their ads from the early 2000s have this aesthetic. Notoriously their shopping bags featured the ripped torsos of male models. I remember stubbornly refusing to step foot in the store as a chubby goth tween with scoliosis, I was fully dedicated to the goffs vs prepz warfare.
Brands like Juicy Couture idealized ultra sexiness and seemed to be more than a little inspired by POC owned brand Baby Phat. Low rise velour tracksuits that showed the midriff, exposed thongs, and baby tees all emphasized the stomach region which was meant to be flat as a washboard. Who can forget the iconic rhinestoned "JUICY" emblazoned butts calling attention to an area that was also supposed to be flat. We see some celebrities returning to this body trend now, having their BBL's removed so that they can fit into the Y2K body aesthetic once again. Most notably, Kim Kardashian.
Plus sizes simply did not exist in these styles and you were forced to wear fully covered, business casual outfits if you were anywhere above a size large. Thinness was the ultimate accessory. Idols that were plastered on every glossy magazine cover included Paris Hilton, Lindsey Lohan, and Britney Spears who have all notoriously struggled with eating disorders. I remember being as young as 11 seeing zoomed in candid beach photos of celebrities showcasing their natural cellulite (described as cottage cheese thighs) every week in the grocery checkout lane. No one was safe. Women who were touted as the most beautiful in the world were ritually torn down and built back up in a dizzying cycle.
Fatphobia was not new to this era but the 24 hour news cycle was a fairly new phenomenon. There was suddenly a constant flow of media telling you everything that was wrong with your body and how to fix it by buying this shiny new diet or device. This coupled with the advent of social media meant that it was almost impossible to escape the narrative that your body was bad. I can't think of one woman in my life that had something kind to say about their body during the early 2000s. Many still haven't recovered from this.
So how do we enjoy the Y2K era's fashion resurgence without replicating the extremely harmful mindset of the times?
Think about the reasons we were told (and are still being told) that thinness is the ultimate ideal to strive for. In a racist, misogynistic society oppressors seek to have the marginalized policing their own thoughts. Straight, white, cis men in power want us to be focusing on unattainable body goals so that they can continue to sell us useless fad diets and surgeries to gain more wealth. The weight loss industry is worth $71 billion with guaranteed repeat customers as 95% of diets fail. They can horde power by encouraging people (mostly women) to fight amongst each other in pointless "hotness" competitions. Already the "thin is in" narrative has started to creep back into the mainstream after the small foothold the body positivity movement has gained. Don't feed into that!
I hope when you look in the mirror now you can say "That's hot".