Blasts from the Past: Top 12 Fashion Trends that Traveled Back to the Future


Many Photographers

Collage made on Picsart. From Left to Right: Woman wearing a corset, Y2k magazine advertisement, 60s Fashion catalog flare pants, 70s corduroy catalog, 80s “Saved by the Bell” promo, Rachel from “Friends” promo, 80s tights and shoes promo, Y2k tie shirt baggy pants from magazine, 1995 “Clueless” promo, Y2k fashion catalog

Look over there! Shoulder pads! A scrunchie! That woman’s clothes date all the way back to 1985!

“Wait a minute, Doc, are you telling me you built a time machine?”

Nope. But the way we dress today might make you think we’ve traveled to the 80s…or 90s..or 70s..or even the 1800s?!?! 

Since 2019, we’ve seen several trends in the fashion industry that have crawled back up from past decades and centuries. Many of these “current” trends date back to the early 2000s, 90s, 80s, 70s, 60s, and yes, even the 1800s!!

From left to right: Barbara Bach wearing patterned green flare legged pants in the late 60s, Unknown male model wearing white flare leg pants in magazine strip, Women’s high waist bootcut flare leg yoga pants with pockets by Vasmok, SHEIN split hem tartan flare leg pants. Made on Canva. Images Courtesy of Pinterest.

1. Flare-Leg Pants


During the 60s and 70s, flare legs were possibly the most popular form of pants. Both men and women would rock them in classic denim, colorful fabric, leather, solid colors, and hypnotizing patterns. Recently, flare-leg pants have made a comeback. Flare-leg leggings, jeans, and sweats have been on the rise as comfortable and convenient clothing in the time of Covid.

From left to right: Baby blue skiing tee Y2k Alloy Apparel, Mira Sorvino as “Romy” in Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion promo, BDG Urban Outfitters White lace V-neck baby tee, Portrait print crop top by Hoganda on Amazon. Made on Canva. Images Courtesy of Pinterest.


2. Baby tees


The 90s fashion scene introduced simplicity after three decades of extreme looks and outrageous colors. Soft cotton, form-fitting baby tees became popular for young women and teen girls, often matched with a high-waisted mini skirt. In the early 2000s, bold worded (such as the famous Britney Spears “DUMP HIM” tee) baby tees were popular to match with low-waisted pants. For the past few years, baby tees have returned to the same audience of teenage fashion through the popularization of simple or “essential” clothing stores like Brandy Melville.

From Left to Right: Alloy Apparel 1999, Lanfubeisi Harajuku Gothic White Cargo Pants, AnotherChill Straight Leg Black Jeans. Made on Canva. Images Courtesy of Pinterest.

3. Baggy pants


One of the most obvious returning trends is the all-out 90s skater, grunge, alternative look. In the 90s, this look consisted of messy hair, ripped clothing, and baggy pants. Now, this look is referred to as “skater” or “alt” (short for alternative). Oversized jeans and cargo pants, such as Pacsun and BDG (Urban Outfitters), have risen in popularity among teenagers.

From Left to Right: “Pump it up.” Reebok late 80s shoe advertisement, White Windsor Smith Lupe Sneakers. Made on Canva. Images Courtesy of Pinterest.

4. Chunky Sneakers


“The bigger the better” was a common theme of the 80s. Big shoulder pads, big hair, and of course, big shoes. Lately, designers and major shoe companies have begun to market chunky sneakers. FILA sneakers are the most commonly seen chunky sneakers, especially among teen girls. Even celebrities, like Kylie Jenner and Ariana Grande hopped on this trend.

From left to right: Dr. Martens Vintage AirWair flier, Dr. Martens Jadon Platform 8-Eye Boot. Made on Canva. Images Courtesy of Pinterest.

5. Doc Martens


Throughout the 90s, the classic Doc Marten boots were booming with popularity. “Docs” were matched with just about every category of apparel. People wore them to school, work, events, in dresses, jeans, and skirts. Though they’ve always been around, Doc Martens have once again peaked in the current fashion trends. Not only the classic black booties, but new colors, designs, and heights such as white, shiny plastic shell, rose side stitching, and platforms. 

From left to right: 1896 Woman wearing Stuhr’s  hand made fitted, embordered dress with large puffed sleeves, See through polka dot square neck puff elastic crop top by Rosewoo. Made on Canva. Images Courtesy of Pinterest.

6. Puffy Sleeves


Remember the puffy sleeve trend? Probably not since you weren’t alive. But that fashion was alive and well 200 years ago – and now it’s back! In the “olden days,” men wore shirts with puffy sleeves matched with vests and extremely unfortunate white wigs. Women wore long dresses with puffy sleeves and some unflattering puffy undergarments. Puffy sleeves have now returned with a new and (thankfully) improved look. Mainly in female-oriented clothing, colorful cropped tops with sheer puffy sleeves give new life to the “ye olden” trend. 


