Is Middle School Fashion Cool Again?

February 27, 2015

Is the polo back? Marissa Cooper on The OC | Tanya Taylor | J. Crew | Tommy Hilfiger | Mean Girls
Since the sixth grade I've known that I've wanted to work in fashion, but judging from how I dressed back then you might not have guessed it. It isn't that I wasn't fashionable back in the day; in fact, I unfortunately was quite stylish and on-par with my middle school peers. I wore polo shirts and denim mini skirts and Juicy Couture religiously. I wore designer jeans with obvious branding on my behind, and I wore ballet flats almost everyday, despite the fact that I hadn't gone to a ballet class in several years. Among my peers I would say that I was rather fashionable, but when I look back on those awkward years I cringe with embarrassment. Why in the world did I ever think three layered camisoles paired with bootcut jeans looked good?

Then I remember that there was a time when that was what was fashionable. Ten years from now I might look back on our fascination with normcore and cringe. Fashion changes and transforms, and what is fashionable one day might be hideous the next.

What is interesting, however, is the way that distance changes how we look at clothes of the past. Take, for example, the continuing reign of the seventies at Fashion Week: we are nostalgic for a time and a culture that has long passed, one that many of us never even had the chance to experience, but I wonder what people of the eighties thought of the previous decade. They likely scoffed at flare jeans and shearling coats, rolling their blue-eyeshadowed eyes at the trends of the decade past, just as I looked upon my middle school years with disdain and embarrassment.

But a strange thing is happening once again, now with the the early 2000s: as we move further and further away from the start of the millenium, our nostalgia for the early aughts has slowly increased. The immediate removal from those years (2004 vs. 2008, for example) might cast a bad shadow on the recent past, but as the time between now and then increases our fondness for that time grows too.

The epitome of 2004 fashion—a decade later, is fetch finally a thing?
2004 is a prime year for bad early-2000s fashion and increasing nostalgia. Ten years have passed since the release of Mean Girls and yet I feel it becomes more and more popular each year. I remember it being a phenomenon when it came out all those years ago, but I hear at least one reference to it per day (though perhaps living in a sorority house has increased my likelihood of hearing Regina George-isms). 

Buzzfeed and other such websites constantly dig up the nostalgia of the past. A while ago it was the 90s, and everyone dreamt of being a true 90s kid, but now the obsession is with the 2000s. They even have a whole section dedicated to nostalgia; right now, most posts are about Friends and Mean Girls.

So what do nostalgia and the early 2000s have to do with fashion week, you may be asking?

It started with J. Crew. While I was browsing the fall collection I came across something that truly shocked me. In fact, I went back to look at this one look in particular because I wasn't quite sure what to believe. After several looks, my suspicions were confirmed: a polo shirt had been featured. Jenna Lyons, goddess of all things effortlessly chic and modern preppy, had chosen to resurrect the polo shirt from the depths of my middle school wardrobe. They're already selling Lacoste polos in J. Crew-curated colors online

This was not an isolated incident, however. At several shows I saw the ubiquitous look of the knit polo appear, sometimes tucked under sweaters and coats but still so clearly there. And other trends that I had so dearly loved a decade ago have slowly been making their way back into the fashion mainstream. Dresses over pants, for one, and camisoles (usually over long-sleeve shirts, like when I wanted to show off my new Hollister cami but it was too cold to properly do so). Everywhere I turn it seems like the trends of what I consider my most unfortunate years, style-wise, are reemerging. So what does this mean? Will I slowly start to look back on my daring middle school ensembles with fondness and nostalgia? Should I start trying to emulate Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen again? And not The Row Olsen twins, but rather the twins of New York Minute? I don't know if I can ever look at a time when Ugg boots and Von Dutch hats were considered the epitome of chic with fond nostalgia, but there's no doubt that the looks of today are starting to emulate the looks that were popular a decade ago. I suppose the best thing to do is to stop looking at the past with a cringe and start embracing the looks of today.

What do you think about early-2000s fashions coming back in style? 

Clover Canyon | Rag & Bone | Peter Som | Rosie Assoulin | Elizabeth & James

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I love hearing your thoughts! Thanks for reading! ♥︎Lindsey