Y2K Movies To Inspire Your Next Look

Love them or hate them, the fashions of the late '90s and early aughts have returned in a colorful, bedazzled flurry. It seems like only yesterday that we said goodbye to the decade that brought us velour tracksuits, lowrise jeans, and butterfly clips. But thanks to Gen Z, Y2K fashion is back on top. 

As the year 2000 approached, pop culture was brimming with dreams of space pods, cyborgs, and supercomputers, per Moda Chicago. The fantasy of a futuristic utopia was reflected in many different forms of art and media but championed by R&B stars like TLC, Missy Elliot, and Aaliyah, who incorporated space-age concepts into their fashion and performances. It was a callback to Afrofuturism, a cultural movement of the 1970s that was dedicated to Black power and prosperity (via Essence). Although the Y2K aesthetic is often attributed to celebs like Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, the movement is deeply rooted in Black culture.

Due to the skimpy fashions of the era, Y2K has been criticized for promoting thinness in a way that was harmful to many young people (via CNN). With the current revival of Y2K, there is also an emphasis on making the movement more positive and inclusive for all bodies. For all of its faults, Y2K fashion has no shortage of charms. So, buckle up your grommet belt and strap on your hip huggers as we revisit some of Y2K's most fashionable films.

Legally Blonde

"Legally Blonde" introduced us to Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon), a sorority girl who follows her ex-boyfriend to Harvard Law school and takes the university by storm. But the legendary Elle Woods gave us so much more than hair care tips and the bend-and-snap; she offered us a Ph.D. in self-confidence by proving that you can be successful no matter how you look or dress (via Teen Vogue).

Unsurprisingly, the styling of Elle Woods was a deliberate choice. According to Sophie de Rakoff, the film's costume designer, Elle Woods' over-the-top, ultra-girly ensemble was a commentary on how society underestimates brilliant women. In an interview with Vogue, De Rakoff explained that the costume choices were an important statement, "Because on the surface, she was a dumb blonde, but obviously the whole point of Legally Blonde is that that is not what was going on underneath the surface."

Today, Elle Woods' style continues to dominate pop culture. Even superstars like Kim Kardashian and Ariana Grande have paid tribute to the character by sporting her iconic pink dresses, fluffy accessories, and of course, the legendary sequin bikini. Many of today's nostalgic Y2K trends celebrate hyper-femininity, with blazing bright pinks, rhinestones, and miniskirts all leading the way. In an age where gender expression of all kinds is being more widely embraced, it's a perfect time to draw inspo from Elle Woods' iconic brand of girly charm.

Save the Last Dance

"Save the Last Dance" is the story of Sara Johnson (Julia Stiles), who reclaims her passion for dance after moving to a rough neighborhood in Chicago. Although the 2001 film centers around Sara's romance with Derek (Sean Patrick Thomas), the movie also feels like a love letter to the hip-hop looks of the day. Set in winter, "Save the Last Dance" is a cornucopia of oversized leather jackets, ribbed sweaters, and Timberland boots. But it only gets better at the local dance club, Stepps, where the whole crowd looks like they're starring in the hottest hip-hop music video of all time.

The movie's best-dressed star is Chenille, played by the incomparable Kerry Washington. Always an expert at layering, one of Chenille's most iconic looks is a bright pink turtleneck sweater that she pairs with a fur-trimmed denim jacket and metallic pants. In a 2022 interview, Washington dished about her personal style to Who What Wear, saying, "I lean toward some mascara and really classic, beautiful denim and a crisp, well-fitted, fashion-forward tee that's much more elegant than a T-shirt should be, but so be it. And then accessories that feel both unique and special and classic and simple." It seems like Kerry Washington has the same razor-sharp fashion sense as her iconic "Save the Last Dance" character.

Mean Girls

Trends come and go, but the 2004 "Mean Girls" film is forever. From its ultra-quotable dialogue to its commentary on high school cliques, "Mean Girls" is still as relevant today as it was nearly twenty years ago. And thanks to the return of the Y2K aesthetic, Regina George (Rachel McAdams) and her crew are once again the queen bees of fashion.

The film focuses on Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan), a new student who gets swept up in the glamorous yet catty world of the most popular girls in school, known as the plastics. Although different groups of students have their own distinct styles, they all aspire to be like the plastics. With their velour tracksuits, Louis Vuitton pochettes, and miniskirts, the plastics are the blueprint for Y2K preppy chic. From statement tees to gobs of pink fabric, the high-fashion moments are endless. In fact, the film's fashion is so iconic that it has inspired numerous runway looks, per Elle.

The film's costume designer, Mary Jane Fort, had something specific in mind when she created looks for Regina George and the rest of the plastics. In 2014, the stylist told MTV, "If Regina put on a T-shirt, it was a fitted T-shirt, and she had the belt and the shoes and the sweater. There was no casualness to the way she dressed. She thought about every single solitary element that she put on." It's satisfying to know that "Mean Girls" fashion is still as fetch as ever.