From left to right: Young girl wearing hot pink turtle neck and purple scrunchie from 80s and 90s flashback on the TODAY Show, Woman wearing white knit turtle neck and gold toned scrunchie by SOCIETY19. Made on Canva. Images Courtesy of Pinterest.

7. Scrunchies


In the 80s, big hair came with big responsibilities. Measly rubber hair ties were not going to cut it. Therefore the rise of the scrunchie. In millions of colors, fabrics, and patterns, scrunchies were not only convenient but stylish as you could wear them on your hand like a bracelet. As of the late 2010s, scrunchies have slid back into style, despite the lack of big puffy hair.

From left to right: Model in slim streak brown corduroy Jumpsuit 1973 by Wedges and Wide-leg Boutique, Model in Penny’s 1969 juniors’ corduroy, Patchwork Y2k Corduroy pants Harajuku Sweatpants wide-leg trousers by EBUYTIDE, Khaki corduroy 90s pants by Dainty Basics. Made on Canva. Images Courtesy of Pinterest.

8. Corduroy


Corduroy is a special fabric with soft cords that run down in parallel lines. Though it was invented in the 18th century, the 70s were corduroy’s time to shine. At the time, corduroy came in every form of clothing from pants and jackets to skirts and hats. Now, high waisted corduroy bottoms are back in style. High waisted corduroy pants and button skirts can be seen in an array of pastel colors and, of course, the traditional brown shades. 

From left to right: Princess Diana wearing white exercise bike shorts from HELLO Magazine article, Princess Diana wearing bright orange exercise bike shorts from HELLO Magazine article, Sara Sampaio in hot pink high-rise bike shorts, Hailey Bieber in black bike shorts and oversized crewneck. Made on Canva. Images Courtesy of Pinterest.

9. Bike shorts


In the 80s, Princess Diana famously wore and essentially popularized brightly colored bike shorts, casually breaking royal expectations. Though I’ve never seen Megan Markle wear them, high waisted bike shorts are back in every color and pattern imaginable. Today, bike shorts are worn for workout and casual purposes, often matched with an oversized hoodie or t-shirt.

From left to right: Stacy Dash and Alicia Silverstone as Dionne and Cher in 1995 Clueless promo, Mariah Carey in the 90s wearing black and white plaid skirt from Glamour Magazine, Pink plaid pleated tennis skirt from BlissGirl, Black plaid side zipper skirt from Fashion Nova. Made on Canva. Images Courtesy of Pinterest.

10. Plaid Skirts


When the classic chick-flick “Clueless” aired in 1995, a plaid bomb was dropped on the fashion industry. With a little help from Rachel (Jennifer Anniston on “Friends”), Cher (Alicia Sliverstone) and Dionne (Stacy Dash) started a plaid revolution. In the mid 90s, plaid skirts and blazers were all the rage. And for a brief moment in the early 2000s, Britney Spears re-introduced this plaid school girl look in her “Hit Me Baby..” music video. Recently pastel and dark toned plaid skirts have regained popularity, both tight and loose. 

From left to right: Sara Harding and Nicola Roberts from Girls Aloud, Rainbow stovepipe jeans from unnamed Y2k catalog, Holly black flared trousers from Dainty Basics, Low waisted HTT pants from Unif. Made on Canva. Images Courtesy of Pinterest.

11. Low Waisted Jeans


The early 2000s were a time for young party-girl celebrities like Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Kim Kardashian, and Britney Spears to make some bold and, shall we say, interesting fashion statements. Full velvet outfits and bedazzled hats were nothing in comparison to the “rise” of low waisted pants, worn by absolutely everybody from 2000-2014. Though the past few years have been dominated by high rise, low waist is making its way back. Mostly low waisted jeans have been seen rising in popularity over the last year or so.

From left to right: 1870s Victorian sisters on Etsy, Priymek’s collections Woman in corset and dress, Girl wearing white corset and green flannel by Fashion Saks, Girl wearing black corset top over white dress. Made on Canva. Images Courtesy of Pinterest.

12. Corsets


Possibly the oldest returning trend ever to be seen, corsets date all the way back to 16th century Europe. These “old-timey” undergarments were originally meant to make female features fit the beauty standards of the time, decreasing waist size and pushing breasts upward. Now these somewhat restrictive clothes have come back in a totally new and different way. Corset tops have recently been redesigned to be outerwear in every color and style. Older looking corsets are also worn as tops for a new take on a vintage style.