Fashion designer Daphne Guinness, speaking to Interview in 2011, observed that "fashion is not just about trends. It's about political history." And while that was certainly true in the 2010s, the last decade of clothing has reflected other things too: our celebrations, our tragedies, our downtimes, our labors. We have admired works of art and held opinions about the colors of suits. Sometimes, fashion could be dictated by something as simple as a meme we laughed at — and then decided to try on ourselves.
To look at a decade worth of clothes is to take the pulse of a culture. From neon to beige and back again, these were the biggest fashion moments of the last 10 years.
34. The Spring Breakers bikinis (2012)
Former Disney stars Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens appeared alongside Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine in the 2012 film Spring Breakers, about a group of college students who rob a restaurant to fund their Florida vacation. While the script never quite moves beyond such profound proclamations as "bikinis and big booties, y'all, that's what life is about," the actresses' neon swimsuits and hot pink ski masks were instantly iconic, as was the look of the cornrowed stoner guru Alien (James Franco). While Gomez seemed to use the role (and her bikini) to announce that she was no longer just a tween sensation, Hudgens has recently pivoted back to more family-friendly roles, like The Princess Switch and The Knight Before Christmas.
33. The return of Jennifer Lopez's Versace dress (2019)
(Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images)
You might call Jennifer Lopez the living embodiment of "still got it." Way back in 2000, J.Lo dropped jaws when she appeared at the Grammys in a now-legendary green Versace dress; so many people wanted to see the look (and everything else) that Lopez has been credited as the inspiration for the invention of Google Images. Almost two decades later, Lopez broke the dress out again — or at least a recreation of it — for the 2020 Versace show at Milan Fashion Week. It's safe to say few people are nailing this century better than Lopez.
32. Malia Obama's "Smoking Kills" shirt (2016)
Few families were more significant in fashion this decade than the Obamas. While Michelle and Barack were frequently in the spotlight when in the White House (for better or worse), their oldest daughter, Malia, proved to have her own sense of style — and humor — when she appeared at the Budweiser Made in America Festival during her father's final months in office. Her "Smoking Kills" shirt could have been read as a simple PSA, or a jab at her father, a former smoker, but it conspicuously followed an incident when Malia was spotted at Lollapalooza with a possible joint. "Taking the moral HIGH ground?" the Daily Mail cheekily wondered.
31. Jaden Smith's hair (2017)
(ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)
Jaden Smith was 11 at the start of the decade, but the son of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith made a name for himself these past 10 years. The musician and actor has always thought outside the box but took it up a notch when, in 2017, he shaved off his famous dreadlocks only to show up carrying the disembodied hair like an accessory on the Met Gala. I can't say I think carrying your own hair around is going to catch on as a trend in the 2020s, but I suppose never say never.
30. Pitbull's Home Run Derby jersey (2017)
— Larry Gallagher: Habitual Line Stepper (@itslvg3) July 11, 2017
Cuban-American rapper Pitbull frequently looks like he got his outfits at Gap Kids, but he took things to the truly ridiculous limit at the 2017 Home Run Derby, performing in what appeared to be a shrunken Miami Marlins jersey. Still, it admittedly takes a certain confidence to pull off the look. As one person tweeted at the time, "You joke about Pitbull because you are made uncomfortable by his erotic power." Seen.
29. Miley Cyrus' nude bikini (2013)
(Rick Diamond/Getty Images for MTV)
If there was one major theme across celebrity fashion in the 2010s, it was that the innocent child stars of the Aughts were all grown up. Miley Cyrus — not her alter ego, Hannah Montana — showed up at the 2013 VMAs to perform a scandalous rendition of the already-scandalous song "Blurred Lines" with Robin Thicke. "Audiences across the country let out a collective 'oh Miley' sigh ... as Cyrus, 20, gyrated and 'twerked' provocatively around the stage ... stripping down to a nude bikini, thrusting anything that moved, holding a giant foam finger to her crotch, and sticking her tongue out as if it no longer fit in her mouth," Fox News wrote at the time. Others rallied to her defense: "Elvis' pelvis thrust might have been controversial in the '50s and '60s but that seems to be the last time we worried about the way a man gyrates his pelvis," wrote HuffPost. "And yet over half a century later, everyone in the country seems concerned because a young woman is doing it."
