The revival of toxic beauty standards by Y2K Fashion
Content Disclaimer: this article contains discussions about body image and eating disorders.
Recently, fashion trends from the late 1990s to 2000s have seen a resurgence in popularity. Y2K has become popular on TikTokthe costumes of Euphoria are influenced by Y2K fashionand celebrities such as Bella Hadid and Alexa Demie were spotted wearing Y2K style outfits. Y2K, a style that dominated the late 1990s and mid-2000s, includes crop tops and vests with various logos and graphics, denim miniskirts, and low-rise jeans. This fashion style contrasts massively with the high waisted jeans that were popularized during the 2010s, such as mom jeans. It’s easy to see the appeal of Y2K fashion, given the aesthetic’s colorful and bold makeup looks, bright and vibrant clothes, and plenty of accessories. However, many people who lived in the era from which he came have raised concerns about the implications of this Y2K revival, such as the impact it will have on beauty standards.
In the 1990s and 2000s, Y2K clothing sparked body image angst for many, with Angela Benedict saying it was “as if the clothes were designed to make your body look deformed”, and claiming that Y2K fashion had “given” him an eating disorder. Others have highlighted the exclusivity of Y2K clothing, which was specifically designed to fit and flatter slim bodies, while often not being available in larger sizes, with one person stating “the most famous accessory of the 2000s was skinny.” The year 2000 in the 1990s-2000s was intrinsically tied to thinness, rigidly encouraging people to conform to this norm in order to access this style, while ostracizing anyone who wore larger sizes.
Various items have illustrated changes in beauty standards throughout history regarding the ideal body type for women, with fashion changes signifying a shift in ideal body type and each decade promoting a different ideal body type and size. In the 1990s and 2000s, extremely thin bodies were exclusively celebrated. In this sense, it is understandable that many fear that the resurgence of Y2K fashion, a style that was closely linked to the extremely thin standards of beauty of the 1990s and 2000s, will cause people to try to adapt to these standards of beauty, which are inaccessible and dangerous for many people.
The rampant fatphobia and perpetuation of thinness as the ideal standard of beauty in the 1990s-2000s is evident in popular films of that era, such as Bridget Jones Diary (2001), The devil wears Prada (2006) and mean girls (2004). This media focuses and cares a lot about the weight and size of clothes, as well as character shaming. This type of writing shows the normalization of this attitude towards body build in society, which encouraged thinness and sought to fit particular clothing sizes.
This is also seen in the misogynistic treatment of celebrities such as Jessica Simpson, who has been viciously body-shamed by various mediaand Alicia Silverstone, who was also body-shamed in the mid 1990s following his roles in films such as batman and robin (1997). Sirin Kale pointed out how misogyny is linked to food culture and toxic beauty standards, with plus-size women either portrayed as “funny figures” or “unlikable”, celebrity bodies cruelly scrutinized, with a “celebrity cellulite special” published in Heat in 2004, and the rise size zero, representing a new level of thinness that women needed to achieve. This has had a dangerous impact on teenage girls, with eating disorders becoming normalized; Kale even said that “Coming out of the toxic swamp of 2000s diet culture without an eating disorder was a real challenge”.
Others who grew up during this era discussed the detrimental impact of the prevalence of diet culture and the rigid beauty standards of the 2000s. Alex Tee pointed out the early 2000s romance on TikTok, with people stating that this era appeared “a cooler, better, friendlier and more inclusive era”, but refuted these claims, pointing out the “ultra-thin trend in 2000s media and the fixation widespread culture about extreme thinness at the time”, and arguing that the “decade between 2000 and 2010 had its own very distinct flavor of toxic body image”. The early 2000s might seem like a more fun time, with bright and colorful clothing and makeup, pop-punk and dance music we still listen to, and a lack of social media as it exists today. However, that era was clearly no more inclusive or kinder than our current society, and was a difficult place to grow up due to the pressure to conform to its severely restrictive beauty standards.
Overall, I think Y2K, like other fashion trends from the past, can be enjoyed today, but it’s important not to glorify the past and overlook the problematic aspects of it. Plus size fashion bloggers experimented with and ‘claimed’ Y2K fashion on social media, fighting against the original exclusivity of Y2K fashion in the 2000s and demonstrating that this style can appeal to all sizes, despite previous links between thinness and Y2K. Although there are style guides online and in magazines telling us which outfits are the most flattering for our figures, it’s okay to defy these rules and wear clothes and experiment with styles that you personally like, no matter how flattering they are deemed by others. . It can also be fun to incorporate aspects of styles like Y2K with your own personal style and clothes you feel comfortable in.
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