Emo Fashion Trends of the late 90s and early 00s (Women’s Edition)

Emo punk girl with purple hair and black thick framed glasses wearing a stud and dangling earring, plaid shirt and black tie
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Last Updated on January 5, 2022

The term “emo” probably won’t mean much to the kids of today, but for those of us who spend our childhood and teen years in the late 90s and early-mid 00s, it means a whole lot. The Emo phase was a major part of the 90s and 00s teen culture, in music, attitude, and fashion. 

“Emo” in many ways was inspired by punk and grunge styles. While it was predominantly a male orientated world in it’s later days it did have a touch of androgyny and femininity. In the late 90s and early noughties I was an emo kid myself, and embraced the emotional side of life. Get the tissues!

They shunned the trucker hats, baggy jeans, and chunky Globe shoes that other kids of the time wore, and embraced the depths of both geek chic and then gothic-inspired trends.

Time for an emo revival?

We think so! 

The 90s re-invented emo

With bands such as Weezer, Jimmy Eat World and Sunny Day Real Estate bursting onto the scene in the mid 90s it was only a matter of time before the world took notice of the emo subculture. Emo fashion in this decade was a lot more toned down than its successors.

Rivers Cuomo, Weezer

Key fashion items of the 90s emo era:

  • Everything geek chic
  • Skinny, two-tone and vintage logo T-shirts
  • Cardigans (Browns, yellows, reds and checkered patterns were popular)
  • Shrunken sweaters
  • Vans sneakers
  • Thick horn rimmed glasses
  • Earthy colored checked shirts and polo tops
  • Both baggy and skinny leg jeans


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The early 2000s, emo got mainstream

Celebrity Inspiration
Gerard Way from ‘My Chemical Romance’ was the quintessential mainstream emo-meets-goth kid. His straight, swept hair, pale skin, and hazy eyeliner inspired many, many a scene kid. Emo hairstyles were arguably the most iconic part of emo style (to the shock of many parents worldwide) To make this look modern, take a softer approach with your color, instead of the stark black dye-job.

How to: 

  • Try flattering colors such as honey and caramel, with a choppy side-swept fringe to pay homage to the emo years 
  • Play with feminine hues such as pale pink and peach to offset the harsh lines of the emo hairstyle 
  • Leave your straightened side fringe (or bangs) out, with a low-slung messy bun to combine emo-chic with classic casual style 
  • Avoid over-straightening and make sure you use a nourishing heat protectant to avoid that “fried” look so many emo kids succumbed to 
  • If you really want to show your emo colors, add a lip piercing (fake is fine!) and take a selfie from up-high to make your legs look tiny and your eyes huge. What a time to be alive. 

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Skinny jeans and studded belts 

The new gen emo kids
How could we usher in an emo revival without skinny black jeans and a studded belt? Instead of celebrity inspiration, let’s cast our minds back to the real emo kids, the ones who brought the trend to our home towns and cities. 
Happy My Chemical Romance Sticker by Meowingtons for iOS & Android | GIPHY
Source: giphy.com

The scene kids who wrote song lyrics on the rubber of their chucks and hung out in groups, wearing the tightest jeans known to man, and ties with t-shirts. Authentic emos would generally wear low-cut skinny jeans (especially the guys). Dudes wore their skinnies low, with a tight tee showing the hip bones and sometimes a sliver of skin if they were truly dedicated.

How to: 

  • Women can make this look modern and hot by picking high-waisted or mid-rise black jeans with a boot or straight cut. This will elongate and flatter the leg (and will be more comfortable, let’s be honest)
  • Add a studded belt, (crucial) with at least 2 rows of silver pyramid studs 
  • Pair the jeans with a linen shirt tucked into the waistband with the sleeves rolled up and the top button undone. This will give a slightly 1970’s vibe mixed with 90s/00s emo-pop (what a combo) 
  • Go all-out and pair a button-up shirt with a tie slung loosely around your neck. Avoid the “t-shirt and tie” look, or be prepared for plenty of Avril Lavigne comments

Smokey, smudgy eyeliner 

Celebrity inspiration
Brendon Urie, Pete Wentz, and Taylor Momsen were all champions of the quintessential emo beauty look, black eyeliner, and lots of it. It was applied with reckless abandon, and all around the perimeter of the eye.
Plotting Brendon Urie GIF by Music Choice - Find & Share on GIPHY
Source giphy.com

Some super-emos added a little red eyeliner (a la Gerard Way), while others added an oversized flick for an emo-meets-retro style. To make this look en-vogue and bring it into 2020s, it’s all about choosing shapes and hues to flatter your complexion. Think: emo…but make it fresh. 

How to: 

  • For very pale skin, try a coffee-brown or bronzey eyeliner pencil to avoid the harsh contrast of black. For tanned skin, bronze or even a deep emerald green liner would be killer. Very deep skin can pull off pure black liner 
  • Make the liner a little thicker at the outer corner of the top lid to open the eye. Smudge it out with a stubby, short brush 
  • Use a light hand to draw under the eye and blend thoroughly with a stubby brush to avoid a harsh line that makes you look more like a panda than a sultry emo goddess 
  • Don’t connect the liner at the inner corner of the eye as you will make your eyes look smaller and a little unnatural. Leave the inner corner clean, or with a dab of pearly shimmer to keep it fresh and open 
  • Take a little bronzer or natural taupe eyeshadow into the crease to contour and warm the eye 

Read: 11 Top Punk Clothing Brands that Defines the Subculture