7 Fashion Trends That Will Define the Last Decade
Athleisure, millennial pink, dystopian jumpsuits — how many of the 2010s fashion calling cards have you worn?
Climate change. The Women’s March. Yeezus. Hashtags. The 2010s were full of anxiety and upheaval, glorified or critiqued in billions of posted pictures. The decade that has changed how we define America also shifted how we shop. In the world of #MeToo, workplace stilettos gave way to sneakers. In the time of changing gender norms, a new shade of pink spread from Glossier lip balms to cis-guys like Drake, Jason Momoa, and Timothée Chalamet. And as everyone documented everything, all of the time, style trends defined fashion tribes faster than ever before. There may not be a name for this decade (The Tens? The Teens? The Millies?) but there sure is an aesthetic… or rather, an entire lexicon of iconic and oh-so-timely looks.
From the sporty bodycon of Kardashian Nation to the hippie couture of Coachella, these seven trends aren’t just easy to spot, they’re intrinsic to our cultural movements and impossible to forget. Presenting our seven fashion movements of 2010-2019. How many have you worn this decade?
It’s the Kim Kardashian of trends. You can love athleisure, you can hate it, but you can’t ignore it because it’s basically ruling the galaxy. That’s true whether you’re a soccer mom or a corporate shark, as athleisure has invaded school pickups, corner offices, and of course the runways, turning “casual sportswear” (that’s the industry’s term) into a $44 billion pastime, according to Forbes. While Juicy Couture and North Face were longstanding staples for off-duty rich kids, this decade’s athleisure pushed past casual Fridays and into the fashion mainstream. It started with the twin pillars of Lulu Lemon yoga pants and Adidas Stan Smith sneakers. Both boasted the clean lines and premium prices of “attainable luxury” that gave the world permission — even encouragement — to wear them outside the gym.
In Los Angeles, Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP started selling athleisure in 2012, while Kate Hudson embraced leggings to build a fitness empire in 2013. When The Social Network became an Oscar machine in 2011, it made Mark Zuckerberg and his onscreen avatar Jesse Eisenberg the kid billionaires synonymous with fleece vests and plastic shower slides. By 2016, Rihanna’s first Fenty show for Puma paired a Paris palace with satin sneakers. And on Instagram accounts worldwide, streetwear transformed into iconography: When Kanye wore hoodies to shield his face from paparazzi, they transcended from earthly sweatshirts to holy Vetements vestments. Like Jesus (and Yeezus), athleisure is earth-bound and supernatural all at once — it is man and superman, woman and goddess, faded fabric and devotional relic. It is, like, #everything.
“We’re in a moment of ambivalent girliness,” wrote Véronique Hyland on The Cut in 2016, coining the term Millennial Pink to describe life in the time of Hillary Clinton: empowered but still clutching lip gloss; emboldened but still calling women “Girlboss” instead of just CEO. Hot brands like Glossier (b. 2010) and Acne Studios pounced on the shade; hot men like Jason Momoa and Harry Styles did, too. On the runways, Gucci’s Alessandro Michele took the reins in 2015 and promptly used the color as a gender-fluid jetpack, propelling its luxury androgyny with dusty rose suits and shoes. And thanks to the Internet’s insistence on turning daily life into a constant Think Piece, Millennial Pink wasn’t just a color trend, it was a theory of how the modern anxieties of identity and change manifested in hoodies and handbags (and several hot art shows). In a decade where women could be anything except a fairly elected Commander-in-Chief, Millennial Pink was a rallying cry for soft power — and a reminder that bias still colors our ideals.
“Are you perfect?!” squeals Beanie Feldstein in 2018’s Booksmart.
“Are you a dream?!” screams her co-star Kaitlyn Dever.
They’re wearing matching boiler suits, the industrial uniform of Rosie the Riveter. But the Gen Z stars are a new type of capable heroine: their assembly line is an endless series of test prep and college essays; their enemies are climate change and gun violence. As for their outfit of choice, the jumpsuit has been a steady best-seller for female-led indie labels like Alexa Chung and Rachel Antonoff, plus a red carpet hit for Tracee Ellis Ross, Diane Kruger, and more please-let-me-be-her celebs. Why did the look take off? Because it’s fun to wear, vintage-inspired, and easy to dress up or down, depending on shoes and makeup. Plus, jumpsuits project a cool mix of apocalypse prepper and auto shop princess — at least until you need to pee, and then you’re just another naked girl in a public bathroom stall.
