The 90s and 00s are calling with today’s fashion trends, plus where to get the look in Chattanooga


I’m 28 years old and on the trailing edge of the millennial generation. When I was growing up in the late 1990s and early 2000s, all the girls were wearing mini skirts and everyone was relaxing in velour tracksuits or low-rise jeans. Bucket hats weren’t just a staple for the beach.

I was in first or second grade when Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake rocked their now iconic denim-on-denim looks on Hollywood red carpets. I’m sure somewhere in the back of my childhood closet is a mini purse.

Today’s teens and young adults are circling back to the fashion styles that bracketed Y2K. Chattanooga-area thrift stores report brisk business in 1990s fashions which seems to prove the axiom, “what’s old is new again.”

Hit television shows such as HBO’s “Euphoria” have fueled nostalgia for turn-of-the-century fashion. And Chattanooga resale stores such as Plato’s Closet on Hamilton Place Boulevard are brimming with 20-year-old clothing styles.

An article in Cosmopolitan magazine reported earlier this spring: “Everything you loved from the ’90s (ahem, spaghetti straps and bucket hats) — along with everything you weren’t the biggest fan of (knee socks and fanny packs) — are officially back and more stylish than ever.” The magazine’s list of recycled fashions now in vogue includes cardigans, sheer dresses, choker necklaces, thick headbands, Adidas slides, butterfly hair-clips, bike shorts and cargo pants.

“There’s a campy and gaudy element to it,” which is fun and enjoyable, says Chloe Frailley, a 18-year-old creative writing major at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

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Staff photos by Matt Hamilton / Chloe Frailley models 1990s fashions.

Frailley, who uses they/them pronouns, said fashion is actually their hobby. They’re a seamstress, and they hope to one day have their own affordable, ethical, stylish clothing line aimed at helping those in the queer community dress fashionably and stylishly while not breaking the bank.

According to Frailley, the resurgence in Y2K fashion is an homage to a time when things were perceived as being simpler and better in the world.

“With Gen Z, our fashion has been slowly working through different eras,” says Frailley. We’re so far removed from the late 1990s and early 2000s era, Frailley says, that it’s only natural that styles of the era have re-emerged.

Meanwhile, thrifting as a hobby has skyrocketed, raising demand for vintage clothing. Shopping malls are struggling to stay afloat as younger shoppers flock to Goodwill and local thrift stores rather than H&M or Gap.

Feeling Thrifty? Try these local stores.

>Plato’s Closet — 2200 Hamilton Place Blvd.

>Poor Taste — 61 E Main St.

>Collective Clothing — 40 Frazier Ave.

>Cause Cloth — 301 E MLK Blvd.

>Northside Neighborhood House — 209 Minor St. and 3605 Dayton Blvd.

As we used to say back in the early 2000s: What gives?

Some say the vintage clothing trend is, in part, a backlash against so-called “fast fashion.” Fast fashion is mass production of trendy clothing, often made at low cost and with cheap labor. This maximizes profits for companies but ultimately comes at a price, some say, in the form of over-consumption, overproduction, pollution and human rights abuses in sweatshops.

“I think that possibly some of it is just a greater political awareness that fast fashion is not a great thing,” says Annie Haun, one of the workers at North Shore’s Collective Clothing.

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Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Collective Clothing in Chattanooga’s North Shore sells unique vintage clothes, shoes and accessories.

One of many thrift store options in Chattanooga, Collective Clothing is packed with clothes, from the front door all the way to the dressing rooms at the back of the store.

Haun says that because the fashion cycle happens so quickly now, some customers find it easier to shop for vintage clothes than to try to keep up with current trends.

There’s also the unmistakable “cool factor” of being in tune with nostalgic trends.

“I think the older something is, the fact that it’s not made anymore, makes it kind of cool — you can go find a piece that no one else has, and wear it,” says Lucas McKay, co-owner of Poor Taste, another Chattanooga thrift store.

Phone apps such as Depop have also become popular places to thrift clothing. Users can scroll through curated categories of clothes — all secondhand.

“Thrifting is just refreshing. It’s refreshing price-wise as a college student, but also it’s an amalgamation of styles,” says Frailley. “You can get more pieces that are distinct.”

Still, Frailley and others say that thrifting has its drawbacks, including depriving lower-income people an ample supply of discount clothing.

Frailley recommends thrifting sparingly — especially when shopping at such places as Goodwill — becoming more educated on where clothing comes from, and remembering that trends are temporary.

“I don’t think the Y2K trend is going to stay. We’re too diverse,” Frailley says of their generation.

Get the Look

Chloe Frailley says two of their favorite “throwback” pieces include a paisley printed jacket and an oversized silk shirt. Meanwhile, Poor Taste’s Lucas McKay and Jake Curry say vintage Levi jeans and band T-shirts have been popular in their store. Here are several other items from the 1990s that are back in style.

> Choker necklaces

> Bucket hats

> Mini backpacks

> Denim overalls

> Dr. Martens

> Tracksuits

> Bandanas

> Slip dresses

> Platform shoes

> Fanny packs



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