28. Meghan Markle's engagement ring (2018)
(DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)
It was the cushion-cut diamond seen 'round the world. On Nov. 27, 2017, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry announced their engagement, sealing the deal with the public display of a custom-made three-carat ring featuring a diamond from Botswana, where the couple had previously spent three weeks celebrating Markle's birthday, and side diamonds that had belonged to Harry's mother, Diana, Princess of Wales. The engagement, and eventual wedding, of the couple made history, with Markle becoming the first royal of American ancestry and their baby, Archie, becoming the first biracial heir to the House of Windsor since the 1800s.
27. Angelina Jolie's leg dress (2012)
(Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
"If you've got it, flaunt it" is a maxim that Angelina Jolie takes to heart. At the 2012 Oscars, the actress bared the length of a lone, endless leg, generating both ogles and memes. The Atelier Versace gown was one of two dresses Jolie was picking between for the evening; she settled on the leg dress because it was the "more comfortable," she told People. TMZ, meanwhile, dubbed the dress the "most desperate act for attention by a body part."
26. Kate Middleton's wedding dress (2011)
(ODD ANDERSEN/AFP via Getty Images)
The first Royal Wedding of the decade was watched by an estimated 162 million viewers around the world. Kate Middleton's dress did not disappoint: Designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, the ivory satin and lace dress cost a rumored $322,000. In 2016, Brides magazine reported that "the main style elements that Kate's wedding dress embodied," including "dramatic trains, deep V-necks, long sleeves, and lace detailing," were still reverberating on the industry's runways five years later.
25. The Ariana Grande ponytail (2014)
(Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Clear Channel)
Pop star Ariana Grande's high ponytail is so iconic that whenever she lets her locks down, it's a cause for headlines. Grande has said that she first started wearing her signature hairstyle in 2014, to cover up the damage done to her natural hair from dying it for her role on Nickelodeon's Victorious. As Grande's career took off, so did the high ponytail style; there are now countless articles and YouTube tutorials teaching fans how to replicate her look.
24. White-out protest by the women of the 116th Congress (2019)
(Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Made up of a record 102 women, America's 116th Congress includes the first Muslim congresswoman, the first two Native American congresswomen, Texas' first two Latina representatives, and the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. The contingent has not been shy about making themselves heard, either; at the State of the Union in February, many of the Democratic congresswomen wore white, creating a solid block in the otherwise dark room. In addition to making themselves noticed — Trump even offered the congresswomen an ad-libbed "congratulations" during his speech — the white was a political gesture, linked to the suffragette movement and worn as "a visual protest of the Trump administration's policies affecting women, from health care and reproductive rights to equal pay," The New York Times writes.
23. Taylor Swift's "no, it's Becky" shirt (2014)
In April 2012, a scare-post appeared on Tumblr purporting to show a photograph of "Becky," a girl who allegedly overdosed on marijuana and died. When someone pointed out the obvious — that the girl in the photo was actually Taylor Swift — a third Tumblr user replied sarcastically "no, it's Becky." The exchange went viral, eventually even earning an acknowledgment from Becky — er, Swift — herself. In 2014, the singer was spotted in a yellow "no, it's Becky" shirt shortly after she started a Tumblr account of her own.
22. The T-rex costume (2015)
(Mark Makela/Getty Images)
They danced, they competed, they voted. Ever since 2015, when the inflatable T-rex costume was introduced as a tie-in to the movie Jurassic World, the Cretaceous-era reptile has seemed ubiquitous. Somehow, even the simplest activities (making a bed, working out) are made hilarious just by virtue of people doing them in a T-rex costume. This fall, some 175 people gathered in Richmond, Virginia, in T-rex outfits in an attempt to break the record for the "largest gathering of people dressed as dinosaurs," sadly falling short of the record, 252, set in Los Angeles in Jan. 2019.
21. "What colors are this dress?" dress (2015)
— BuzzFeed (@BuzzFeed) February 26, 2015
There are two types of people in the world: Those who are correct about the color of the dress, and those who are wrong. While the phrase "the dress" could refer to any number of iconic items on this list, it is perhaps most recognizable in the context of the viral frenzy over this optical illusion. Whether it's white and gold, or blue and black, is in the eye of the beholder.
20. Melania Trump's "I don't really care, do u?" jacket (2018)
(MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Every first lady faces intense scrutiny over what she wears; Michelle Obama was once excoriated for wearing $540 sneakers to a food bank. Melania Trump, though, seemed almost to embrace the villainous reputation she has among her husband's opponents by wearing a Zara military jacket with the words "I don't really care, do u?" written on the back in 2018. Making matters worse, Mrs. Trump had picked out the callous message to wear while on her way to visit immigrant children being detained at the border. Trump press secretary Stephanie Grisham claimed there hadn't been an intended message in Trump's choice of jacket, while the president claimed it referred to "the Fake News Media."
