Popcorn Shirts Have Made a Comeback and, Honestly, I'm Very Confused

But did I buy one? Yes, I did.

Person wearing a nude popcorn shirt with a blue and green flower design
Photo: Courtesy of Samantha Sutton

Out of all the questionable things I wore during the late '90s and early '00s, popcorn shirts — aka magic bubble shirts, or scrunchie shirts, as they're called on occasion — were definitely among the most confusing. A shirt that's initially tiny enough to fit a doll, but expands large enough to fit your dad? Kind of strange, but apparently appealing to my middle school self, who proudly wore a floral printed one purchased from Limited Too. After this trend died down, these shirts slowly made their way to drugstore clothing aisles, and then to the verge of extinction. At the same time, I added this stretchy top to my 'never again' fashion list — but now, I'm reconsidering that choice.

Fergie and her Wild Orchid girl group wearing cropped silver magic bubble popcorn shirts
Barry King/WireImage

Just like Dooney & Bourke bags and bandage dresses, I'm starting to fall for popcorn shirts again. They've been resurfacing due to brands like Marine Serre and Fashion East, who included them in their recent collections, and I've spotted a bunch on resale sites like Etsy and Depop, with vintage lovers styling them in modern ways. Admittedly, I bought a tank top version for myself. The bubbled texture adds a little something extra to a simple shorts outfit, and I'm confident that with a satin skirt and sparkly pair of earrings, this style could even come off as Fancy Grandma.

One thing that does confuse me, however, is who influenced me to wear these shirts in the first place, all those years ago. I've spent days combing through photos from every kid and teen awards show from 1998 to 2002, looking at outfits worn by Hilary Duff, Amanda Bynes, Alexa PenaVega, Melissa Joan Hart, and ... nothing. The closest I could find was the above photo of the girl group Wild Orchid from 1999. (And, yes, that is indeed Fergie.)

Anyway, the fashion icons of today are already working modern versions of this top into their outfits, proving the whimsical trend is really on the rise. Take a look at these cute popcorn shirt outfits, ahead, then shop one of your own from Marine Serre, Lisa Says Gah, a dress version from ASOS, or secondhand options from Etsy and Depop.

01 of 08

With Drawstring Pants

This outfit looks like something out of Hailey Bieber's fashion playbook. Loose, drawstring pants also balance out a fitted popcorn top. Did I mention this style isn't constricting, so therefore it's very comfy?

02 of 08

With Denim Shorts

There's something about the texture of this top and distressed denim bottoms that seem to mesh well together. It's cool and edgy without trying to be, the ideal choice for a vacation getaway.

03 of 08

With a Skirt

Playing with texture is one way to take your outfit to the next level. And while a popcorn shirt is a statement piece on its own, dressing it up with a pleated midi creates added interest.

04 of 08

With Trousers

Black pants are no longer just workwear, they're incredibly versatile. Still, if you're hoping to take your popcorn shirt to the office, black bottoms will make it feel more formal.

05 of 08

With Overalls

Those with eclectic taste will enjoy wearing popcorn shirts — and then some. Lean into the whimsical vibe and add a colorful hat, layers of beaded necklaces, and throwback overalls.

06 of 08

With Classic Jeans

Even Lisa from Blackpink approves of this comeback. Here, she pairs a pink popcorn shirt with with wide-legged jeans. It's fashion meets comfort.

07 of 08

With White Pants

Balance out a brighter colored bubble shirt with breezy, neutral bottoms. It feels fun and bold while still being tasteful.

08 of 08

With Chunky Sandals

Scrunchie shirts are never boring, even when they're subtle. Opting for a neutral color like black will allow you to adapt your top to any mood and occasion, including when you want to go full Y2K with a platform pair.

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