What Back-To-School Shopping Looked Like 15 Years Ago

Countless articles have professed a love for Delia's, the It Girl brand for middle schoolers who just wanted to have fun. How could we forget the inflatable furniture, wOrdS wRiTteN LiKE tHis, and those platform flip flops?

But Delia's wasn't alone — back-to-school gear in the early 2000s was a playground of fuzzy, glittery, shiny separates; shoppers all vying to look like the Lizzie Mcguire of their own schools. Shopping, naturally, consisted of eagerly thumbing through Delia's with a highlighter or Sharpie, putting stars next to all the jeans and lace-up tops you really needed, followed by saving up your allowance to get a leather top from Girlfriends LA or camouflage pants from Alloy.

To celebrate the back-to-school season, we decided to go back in time 15 years, to the turn of the century, rounding up the best throwback pics we could find. These classic 2000s catalogue looks inspired so many first day of school outfits, and probably a few DIY projects, too. Beaded black layers over purple prom dresses? Check. Low rise pants and slightly cropped shirts? Yes, we found those, too. These flashbacks from our favorite fashion reading materials bring us back to a time when all we really wanted was a flip phone and some inflatable chairs. Now, when are those parachute pants coming back?
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Photo: Courtesy of Delia's.
As you can see, Delia's started incorporating text spelling ("what wLd U B?") in its catalogues as early as 2002. Other Y2K trends of note include the questionable practice of stealing your dad's ties to use as belts.
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Photo: Courtesy of Delia's.
If you were dressing for summer or spring, you may have opted for this tie-up peasant blouse, with plenty of frills and florals...
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Photo: Courtesy of Delia's.
...and for the bottoms? Well, flared pants, obviously. If you were feeling chilly, you may have swapped the short sleeves for a long-sleeve lace-up in every color of the rainbow.
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Photo: Courtesy of Delia's.
Back-to-school catalogues really loved this newsboy hat — which you couldn't actually wear in the classroom.
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Photo: Courtesy of Delia's.
Meanwhile, sleeve lengths alternated between long, short, and the ever-popular three-quarter length. Why everyone wanted to dress like a junior associate on Casual Fridays is a question we're not quite ready to ask.
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Photo: Courtesy of Delia's.
Is anything more early-2000s than that six inches of midriff between your belly button and the top of your sandblasted bootcut jeans?
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Photo: Courtesy of Delia's.
When it came to fancier parties, however, slightly flared skirts in shiny finishes were everything...
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Photo: Courtesy of Delia's.
....as were split-bottom dresses with sheer black overlays adorned with crystals. Hello, Homecoming!
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Photo: Courtesy of Saras-Delias.Blogspot.com.
For the colder season, you may have layered on two hoodies at a time, over a T-shirt with Chinese characters you couldn't read printed all over it.
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Photo: Courtesy of Girlfriends L.A.
For the mall-bred punks, there was always L.A.-based Girlfriends, the brand that killed it with faux leather.
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Photo: Courtesy of Girlfriends.
Imagine a world where skinny jeans were not a staple in every closet, but wide-legged JNCOs with cargo pockets are the norm. The pink shirt, baggy pants, and choker combo is very early Lizzie McGuire.
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Photo: Courtesy of Girlfriends L.A.
And that pink furry top? So Miranda.
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Photo: Courtesy of Girlfriends L.A.
Meanwhile, animal print was having a moment, with faux snake skin, leopard, and zebra stripes reminding us that it truly was a jungle out there in the middle school hallways.
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Photo: Courtesy of Girlfriends L.A.
Pair the leopard with an all-black ensemble and a spiky updo, and you've got the perfect transitional outfit.
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Photo: Courtesy of Girlfriends L.A.
By the turn of the century, faux leather pants were available in almost every color, but most notably in red. We probably have Britney's "Oops!...I Did It Again" to thank for that.
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Photo: Courtesy of Girlfriends L.A.
Budding stars paired these glossy pants with sparkly tube tops and temporary tattoos.
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Photo: Courtesy of Alloy.
And finally, for the adventurous partygoer in 2003, the asymmetrical top was THE statement piece, showing off bare shoulders and a sliver of skin just above low-rise camouflage pants.
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