The Matrix

If you've spent any time in the world lately, you've probably seen that chunky black platforms and tall boots are all the rage. From Kourtney Kardashian to Janet Jackson, everybody wants a piece of this tough-gal trend. Boot enthusiasts can thank the 1999 film "The Matrix" for helping to put their favorite footwear on the map. And gigantic boots aren't the only looks attributed to "The Matrix." In fact, over the years, the film has inspired a medley of cool and futuristic fashion, per L'Officier. Today, no Y2K wardrobe is complete without an inky trench coat, tiny sunglasses, and of course, swaths of vinyl.

The creators of "The Matrix" never imagined the film's impact on fashion. In fact, style wasn't even the goal of the movie's costume designer, Kym Barret. As Barret explained to Fashionista, the outfits were initially designed to enhance certain aspects of the characters and their stories. But as it turns out, "The Matrix" struck a chord with fashion enthusiasts– one that still echoes today. Reflecting on the film's enduring fashion legacy, Barret told Fashionista, "It's [more than], 'oh, it's a black shiny coat. There's a strength in women's clothing [nowadays]. It's a sexy, utilitarian-looking fashion. Fashion is more geared towards a real woman now."

Looking back, it's easy to see why fashion lovers are so inspired by the sleek, cyberpunk vibes of "The Matrix." After all, dressing like a sci-fi hero feels incredibly empowering.

Center Stage

"Center Stage" may seem like an unlikely contender for iconic Y2K fashion films, but take a closer look, and you'll see that the film's cozy, laid-back, and uncomplicated looks are what athleisure wear dreams are made of. Based around the lives of New York City ballet dancers, "Center Stage" features some of Y2K's best looks, including super-clean monochrome, ribbed fabrics, and wrap tops. Although "Center Stage" was released in 2000, the movie's looks are in perfect step with today's hottest activewear trends.

The cool, understated fashion of "Center Stage" is seamlessly pulled together by its use of timeless outerwear, like Jody Sawyer's (Amanda Schull) denim Levi's jacket. Then there's Cooper Nielsen (Ethan Stiefel), who comes roaring into the film on his motorcycle. Drenched in a black leather jacket, Cooper is the quintessential bad boy. It was the perfect way to foreshadow his character because, according to Lifestyle Asia, the leather-clad heartthrob has been a classic cinema trope since the 1950s.

The Lizzie McGuire Movie

When "Lizzie McGuire" debuted on the Disney Channel in 2001, it was an instant sensation with tweens. Although the show depicted many awkward situations and growing pains, Lizzie McGuire seemed totally sure of herself in the way of fashion. Throughout the show's run, Lizzie served an explosion of the bright hues, rhinestones, and mix-matched patterns that defined Y2K.

By 2003, Y2K fashion was becoming a little less Disney and a little racier, thanks to trends like hip huggers and platform wedges. This shift was right on time for "The Lizzie McGuire Movie," which was all about Lizzie's metamorphosis. In many ways, Lizzie's wardrobe choices reflected her budding independence and self-confidence. Throughout the film, we see Lizzie's quirky style turn more refined, like the striped blouse that she wears on her dreamy date with Paolo. By the movie's end, Lizzie is a full-blown rockstar in her silver monochrome outfit with its low-slung waist and ultra-wide bell bottoms (via Popsugar).

Reflecting on Lizzie's wardrobe, the show's costume designer told Nylon, "Sometimes Hilary would come in there and say, 'What if we put this with that?' I'd go, sure. You bet. She would sometimes do patterns that I wouldn't have thought of and I'd go yeah, that works. I like it." Thanks to the Y2K craze, Lizzie McGuire's immortal style has again landed in the spotlight. Even fashion icons like Vanessa Hudgens and Gigi Hadid are getting in on the "Lizzie McGuire Movie" nostalgia.

Queen of the Damned

Lest we forget that Y2K was a momentous time for the goths, and the 2002 horror flick, "Queen of the Damned," makes the subculture look totally irresistible. Inspired by the same literary series that brought us "Interview with the Vampire," the movie follows the vampire LeStat (Stuart Townsend), who tries to hide his true identity by becoming a world famous rock artist.

Although the story culminates in a twisted love story between LeStat and Jesse Reeves (Marguerite Moreau), the real heat is in the film's fashion. Jessie's style peaks in the form of a plaid dress, sheer layers, and space buns, but she isn't the only character who carries the film in terms of Y2K fashion. At every turn, "Queen of the Damned" is a stunning display of spikes, leather, and gothic glam. Even the film's fiendish vampires are on trend.

And who can forget Aaliyah's spine-tingling performance as Queen Akasha? While her look was based on the character's origins as an Egyptian vampire queen, its ultra-low waistline and metallic accents are perfectly on trend with Y2K. Casting Aaliyah as Queen Akasha was a powerful choice for the film. After all, Aaliyah's contributions to fashion are unmatched. In the 1990s, the late singer reinvented the "tomboy" aesthetic by mainstreaming baggy denim, sports bras, and bandanas– looks still dominating the fashion world (via Harper's Bazaar).