Flower crowns. Cutoff shorts. Layered necklaces. Leather vests. Crochet bikini tops. Glitter braids. Fanny packs. Star stickers. As music festivals became livestream content and Instagram grist through the 2010s, fashion chased its fans through Palm Springs, Glastonbury, Governor’s Island, and beyond to get in on the action. Now H&M does a “festival collection” of neo-hippie styles (originally launched as a video segment in 2013). Sephora creates makeup tutorials specifically for concert weekends, and buzzy labels like Zimmermann and Self Portrait (b. 2013) propel festival style into Millennial black-tie wear, thanks to ornate lace embroidery and very steep slits. Meanwhile, Revolve throws an entire festival itself, complete with limited-edition merch and performers like Cardi B. Coachella’s influence can even be felt at Paris Fashion Week, where Balenciaga, Chanel, and more have made designer “wristbands” that mimic the festival’s coveted entry tickets, and share the same VIP flex power. When our grandkids throw 2010s theme parties in 40 years, they’ll be dressed like Coachella’s entire techno music tent — weird little beaded purse included.
“It takes a certain courage and conviction to try simple, covered-up clothes,” wrote fashion critic Suzy Menkes in T Magazine 2013. It also takes a serious style budget, at least to indulge in Valentino’s coveted silk sylphs and The Row’s draped cashmere columns — two mainstays of modest style that proved (in hemlines and sleeve lengths anyway) that more is more. But as maxi skirts and prairie dresses went from The Virgin Suicides to the style world, converging reasons make it more than a passing fad. First was the influence — and investment — of observant Muslim and Orthodox Jewish women, many of whom consulted on “modesty edits” for major retailers like Net-a-Porter (who launched a “modest” verticle on their website in 2017) and ASOS. UNIQLO enlisted Hijabi influencer Hana Tajima to design a capsule collection in 2016, while this year, Muslim model Halima Aden became the first-ever Sports Illustrated model in a burqini. (Hers was by Cynthia Rowley.)
Meanwhile, as reproductive rights and basic privacy came under assault, the idea that our bodies were our business — and not on display for anyone with an iPhone — became a point of pride for millions of working women. In the context of revenge porn and political rapists, billowing clothes became a subversive symbol of chic feminism, as Billie Eilish acknowledged in her 2019 Calvin Klein campaign. After all, nobody can see you flip the bird if your fingers are shielded by an embroidered bell sleeve.
Once upon a time, the only words you’d find on clothing were the occasional logo. Instagram changed all that, making text into a must-have for viral fashion collections. Among the standout hits: Gucci LOVED blazers in 2016, Alberta Ferretti SATURDAY sweaters (2017), Stella McCartney THANKS GIRLS dresses (2018), Marc Jacobs SOLIDARITY jeans (2015), Alexander Wang STRICT beanies (2016), and Dior’s $750 t-shirt that proclaimed WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS and was worn by Jennifer Lawrence (2017). Leading the pack was Off-White, with boots that proclaimed “FOR WALKING” along the sides, and leather billfolds that read “WALLET.” (See also: “SHOELACES,” “LOGO,” and this summer, Hailey Bieber’s famous “WEDDING DRESS.”) Off-White creative director Virgil Abloh told the avant-garde magazine 032c, “You can use typography and wording to completely change the perception of a thing without changing anything about it… If I take a men’s sweatshirt and write ‘woman’ on its back, that’s art.” Like Justin Bieber’s wordy 2016 concert merch, it’s also instantly recognizable on the internet, and therefore, more likely to get a zillion likes.
In 2012, Floriana Gavriel and Rachel Mansur made a bag. It was shaped like a medieval drawstring purse and crafted from gorgeous black Italian leather, with a striking red lining that dazzled whenever it cinched closed. The bag was logo-less and an “affordable” $450; within weeks, it sold out everywhere. Mansur Gavriel’s understated chic wasn’t just a one-hit wonder — it extended first to more bags, then shoes in 2016 and finally clothes in 2017, which the brand debuted at New York Fashion Week. Like Phoebe Philo’s “Old Céline” (2008–2018, RIP), Jonathan Anderson’s artsy classics for Loewe, A.P.C.’s French Girl separates, and Catherine Holstein’s elegantly slouchy Khaite sweaters, Mansur Gavriel embodies the modern idea that true luxury knows itself — and those who can’t spot it don’t matter. The whole slouch-or-its-gauche vibe was also fueled by the decade’s “effortless beauty” trend, which began with the undone glamour of Sienna Miller and continued with Zoe Kravitz (a 2015 “breakthrough award” winner at the InStyle Awards) and post-breakup Katie Holmes. The anonymous luxury trend in fashion and beauty is the ultimate Catch 22, one that makes it uncool to admit you care about appearances — despite employing a stylist, a makeup artist, a hairdresser, and a nutritionist, not to mention a cashmere sweater that costs $660 and blends into English department faculty lounges everywhere.
This story is a part of "The Teens": an exploration of what we loved, learned, and became in the last decade.