19. Lady Gaga's meat dress (2010)
(Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
The 17-year-old vegan singer Billie Eilish might say "yikes" to Lady Gaga's meat dress now, but the head-turning ensemble had originally been intended as a show of solidarity with LGBTQ Americans back when she wore it to the MTV Video Music Awards in 2010. Made of real raw flank steak, the dress was a reference to Lady Gaga's "Prime Rib of America" speech, in which she spoke out against the policy of Don't Ask, Don't Tell by claiming the system prevented the military from enjoying "the greatest cut of meat my country has to offer." Gaga later told Ellen DeGeneres, a vegan, that the dress "is certainly no disrespect to anyone that is vegan or vegetarian ... it has many interpretations, but for me this evening ... if we don't stand up for what we believe in and if we don't fight for our rights, pretty soon we're going to have as much rights as the meat on our own bones. And I am not a piece of meat." Now, who is going to wear the first Impossible Burger dress in the 2020s?
18. Yeezy Season 1 (2015)
(Theo Wargo/Getty Images for adidas)
When Kanye West claims he's going to do something — build amusement parks, run for president, change his name to Christian Genius Billionaire Kanye West — it's best to take it with a grain of salt. Still, when the rapper-turned-Sunday-Service-host said he was going to launch his own fashion line back in 2013, he actually followed through: The Adidas Yeezy collaboration is now in its fourth year. But as The Cut notes, even more notable than Yeezy's overpriced beige clothes ("bought it with my rent money ... now I'm homeless and look homeless in a $3,000 sweater," reads one satirical review) are the models he picked to wear them. At a time when 77.4 percent of models cast at New York Fashion Week were white, the men and women picked during Yeezy's open call were beautifully diverse. What's more, The Cut adds that "plenty of [West's] muses from the show have gone on to other big modeling jobs."
17. Rihanna's Met Gala gown (2015)
(Mike Coppola/Getty Images)
To be fair, Rihanna could wear a paper bag and make it look like haute couture, but her regal 2015 Met Gala gown, designed by China's Guo Pei, is about as far from a paper bag as one can get. The dress reportedly took two years to make by hand, and, as one might expect, was a doozy to actually wear: "I can't really walk in it without any help," Rihanna told Vanity Fair. Some said the massive train resembled an omelet, but as far as Met Gala looks went in the 2010s, this one was truly fit for a queen.
16. Hillary Clinton's concession pantsuit (2016)
(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Hilary Clinton's signature pantsuits weren't new to the 2010s, but her supporters' active embrace of them was. Pantsuit Nation became the name (and private Facebook group) for her most ardent champions, chosen due to Clinton's #GirlBoss attire. It was in a pantsuit, also, that Clinton conceded the presidential race to Donald Trump on the morning of Nov. 9, 2016. "As she delivered a heartfelt address urging unity, viewers picked up on the meaning of the [outfit's] purple hue, one that she has seldom worn and what most assume was a deliberate choice," analyzed USA Today. "Purple is the blend of red and blue. It's one of three colors of the suffrage movement. And it has deep ties to Christianity." Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton, wore a tie in the same hue.
15. The Burkini (2016)
(JEAN-CHRISTOPHE MAGNENET/AFP via Getty Images)
The "Burkini" — worn in the photo above by a woman named Dalila in the city of Nice, France — is a modest swimsuit designed for Muslim women. In 2016, all eyes turned to France as the nation cracked down on the attire with various "Burkini bans," as local mayors cited everything from the threat of terrorism to hygiene to justify the move. In one set of widely circulated photos, armed French police made a beachgoer remove some of her clothes while issuing her a ticket for failing to respect "good morals and secularism" with her attire, Vox reports. The woman, who had identified herself only as Siam, told one French magazine that "because people who have nothing to do with my religion have killed I no longer have the right to go to the beach." The ban was eventually overturned by France's highest court; in 2019, Sports Illustrated featured its first burkini-clad model in its swimsuit issue.
14. The Fleabag jumpsuit (2019)
Widely considered to be one of the best television shows of 2019, the second season of Fleabag opens with its title character, played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, attending the most awkward family dinner imaginable. Her outfit, though, was what really got the attention of viewers, selling out across the U.K. and U.S. "I bought the Fleabag jumpsuit," wrote The Cut's Kathryn VanArendonk in a rapturous confessional, noting "it sends exactly the message Fleabag wanted it to send: It looks like I made an effort, and I look great, but also I mostly already was great, thank you very much." Twitter's news section, Moments, dubbed the dress a "movement," while Page Six published a guide to getting your hands on your own. Waller-Bridge told Vanity Fair she actually owns the jumpsuit from the show; she plans to wear it again someday.
