Putting on that preppy pink polo was like being in a clique all over again.
I’ve always been interested in fashion trends and while I’ve come a long way from my Abercrombie and Limited Too days, I still get nostalgic for certain trends like butterfly clips and black nail polish. So in an effort to explore how fashion has changed over the past decade, I decided to spend a week wearing trends from 2006—cool!
I was immediately transported back to seventh grade as soon as I slipped on an old pink polo and denim skirt. Back then, our “Super Seven” clique would thrive on talking shit about the other girls in our grade who weren’t cool like us. I shuddered at the memory. This is a part of my past that I am not proud of. Leave it to a $3.99 pink polo from the Goodwill to morph me into seventh grade Julianne, a timid young girl who was afraid to look Super Seven leader Kelsey* in the eye and tell her she was a pile of shit person. I suddenly realized that dressing in clothing from 2006 was going to become more than just a fashion revelation—it would be a personal revelation too.
Whether or not you care about fashion, clothes are a part of our identity. Just like a diary, a photo album or keepsake, they hold special value—even as trends come and go. For better or for worse, it’s all about nostalgia. While my 2006 self dressed like the other members of Super Seven (read: polos and peasant tops), I went into this experiment with a goal of trying out a different look each day. I used clothes to revisit who I was, wasn’t, and wanted to be in junior high. What would I do differently? If I could go back and face the insecurities and demons of my fourteen-year-old self, how would I react?
*Names have been changed for the purpose of the article, so that the Super Seven, wherever they are in this world, don’t murder me in my sleep—I wouldn’t put it past them.
First things first: I headed to the Goodwill to recreate my 2006 wardrobe.
Considering I’ve grown at least one inch since eighth grade, most of my clothes from middle school are long gone. So, I took a trip to the local Goodwill to stock up on clothes I used to wear (and was afraid to wear) at my public middle school in the Chicago suburbs.
As my hands skimmed through the colorful polo collection (gag), graphic tees and hoodies, I reminisced about my days as a young teen. I thought of my crush Jack* and the Von Dutch hat he used to wear while recklessly riding his skateboard. I thought of how I’d watch him flip his shaggy blonde hair in gym class with the hope that he was looking at me between the strands. He never did because he was too busy looking at the girls confident enough to wear Hot Topic. Ugh.
I felt a mixture of excitment and anticipation at checkout. Would wearing trends from 2006 make me feel embarrassed? Self-conscious? Super-confident? I was about to find out.
Day 1: Boho
The look: Flare jeans, peasant top, denim vest, corduroy jacket, headscarf and some majorly frizzy crimped hair.
What would 7th grade Julianne say? Suck it, Kelsey. Told you unbuttoning my denim vest was so much cooler than buttoning it! (I wore a denim vest to school once and had it unbuttoned, as one does, but she made me button it all the way up because that was “cool.”)
How it made me feel in 2016: Well, very 2006. I used to be obsessed with my hair crimper, so I was reminded of how bad that year in hair actually was. The flare jeans were surprisingly comfortable and I kinda dug the peasant top and headscarf. I received a few weird looks on public transit, but the barista at Starbucks complimented my outfit so that’s a win, right? I totally wish I could go back and wear this outfit… obvi, with the vest unbuttoned.
Day 2: Trendy Teen
The look: Denim skirt, V-neck top, scarf belt and sneakers.
What would 7th grade Julianne say? Wearing a scarf belt like Kelly Clarkson is soooo cool.
How It Made Me Feel In 2016: I think this is the most universal of the looks. If fact, I would wear this now. Bandanas were HUGE at Coachella this year, proving that the early 2000s are making a fashion comeback.
Day 3: Trendy t̶̶ee̶n̶ Tree
The look: Green cargo pants; bell-sleeve, paisley-print blouse; a black belt and butterfly clips.
What would 7th grade Julianne say? I do not want to be friends with this person.
How it made me feel in 2016: That I looked like a fucking tree, hence the tree pose. There is nothing more to be said about this.
Day 4: Sk8er
The look: Green cargo shorts, fringed skull tee, black scarf, Von Dutch hat and lots and lots of black eyeliner.
What would 7th grade Julianne say? Ughhhh if only I had dressed like this! Maybe Jack would have wanted to message me on AIM like he did with the girls into Green Day and Bright Eyes.
How It Made Me Feel In 2016: I was looking forward to this outfit the most because this is who I wanted to be in middle school. But if I did, I would have been laughed at and called a poser because I wasn’t considered”cool.” Unlike some of the other looks, this ensemble gave me confidence. I didn’t feel the need to fake a smile at strangers on public transit. Plus, major Avril Lavigne vibes always make you feel like a badass.
Day 5: Preppy
The look: Denim skirt, pink polo, pink converse, a Juicy Couture hoodie and a pink headband.
What would 7th grade Julianne say? This is the IT look! If I want to stay in the Super Seven, I have to buy a bevy of Juicy hoodies and a polo in every color of the rainbow.
How it made me feel in 2016: Dressing in these bright colors made me feel dark and empty inside. In 2006, putting on this outfit was the most exciting and rewarding part of my day. I was “in”—until I slowly started to realize I didn’t like any part of this Super Seven sisterhood. I had three Juicy Couture hoodies, and when Kesley found that out, she invited me over to her house to hang out one-on-one, which was a huge honor. She laid her two new hoodies on her pink satin bedding, which meant she now had FOUR. She flipped her long blonde hair and said, “Jealous?” while I stood there, speechless.
That was the beginning of the end for me and the Super Seven. When I started making friends with the new girl in our class, the Super Seven called a “secret meeting” because I was hanging out with someone who wasn’t them. Eventually, I was kicked out of the group, which was one of the greatest things to happen to me. I was not a mean girl, but I wound up turning into one. I spent so much time wearing these preppy outfits—my uniform of mean girl-dom—that I had lost sight of myself. So to put this “bitch uniform” on now not only made me feel like a crank ball, it also made me want to look Kelsey in the eye and say, “Hey, I’m doing fucking wonderful now!”
Day 5 cont: 2006 ~at da club~ a là Lindsay Lohan
What this look consisted of: Black slip dress, sequin shrug, fishnets and purple leopard heels.
What would 7th grade Julianne say? GOALS, GOALS, GOALS.
How It Made Me Feel In 2016: Just like Lindsay Lohan in 2006: so fabulous! I forgot how much edge fishnet tights add to an outfit, so I’m glad they are a comback trend. The slip dress was super-comfy, but the gold sequin shrug ruined it.
Dressing in 2006 outfits forced me to recall the pressure of having to fit into a certain group and act a certain way. When I was preppy, I felt I had to smile on the outside, but secretly be a bitch on the inside. I felt the opposite when I was dressed as a skater chick. So in 2016, I say dress as yourself and confidence will follow. Hell, if that means wearing a garbage bag, then so be it. (I’m p sure Lenny Kravitz would dig it.)
This experiment finally allowed me to say “fuck it” and dress the way I would have really wanted to. So what if I put on the Von Dutch hat and pretended to bat my eyelashes at Jack? I don’t have to put on that pink polo ever again—physically or metaphorically—because that’s not who I am anymore.
A part of growing up is learning through the shitty things we’ve done or have been done to us. Wearing these outfits made me forgive myself for the things I did and didn’t do—for not standing up for the nice girls in my grade that were bullied by Kelsey, for not speaking up about unbuttoning my denim vest and for not embracing my inner-Avril because I was scared Jack would make fun of me. But hey, if I didn’t have these things happen to me, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.
So thanks, 2006!
PS: I’m totally making Von Dutch a thing again. Watch out, world…