Freaky Friday

Thanks to the pop-punk revolution of the early 2000s, Y2K fashion got an edgy makeover complete with neckties, heavy eyeliner, and enough red plaid to sell out a Sex Pistols show. "Freaky Friday" was a timely ode to the trend, with Anna Colemen (Lindsay Lohan) and her bandmates serving up a Hot Topic fever dream of punk-inspired fashion.

In 2021, Lindsay Lohan opened up to Vogue about what it was like stepping into Anna Coleman's edgy wardrobe, telling the magazine, "I loved dressing for Freaky Friday because I was going through that phase of I wanted to experiment too and kind of wear the baggy pants and be the rocker chick." Starring in "Freaky Friday" was a pivotal moment for Lohan, who recalls, "I was in the middle of deciding how I wanted to be" (via YouTube).

With the resurgence of Y2K's pop-punk aesthetic, artists like Willow and Olivia Rodrigo are taking the genre to new heights. The new wave of pop punk is more eclectic and emotionally intelligent — and women are spearheading it. In a conversation with The Guardian, pop punk artist Edith Johnson described the movement by saying, "We can be feminine, masculine — there are really no rules now." With enduring looks like raglan tees, bondage pants, and studded accessories, "Freaky Friday" is the essential guide to Y2K pop-punk style.

Josie and the Pussycats

"Josie and the Pussycats" follows the journey of a small-time girl band that is suddenly catapulted into mega-stardom. The film debuted in 2001 to disappointing box office results — however, thanks to the Y2K craze, Josie (Rachael Lee Cook), Val (Rosario Dawson), and Melody (Tara Reid) are finally getting the glory they deserve, via Refinery29. With trends like faux fur, glo-mesh, and duster jackets, "Josie and the Pussycats" is the holy grail of glammed-up Y2K style.

In 2001, the new millennium was just getting into full swing. Realizing that pop culture was on the brink of a style revolution, Leesa Evans, the costume designer for the film, had to put her fashion foresight to the test. Leesa's prediction was that furs and bellbottoms from the 1970s were set to come roaring back, per Vogue. Evans described the process of creating the film's one-of-a-kind looks to Nylon, stating, "We were coming out of the grunge '90s period, and having things that were matching or fitted wasn't as popular. Wider-leg pants and low-rise wasn't in, so I needed to create this look. So we set up shop and made almost all of the clothing."

Thanks to Evans' forward-thinking, "Josie and the Pussycats" helped usher in the golden age of the low-rise jean and the asymmetrical belly shirt. The film also features a dazzling array of Y2K looks for makeup lovers, including metallic eyeshadow and the frosted lip trend.


Y2K wasn't just a time for sequins and mini-skirts -– it was also an exceptional moment for streetwear. Sports bras, baggy pants, and team jerseys are just a few of the looks that define this era. Style icons like Aaliyah, TLC, and Destiny's Child revolutionized the streetwear look by making these tomboyish trends look powerful and sexy. The aughts also gave way to brands like Baby Phat and Sean Jean, which created culture-defining looks, via Women's Wear Daily. 2003's "Honey" is a stunning tribute to Y2K's hip-hop glory days.

"Honey," which centers around a dance choreographer named Honey Daniels (Jessica Alba), is an upbeat film about staying true to yourself. Set in New York City and inspired by the hip-hop scene, "Honey" is the ultimate style guide for Y2K streetwear. Some of the film's greatest looks feature velour tracksuits, low-rise camo pants, and cropped baby tees. But the greatest fashion moment of the movie belongs to Gina (Joy Bryant) and her legendary neck-to-belly chain. According to Nylon, simple pieces like baggy joggers and a thick headband can help you add some "Honey" to your look.

The Cheetah Girls

Disney's "The Cheetah Girls" centered on four talented friends looking to make it big in the pop music industry. The film was applauded for spreading messages about girl power, friendship, and diversity, and it was also adored for its unforgettable fashion. In fact, the Cheetah girls aesthetic was so popular that it inspired its own brand of clothing, accessories, dolls, and more (via The Tampa Bay Times). Today, the movie is still a cultural icon and a fashion guidepost. On TikTok, the #TheCheetahGirls hashtag currently has more than 80 million views, and much of that content is fashion-focused. Some of the film's trendiest highlights include jewel-toned monochrome, loads of faux fur, and of course — cheetah print for days.

But there's one element of "The Cheetah Girls" fashion that just might rise above the rest: belts! "The Cheetah Girls" is a glorious display of every belt trend imaginable, including belted skirts, jumbo belts, and the two–belt trend for those daring enough. Now is the perfect time to take notes from "The Cheetah Girls" because statement belts are making a massive comeback, per Vogue. After so many years, this movie's fashion is just as cheetah-licious as ever.