13. Billy Porter's Christian Siriano gown (2019)
(Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
The 2010s continued to shred the notion of "women's' and "men's" fashions existing as binaries, with Pose actor Billy Porter wearing a velvet gown to the 2019 Oscars. "We've gotten past a problem with women wearing pants," he told Variety. "When women wear pants, it's powerful. When men wear a dress, it's disgusting. We're not doing that anymore. I'm not doing it." Although the red carpet wasn't the first time Porter had worn a dress, it was the most high-profile and talked-about moment due to the visibility of the occasion. "When [Porter] started wearing dresses recently, that was very specific because of all the stuff that was going on in the White House regarding transgender rights," his stylist, Sam Rattelle, told Page Six. "We started talking about it and we're like, we have to start representing these people because you have to normalize that somehow publicly."
12. Beyoncé's sorority outfit at Coachella (2018)
(Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella)
When, in 2018, Beyoncé became the first black woman to headline Coachella, "instead of me pulling out my flower crown, it was more important that I brought our culture to" the music festival, she says in her Netflix documentary about the performance. Backed by a marching band, Beyoncé transformed the stage to pay tribute to the experience of homecoming at a historically black college or university. She also cycled through five different Balmain costumes over the course of the show — including dressing as Nefertiti — with the standout being her cropped Beta Delta Kappa sorority sweatshirt. Despite there not quite being a consensus on what "BAK" stands for (some think it reads "back," as in "Beyoncé is back," while others think it visually appears as "The Roc" hand sign, in tribute to her husband's record label), there was no mistaking that the flawless look meant school was in session.
11. Nancy Pelosi's coat (2018)
(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) re-emerged alongside Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) after a fiery meeting with President Trump in 2018, social media immediately took note of her statement coat. "Nancy Pelosi is wearing her Orange You Sorry You Started This Fight Coat," wryly tweeted one observer. The New York Times wrote that Pelosi's coat "whispered 'burn' with a wink and a swish" and "helped to transform her from a seemingly tired symbol of the establishment to one of well-dressed revolt." The coat also inspired author and comedian Sara Benincasa to start the Instagram account Excellent Coats on Irritated Women, which has since expanded to include Dolly Parton, Angela Davis, Helen Mirren, and others.
10. The Ikea Monkey's shearling coat (2012)
It's one thing to see a monkey wandering around a Toronto Ikea parking lot, but it's another thing entirely when that monkey is stylish. The Ikea Monkey (whose real name is "Darwin") was easily one of the best memes of the early half of the decade, having captivated the internet after he was spotted, bundled up in a shearling coat, having escaped from the car of his owner. Because of Toronto's exotic animal laws, the Ikea Monkey was ultimately seized and taken to Ontario's Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary, where he has apparently since befriended a baboon named Pierre.
9. Michelle Obama's Trump inauguration dress (2016)
(Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images)
The last outfit Michelle Obama ever wore as first lady, to attend President Trump's inauguration, was a red belted dress designed by Jason Wu. The choice was not an idle one; Obama helped put Wu on the map by wearing his gowns to both of her husband's inauguration balls. The New York Times called Obama's decision to return to Wu during her final moments as FLOTUS "closure," while The Telegraph described the outfit as "a possible tactic to allow new first lady Melania Trump to take the spotlight on her way into the White House." Others noted the choice of color, with Teen Vogue writing "Michelle wore red alongside Melania in blue, an unofficial symbol of unity between the Republican and Democratic parties."
8. Kim Kardashian's "Break the Internet" dress (2014)
Admittedly, maybe this wasn't so much about the dress as it was, well, the lack thereof. When Paper magazine published this photo of Kardashian — as well as a few additional pictures that assure you, yes, that is the real thing under there — the website got 50 million hits in a single day, or about 1 percent of all web traffic in the U.S. in a 24-hour time span, The Telegraph reports. While it's hard to pick just one Kim Kardashian fashion moment for the decade (what about her wedding photo with Kanye West? Or the wet dress for the Met Gala?), the 2014 Paper photo shoot really encapsulates what she does best: Break the internet, again and again and again.
