Return of the Naughty Noughties

From midriff-baring tops to chainmail dresses, the fun, flashy styles of 2000s celebrities are making an epic comeback

Left: Socialites Nicole Richie (left) and Paris Hilton were among Hollywood’s style influencers of the 2000s. Right: Pop star Britney Spears was part of a crop of Hollywood starlets so infamous they were known just by their first names.
Left: Socialites Nicole Richie (left) and Paris Hilton were among Hollywood’s style influencers of the 2000s. Right: Pop star Britney Spears was part of a crop of Hollywood starlets so infamous they were known just by their first names.PHOTOS: COURTESY OF HARPER’S BAZAAR SINGAPORE
(Left) Balenciaga's silver chainmail slip closely resembles an outfit worn in the 2000s by Paris Hilton. (Centre) Celine designer Hedi Slimane's spring-summer collection captures 2000s style in an off-duty look that is eclectic and seemingly haphazar
(Left) Balenciaga's silver chainmail slip closely resembles an outfit worn in the 2000s by Paris Hilton. (Centre) Celine designer Hedi Slimane's spring-summer collection captures 2000s style in an off-duty look that is eclectic and seemingly haphazard, yet effortless. (Right) At Paco Rabanne, designer Julien Dossena combines disparate elements much like the way Hilton would, with faded denim and a shaggy coat coming together for this look.

Recent events in pop culture have cast a new light on the players in the decade known as the noughties.

For the past few months, all everyone could talk about was The New York Times' documentary Framing Britney Spears, which chronicled the pop star's battle for autonomy and the relentless media hounding that has shaped so much of her narrative.

Before that, her 2000s party buddy and tabloid target Paris Hilton dropped a YouTube documentary of her own, which showed a deeper side - and voice - to the heiress.

In the background were what these women wore: clothes, captured via telephoto lens by prying eagle-eyed paparazzi, that defined the style of a decade.

With no Instagram then, celebrities were the original influencers and Los Angeles was where the world looked to get a measure of the zeitgeist.

It did not hurt that a new breed of celebrity was cropping up - those who sought the spotlight instead of shying away from it.

Gossip rags and tabloids featured Paris, Nicole (Richie), Britney and Lindsay (Lohan) - so infamous they were known just by their first names - on a daily basis. They set the style agenda; their Californian look was emulated the world over.

The reason their styles were so impactful and memorable, even now, was that there was often an offhandedness to them. Nothing felt overly calculated or curated to garner social media likes or fit into a specific Instagram aesthetic.

Instead, what came through most was that these girls were just out to have fun.

There was sex, shock and, most tantalising of all, often a dash of bad taste.

Those were the wild days before the recession. Tops were cropped, skirts were small and jeans rode low. Dresses were sparkly, short or both.

Red-carpet looks drew attention to the body without constricting it - skin-baring but free-flowing.

This season, iterations of those dresses can be found at Dior and Chanel.

At Chanel, Virginie Viard was inspired by Hollywood and its starlets past and present, creating a full wardrobe that covers everything from movie premieres to coffee runs. Her weightless logo gown looks like something Lindsay would have worn at the height of her stardom.

In Milan, another female designer also felt the noughties vibe. Donatella Versace is undoubtedly the queen of 2000s red-carpet dressing with her more-is-more approach when it comes to print and skin. Who could forget J. Lo in that dress?

Her current-season propositions of searing colours, cleavage-centric silhouettes and skirts slung low or hiked high seem right out the wardrobe of a Paris & Nicole press tour.

When it comes to off-duty looks, Hedi Slimane captured the delightful, deliberate haphazardness of 2000s style perfectly at Celine.

After a few seasons exploring a sense of sophistication rooted in 1970s bourgeoisie, the designer presented a spring-summer 2021 collection that mirrored the way young women actually dress in today's world and echoed the way young Hollywood did then: expressive, eclectic, but effortless.

That nonchalance came through most in the way logo bras and denim shorts were worn with a boyfriend blazer or an oversized shirt, with a baseball cap and flat black boots completing the look.

At Paco Rabanne, there was a similar spirit of things not being too precious, with Julien Dossena mashing up disparate elements. Much like the way Hilton would wear designer items with Von Dutch, the glamorous intermingled with the everyday - chainmail and lace, for example, alongside faded denim and shaggy coats.

There was also a freewheeling spirit at Balenciaga, where Demna Gvasalia mined certain tropes of 2000s style. There were sweatsuit sets that evoked those of Juicy Couture - the most 2000s of all 2000s brands, and a previous Gvasalia collaborator - and ugly-cute footwear similar to Crocs, another 2000s mainstay and previous Gvasalia partner.

The designer even showed a silvery chainmail slip that is almost an exact replica of Paris' 21st-birthday look.

It is often said that fashion trends go round in 20-year cycles. The timing is right for the noughties to make a comeback - it was the last decade in recent memory to have a hedonistic streak.

As the world emerges from lockdowns and a year spent inert, there will be pent-up craving for the pursuit of pleasure, for living large and loud.

The fashion pendulum has already swung that way. Just like it was in the 2000s, the fall-winter 2021 collections are filled with unapologetically party-ready, entrance-making clothes.

That's hot.

  • BAZAAR

  • This article first appeared in Harper’s Bazaar Singapore,  the leading fashion glossy on the best of style, beauty, design,  travel and the arts. Go to  harpersbazaar.com.sg and follow  @harpersbazaarsg on Instagram;  harpersbazaarsingapore on  Facebook. The June 2021 issue  (above) is out on newsstands now.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 11, 2021, with the headline 'Return of the Naughty Noughties'. Subscribe