Deep-scrolling through TikTok or a trend guide cements one fact: Y2K fashion is back. Sure, we may still be slightly traumatized by low-rise denim and exposed G-strings, but it’s all part of the moment. What makes a trend “of the moment” moves far beyond the cyclical nature of fashion. A bevy of things is required to make it happen. No one was thinking about going near anything aughts-related until it was trending on TikTok or championed as the Hot Girl Summer aesthetic by rappers like Megan Thee Stallion. But beyond the social influence, historically speaking, after any form of mass upheaval—pandemics, warfare, or recessions—clothing becomes, well, over-the-top. (See the recent rise in risqué trends.) This is why I’m placing bets that the next big trend will be rhinestone swimsuits.
Sparkly swimsuits in every form—embellished, sequin, chain-mail, and rhinestone—had a hold on us in the Y2K era. There was one point in fashion history when runways, red carpets, films, and private islands were filled with celebrities wearing itty-bitty rhinestone bikinis. But the case for bringing back blinged-out rhinestone swimwear was unwarranted… until now. If you’re not convinced, ahead we’re showing how rhinestone swimsuits (and other examples of embellished swimwear) were the epitome of peak-aughts style, how they’re coming back, and where to buy the 2020s version now.
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For the newbies in the back, the late ’90s and early ’00s saw big fashion brands burgeoning with risqué trends. But the most exciting moment was when, suddenly, women were wearing rhinestone swimsuits. Of course, it didn’t just come out of nowhere—brands like Baby Phat and Chanel finished off iconic runway shows with Lil‘ Kim and Naomi Campbell in rhinestone-encrusted swimsuits. High fashion was not the only place where glitzy swimwear shined. Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez donned various iterations of sparkly swimsuit tops paired with matching bottoms on stage. Yet the most iconic (albeit questionable) styling of these embellished bikini tops was when they emerged on the red carpet at A-list events. Everyone from Destiny’s Child to Gwen Stefani wore heavily adorned, crystal, and chain-mail bikini tops with denim skirts and second-skin tops. It made the case that skin was not only in but that swimwear didn’t need to be worn exclusively near a body of water. And if that’s not the most aughts thing ever, I don’t know what is.
At some point, as rhinestones became overdone (much like the embellished jeans and trucker hats from iconic 2000s fashion brands like Ed Hardy—ah, memories), the rhinestone swimsuit was replaced by more classic swimwear. Post-pandemic, however, celebrities are slowly bringing back embellished swimsuits for seemingly every occasion. Think of Kim Kardashian West’s viral re-creation of Elle Woods’s Harvard Law admissions video from Legally Blonde or Dua Lipa’s incredible 2021 Grammy Awards look. Somehow, this bejeweled look is back.
But before you pass on this blast from the past, we’ve taken the liberty of rounding up the best rhinestone swimsuits on the market right now (along with a few sequin, crystal, and chain-embellished ones) to help you embrace your sparkle and bring this Y2K trend back in style.