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Lace, Leather, Love: My Top 5 Favorite Y2K Betsey Johnson Collections

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at TAMU chapter.

When you hear the word “Y2K” you’re probably going to word associate it with celebrities like Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Avril Lavigne, and maybe even the movie Legally Blonde. These celebrities and films like Mean Girls, Clueless, and Legally Blonde were directly responsible for exposing the Y2K aesthetic to large audiences creating a definitive trend for its era, easily recognizable and adored to this day. This genre of fashion stemmed from growing anxiety about the turn of the century making the look known as edgy, rebellious, and youthful because of the dramatic features: technology-inspired, bright colors, maximalist profile, clashing patterns, metallic-themed, low-rise denim, mini skirts, and more. We can also group some designs into different subgenres under the Y2K umbrella including Pop, Hip Hop, and Grunge. I myself, having been born barely after the turn of the century, remember seeing this vivacious fashion all around me growing up which still fills me with admiration and nostalgia to this day. 

Fall 2000 ready-to-wear Collection

Johnson is consistently known for her fun-loving fashion designs and this collection is no exception. This show happened in Manhattan’s Lot 61 which was converted into a nightclub to match her presentation concept. In this collection, we can really see the grunge influence through the provocative use of leather jackets and pants, plasticized catsuits, technicolor animal prints, zippered mini skirts, and minidresses. The latter part of the show consisted of more pop-aligned clothing including matching sets, mini-tutus, neon colors, lace tops, bras, and halter tops.

Spring 2001 Ready-to-wear collection

The pop subgenre can be seen all throughout this ensemble and really hits the nail on the head when the Playboy bunnies hit the stage clad in lofty heels, bedazzled bikinis, glittering bunny ears, strapless dresses, and sequined tops. This collection presented my favorite skimpy wedding dress; it consisted of a long trail with an accenting white satin bodysuit corset, and a sweetheart neckline adorned with silken roses and accessorized with a choker/collar black bowtie. I believe this rendition of a wedding dress really embodied the whole show’s concept because of its rejection of modesty in favor of the sexy, fantastical silhouette. 

Fall 2002 ready-to-wear collection

Now this show was unique because it was held in Johnson’s workroom using the cutting table as a runway and the looks were modeled by twenty-two of Johnson’s staff, who ate those runways up. While the collection’s color palette was significantly more subdued than usual, including sky blues, olive green, brown, pinks, and bronze, the boudoir-inspired lingerie ribbons, cleavage-enhancing lace, shirred chiffons, and clingy satin dresses made it outstanding.

Spring 2003 ready-to-wear collection

In this collection, Johnson mixes whimsy with eroticism and even throws in some punk-inspired looks for alternative individuals. It was presented at her East Hampton home poolside as the main event of her daylong party celebrating her sixtieth birthday. The looks were cheerful with candy colors with bright floral designs, but also form-fitting, sheer, and/or microshort. The inclusion of the puffy tulle underskirts is what really drove home the whimsy aspect for me, while the skimpy swimsuits balanced the cheer with its titillating elements making a cohesive ensemble.

Fall 2003 ready-to-wear collection

Here Johnson exhibits a kaleidoscope of colors through her crocheted sweaters, animal prints, chiffon, sweeping tiered skirts, and striped dresses. The intense variety of outfits ensures a diverse consumer experience and an option for all body types and/or preferences. I found this collection to be completely irresistible because there is a look for each of my shifting moods and the genre fluidity speaks to me. 

As a closeted queer kid growing up in an uber-conservative home, art and especially fashion were my greatest forms of expression and escape. I would spend hours upon hours as a kid going through my aunt’s fashion magazines imagining myself in Haute couture and unconventional makeup. I often ended up being stuck in an outfit that was just an extension of what my mother wanted me to be, instead of who I am. Those magazines, especially the eccentric, amusing designs made by Johnson, were my shining beacon of hope. In the words of Nigel from the film The Devil Wears Prada, “What they (Halston, Lagerfeld, de la Renta, etc) did, what they created was greater than art because you live your life in it.” 

Bianca Aileen Azuler Honorato is a chapter member at the Her Campus at TAMU chapter. Beyond Her Campus, Azuler is currently a sophomore at Texas A&M University, majoring in English with minors in Art and Science Fiction and Fantasy Studies. In their free time, Azuler enjoys reading paranormal fantasy, decorating cakes, drawing, and watching cake boss with their cats. They're a Shrek aficionado and committed to collecting Sanrio paraphernalia.