BodCon 2023: Y2k Fashion Is Trending Again, But Don't Buy Into Its Fatphobic History

By now, you've probably noticed the curious influx of low-rise flares, ringer tees, and micro-mini skirts everywhere, whether you've been browsing through store shelves or shopping online. After quietly making the rounds online through TikTok microtrends, like the "Mean Girls"-esque McBling aesthetic, it's become quite clear that Y2k fashion is back and something of a widespread phenomenon — again.

However, the resurgence of Y2k fashion isn't all rhinestone-encrusted flip phones and rainbows. For many who lived through the first wave of hip-skimming denim trends, it's a painful era to revisit. Despite the fun-loving nature of popular Y2k trends, from Juicy Couture tracksuits to Paul Frank tees, harmful stigmas like fatphobia ran rampant during the height of 2000s fashions, hurting the people that live in the bodies that these stigmas targeted. At The BodCon 2023, the world's first and only annual body-confidence event, leading style influencers and body-positive creators shared their thoughts on the dark side of the Y2k fashion revival.

Y2k fashion's troubling links to fatphobia

While the body positivity movement has made significant strides in recent years, thinness was heavily encouraged, if not outright preferred and adored, throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. "Fashion has long-glorified thinness and vilified fatness, and that's always been very blatant – through models on the catwalk, in advertising, and magazine covers, and in sizing exclusivity," Alex Light, founder of inclusive clothing line LightLNDN, told The BodCon audience, according to a reporter from Glam. 

Many who lived through the birth of Y2k fashion recall the overwhelming pressure to be thin in order to fit into the ubiquitous trends of the time – even as children. For this reason, seeing Y2k trends resurface can bring back difficult memories. "I had posters of the Olsen twins up and Kate Moss on my walls, and they were my style icons. While I do think that I liked what they wore, I believe that a lot of the reason I was so obsessed with how they looked was to do with their thinness," recalled Light.

As Y2k fashion continues to surge in popularity, creators are pointing out the importance of calling out the dangerous thought processes associated with its reign. One term that's already experiencing a questionable comeback in fashion circles? Heroin chic. "If heroin chic is back in, I'm out. We had flappers in the 1920s, we had Marilyn Monroe in the 1950s, [and] we had Twiggy in the '60s. It's always a new [beauty] ideal that we're being sold," said body-confident influencer Megan Jayne Crabbe. "Your body is not a trend — it's a living, breathing thing that allows you to experience the world."

Confronting Y2k fashions in the age of body positivity

These days, creators are approaching Y2k fashion from an entirely different angle by reclaiming trends historically associated with body-exclusive themes. Thanks to the efforts of clothing companies with extended sizing, there are more options than ever for all body types to participate in trends from the turn of the millennium. "To see [early 2000s styles] on a body that is more representative of the viewer's body is so powerful because, sure, I'm not heroin chic, but I could still rock this outfit with how I look today," plus-size model and body-positive influencer Stella Williams told The BodCon guests. "As a community of body positivity and body love, we just need to keep continuing to express you are okay, and you are valid."

Most importantly, influencers are hopeful that the body positivity movement will allow future generations to enjoy the trends of the Y2k era, albeit in a healthier way. "My biggest fear is my children and the next generation having to experience the same bullying and torment that we all experienced during that time," said body-positive creator Zoe Potter. "I do think that we have something now that we didn't have 20-plus years ago, and that's the voice and image of plus-size representation and all these amazing humans who are actively standing up and publicly ditching dangerous diet culture." With the power of self-love at its side, it seems Y2k fashion is poised to make a radical comeback.