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If you feel like you've stepped through a time machine every time you scroll through Instagram or TikTok, you're not alone. Fashion has taken a nostalgic turn, with some of the biggest styles from past decades (like clogs and mom jeans) re-entering the mainstream and taking over our social media feeds.
While throwback trends seem to have reached a new level recently (like Avril Lavigne's plaid homage to the 2000's pop punk scene at the MTV VMAs), the fashion industry's obsession with the past is not really new.
"Fashion tends to work in 30-year cycles," explained Heather Newberger, a freelance fashion stylist and author of "How to Date Your Wardrobe." In the late '90s and '00s, many of the most popular trends were actually just reimagined versions of styles from the '60s and '70s. The bell-bottom craze fed into the rise of flared jeans, mod-style hats into bucket hats and so on. "What we’re seeing on runways today falls right in that cycle," Newberger said. "While we reimagined the '60s and '70s in the '90s and '00s, today we’re seeing Gen Z reconceptualize those looks."
What results is a hodgepodge of familiar trends, spanning from the disco decade to the early aughts, with some modern-day updates in prints, hemlines and the like.
Of course, not all the styles that have lined your closet through the years are making a comeback (and that's probably for the best — we're looking at you, JNCO jeans). So to help you navigate the confusing world of nostalgic fashion, we're breaking down the biggest trends from each decade that have made their way back into the modern zeitgeist, plus options for styling each one.
2000s fashion trends
Remember those plastic clips that your mom would complain about you leaving all over the house? Well, it's time to dig out your collection again, because the styles you once loved are back. From small butterfly designs to big claw clips, there are plenty of options that add a modern twist to the trend. Like this sturdy butterfly clip, which features a marbled design, for a touch of elegance.
The great thing about this trend is that it's actually super functional. Big clips, like the ones in this affordable four-pack, can be used to pull your hair back for workouts or add a fun pop of color to any updo.
Whether you love them or hate them, low-rise jeans are back. The "lowrisejeans" hashtag on TikTok has more than 35 million collective views. While some of the videos are from millennials who rocked the trend the first time around and have no intention of doing it again, many are from younger users who are showing off how surprisingly cool the style can look. Tempted to try it out? Go for this low-rise pair from H&M, they feature a light wash and distressed details.
The updated styles of cargo pants that we've been seeing make a return in the fashion world are much cooler than the baggy, heavily pocketed options of the early aughts. These ones, for example, feature a flattering cinched waistband and are perfect for lounging or heading out to the store.
Eva Chen, head of fashion partnerships at Instagram gave these pants her official seal of approval, so you know that they're a stylish choice. They come in regular, tall and petite sizes to fit a range of body types.
Miley Cyrus can make anything look cool. So it's not surprising that after she posted an Instagram photo wearing the classic mesh style hat, some people were itching to get one of their own. No matter how you feel about the trend, you can't argue with the fact that this hat, with its bold color and fun design, makes a great warm-weather accessory.
'90s fashion trends
Newberger said she's currently loving, and styling, a lot of people in the baggy, oversized jeans that were a staple of this decade. She likes this pair, which she said, "Give just the right amount of bag and '90s nostalgia while still hitting high at a woman’s natural waistline."
Newberger called these jeans from ASOS "super fun," and we can't help but agree. With the high waist and stovepipe legs, you'll immediately feel like you've been transported back in time as soon as you slip them on.
Denim isn't the only way to get in on the baggy pant trend. These stylish pants are made from a comfortable corduroy material — another staple of the '90s.
"I’m also enjoying all the vibrant colors, often tie-dyed or checkerboard, that are new on the street," Newberger said. "Always a big fan of pattern play, I’m loving the way it’s coming back in the same bright and juicy colors I enjoyed as a kid."
She likes this chic top which is great for layering or wearing on its own.
You might have noticed the classic checkerboard print popping up across your social media feeds lately. According to global shopping platform Lyst, searches for checkered items have increased more than 318 percent compared to this time last year, and searches for Vans, specifically, have increased 282 percent. While you can't go wrong with the original black and white patterned sneakers, there are also plenty of colorful options for those who want to make more of a statement.
It's time to channel your inner Cher Horowitz from "Clueless" because sweater vests are also back. This modern take on the trend is made from a soft wool and polyester blend.
This vest is the perfect staple item to help you transition through the seasons. It can be worn over a long or short-sleeve shirt and will look great when paired with jeans or a skirt.
The bucket hat was first popular in the '60s during the mod fashion era and it made its return in the '90s. "Now, it’s a ubiquitous staple of Gen Z, but they’re not wearing Gilligan’s bucket hat anymore," Newberger said. "Similar to the '90s, we’re seeing them in denim patchwork, vibrant colors, and checkerboard print."
