Fashion at Oberlin Through the Decades

Check out the “lookbook” below for our favorite outfits of each decade!


The 2000s:

The decade of the contrast-collared ringer shirt, low-rise jeans, and bomber jackets. These looks may not feel too distant from the outfits we see around campus today. The early 2000s have made a comeback, recalling the simplicity of retro style: dominated by color blocking and secondary colors — green, orange, and purple — paired with creme. The more glamorized revival of this era, dubbed the “Y2K aesthetic,” leans into bubblegum pink and baby blue. You may have seen the butterfly hair clips, fuzzy purses, and platform sandals and felt the urge to set the ringtone to “Bye Bye Bye” on your BlackBerry phone.

Although it does not seem like many Obies were actually serving Y2K Paris Hilton at the time, is it more fun to embody history or a glossy retelling? Personally, there is a special place in my heart for the long point-collared shirt. However, I am drawn to the allure of tank tops and low-rise jeans, where a belt is the only statement piece I need.

All photos in this section are courtesy of the Instagram archive @oberlin_in_the_00s.


The 2010s:

The decade of Converse, checker plaid, and sleeveless zip-up hoodies. Personally, this was the fashion era that made me recoil the most, simply because I associate these trends with my time in middle school. In the archives, I found shameless combinations of patterns — mixing stripes with plaid — serving very much Disney Channel original cast. To its credit, this was quite a relaxed era of fashion. When you grew too hot in your buffalo plaid flannel, you tied it around your waist. Maybe if you wanted to dress up, you switched out your Low Top Converse for a chunky heel. My expectations were low for the “rawr XD” era of fashion, although to Oberlin’s credit I didn’t see a single mustache-print T-shirt — for that, I’m thankful.

Solarity photo courtesy of Ben Garfinkel. Band photo courtesy of Jake Rivas. Remaining photos courtesy of Kaïa Austin.


The 2020s:

The decade of jewelry maximalism, colorful eyeliner, earth tone cargo pants, and long flowing skirts. This era is all about layering: corset crop over long-sleeve button-up, crew neck under a short-sleeve collar, and necklace after necklace after necklace. The mass production of “fast fashion” has created an ethical problem, generating waste and environmental strain and employing exploitative labor practices. Thankfully, many students opt for cost-effective, “zero waste” options such as thrifting at Volunteers in North Olmsted or the Oberlin Free Store. Those who can afford it may attempt to buy from sustainable brands.

Many of us, although morally embarrassed to admit it, have probably had a SHEIN moment. In the digital sphere, microtrends rise and fade within weeks. Sometimes you buy the waist chain from SHEIN because it’s only $1.50 and you pretend to be shocked when it turns your skin green and breaks a month later. We live and we learn.

Marbled sheer shirts photo courtesy of Sylvie Weinstein. Monochrome black outfit photo courtesy of Khadijah Halliday. Tan vest, floral skirt photo courtesy of Rachel Wolchok. Blue eyeliner photo courtesy of Cecelia Blake.


This article was a continuation of Fashion at Oberlin Through the Decades by Mikaela Fishman. Fishman’s article covers Oberlin fashion through the decades of the 1960s to the 1990s. Check it out!