7. The Pussy Hat (2017)
(Adam Berry/Getty Images)
The day after President Trump's inauguration in January 2017, millions of people across the country participated in the first Women's March, marking the biggest single-day protest in American history. In objection to Trump, whose history of sexist comments alarmed women's rights activists, many participants wore "pussy hats," which commonly were bright pink knitted hats with cat ears. The hat was conceived as a push-back against Trump's infamous comment, caught on a hot mic, about groping women, with "pussy grabs back" becoming the "rallying cry for female rage," The Guardian reported. Today, the hat remains a symbol of opposition against the administration, with subsequent women's marches being held every year around the world, like the one pictured above, in Berlin in 2018.
6. Obama's tan suit (2014)
(Alex Wong/Getty Images)
While it might seem quaint now, President Barack Obama's years in office were far from scandal free. Perhaps the most ridiculous hullaballoo of all, though, was over his choice to wear a tan suit during a serious press conference about combating ISIS. "Un-presidential," slammed Fox News' Lou Dobbs, while Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.) claimed it showed a "lack of seriousness." Others immediately jumped to pointing out the ridiculousness of the scandal: "We are indeed the most privileged — and perhaps pettiest — nation ever," later observed Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian. In the years since Tansuitgate, the episode has become representative of a, shall we say, different era of American politics. Or, as HuffPost wrote in 2017: "Remember when all we cared about was President Obama's tan suit?"
5. The bulletproof backpack (2012)
(George Frey/Getty Images)
Bulletproof backpack purchases skyrocketed in 2012 after the shooting of 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. Sadly, the item hasn't fallen out of favor. In the years since, there have been at least 239 school shootings, The New York Times reported last year, including the one that killed 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in February 2018. "I want to give my children the best chance at survival," one mother, who recently purchased a bulletproof backpack, told ABC News. "This is the trend and this is the time we live in now."
4. The Time's Up pin (2018)
(VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images)
Traditionally the red carpet has been the place to debut bold new outfits, but it has also taken a particularly political turn in recent years, such as during the Time's Up movement in 2018. On the heels of the #MeToo reckoning, "the hottest accessory on the Golden Globes red carpet" that year was the pin, which was designed to call out sexual harassment and inequality in the industry. "Time's up. It's time to stand by women and what they are saying," Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya, who wore the pin to the ceremony, told USA Today.
3. The Frozen dress (2013)
(Jordan Strauss/Invision for Disney Consumer Products/AP Images)
It was almost impossible to escape the frosty blue Elsa princess dress this decade, particularly if you happen to be a parent. After Frozen became the highest-grossing animated film ever in 2013, seemingly everyone in the under-7 demographic had to get their hands on an approximation of the lead character's snowy gown and cape. By 2014, just a year after the movie's release, Disney reported having sold some three million Elsa dresses, resulting in nerve-wracking shortages around Halloween, The New York Times reported. Costumes mimicking the get-up of Elsa's younger sister, Anna, who is also a primary character in the story, have been slower off the shelves. "You sell two Elsas for every Anna," Lesa Nelson, a children's merchandiser, told The Wall Street Journal.
2. Superhero spandex (2012)
The first Avengers film, in 2012, marked a turning point. No longer were superhero movies confined to one-offs and trilogies; for the first time, the ambitions of the Marvel Cinematic Universe became totally clear. Now, nearly two dozen movies, sequels, and crossovers later, superhero chic is still going strong. Four of the top 10 biggest box-office hits of the decade were Avengers films (Black Panther makes it five), while Comic Cons across the country swelled to collective millions of attendees a year. Marvel (and, to a lesser extent, DC) was everywhere, from the catwalk to the top of Instagram to, seemingly, all the neighborhood trick-or-treaters. With Avengers: Endgame arriving at the start of 2019, you might be forgiven for assuming the end of the era of capes is nigh. But then again, there's always Phase Four.
1. The Make America Great Again hat (2015)
(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
Whether you love it, hate it, or cross to the other side of the street when you see it, the importance of the Make America Great Again hat as a fashion symbol is impossible to deny. First worn by then-candidate Donald Trump during a rally near Laredo, Texas, in 2015 (the original design was white), the hat has since been proudly flaunted by everyone from Tom Brady to Kanye West. Others have seen its rise as more sinister. "Many, including actress and activist Alyssa Milano, now are calling the baseball caps the modern-day white hoods of the Ku Klux Klan, representing a white nationalist ideology pushed by the president," reported the Detroit Free Press in January. Having launched an entire industry of imitations — Make America Read Again, Make Donald Drumf Again, Make America Sane Again — the red baseball cap has become the quickest way to send a message about where your loyalties lie.