We like this affordable option, which will add a pop of color to any outfit.
Get ready for days spent pool and beach-side with this fun hat. It has an inner tie, so you can adjust the size to fit your head. Plus, the tie-dye pattern adds to the signature '90s vibes.
Overalls are arguably one of the most fun items that have made their way back into the mainstream. And we're no longer limited to boxy, poorly-fitted styles. New styles, like these casual cotton overalls, are far chicer and more versatile.
When it comes to fashion, rules are meant to be broken. That's why we suggest you don these white overalls all year long (yes, we're giving you the A-OK to wear white before Memorial Day). And although the work-ready design may remind you of your dad's old-school pair, these are much cooler.
Prep for warmer days with a shorter style. You'll want to wear this comfortable pair for brunch, beach days and everywhere in between.
'80s fashion trends
The puffed, statement sleeves of the '80s were big and bold (just like everything else during that time). Recent takes are more understated, like this puff-sleeve blouse, which has the potential to be a versatile staple in your wardrobe.
In part, you can thank "Bridgerton" for the renewed popularity of puffed-sleeved items. The statement sleeves on this dress feel like the perfect combination of casual and romantic.
Fitted, cute and comfortable, this top teeters between 80s and 90s fashion and will quickly become a staple in your wardrobe.
Biker shorts rose to style prominence in the '80s, and now, TikTokers have given us a renewed sense of appreciation for the comfortable staple by showing us just how versatile they can be. Really, if you need inspiration, just look to the "bikershorts" hashtag on the app. You'll likely find this popular pair in the mix.
These super soft bike shorts feature a trendy ribbed material and come in multiple colors. They have an average 4.3-star rating, with many reviewers saying they love the texture and fit.
Leather pants were one of the many questionable fashion trends of the '80s. While those aren't making a comeback (yet), you can emulate the fun feel of the style with these faux leather bike shorts. The longer version of these shorts are a constant bestseller, but these ones are perfect for warmer weather.
'70s fashion trends
Fashion in the '70s was filled with colorful, feel-good pieces, and it's not surprising that we've been seeing people looking to emulate the optimism of that era lately. Boho-inspired pieces, like this dress, are a great way to capture the feel of the decade. This stylish pick comes in more than 30 color and pattern options and can easily be paired with sandals or, to truly complete your '70s look, a pair of platforms.
Crochet tops are back in style, Newberger said, but now you're seeing many of the classic designs remixed with things like ruffles and chevrons, to add a little flair. "This Zara crochet top gives me all the '70s to '90s feels with some 2021 edge," she said.
Neberger also likes this Sandro top, that hits all the color trends and "will signal to my younger friends that I get it, without sacrificing personal style," she said.
Newberger, a self-proclaimed denim girl through and through, said she's enjoyed watching patchwork become all the rage again. "I’m digging the way designers, from Valentino to Saint Laurent, are using different washes and frayed edges to highlight one another and create new materials," she said.
She recommends this bucket hat, which is an affordable way to wear the trend. "With its white stitching and different denims, it’s hard not to be reminded of all the fun jeans we saw in the '70s," she said.
If you really want to go for the patchwork trend, this skirt may be worth the splurge. "While its price point is exceedingly high, it hits on all the best parts of this new trend, layering washes while playing with fringed edges and distressed materials," Newberger said. "I’ve yet to find a better skirt that highlights how fun and flattering patchwork can be."
Or consider this kimono-style jacket, which is great for layering and lightweight enough to wear through the hotter seasons.
Cue up some ABBA and get ready to dance, because clogs are back! While the return of the style may feel a bit controversial to some, these clog-inspired sandals will convert even the most skeptical of shoppers.
While the '70s were all about the wood and leather clogs, more modern takes feature comfier soles and materials. Take Dansko's clogs, for example, which are a favorite of nurses, as well as restaurant and retail workers thanks to the support and comfort that they provide.
ICYMI, skinny jeans are out. We're seeing the "mom" and "dad" styles of the '90s rising in popularity, but there's also been a renewed interest in the fun, flared pairs, like these Gap jeans, that were staples of this decade.
Reviewers love the fit and style of these Free People jeans, with a few people noting that they're particularly flattering for your backside. The light wash completes the vintage feel, and we think they'd pair perfectly with a pair of heeled clogs.
With just the right amount of flare, these jeans are perfect for anyone who's teetering on the edge of the bellbottom trend. They're soft and stretchy, so you can wear them all day long.
For more stories like this, check out:
- 15 affordable jackets that are perfect for the transition to fall
- From puffy slides to chunky rings, stylists share the 16 must-have accessories for fall
- The five types of shoes every woman should own, according to a stylist