Be honest—one of your favorite parts about going out (besides the drinks!) is putting together the perfect outfit. Every year, clubs, bars, house parties, and restaurants everywhere are packed with the latest style trends. And over time, things have changed quite a bit. And by “a bit,” I mean a ton. The Paris Hilton-era rhinestones are a thing of the past, and now you have plenty of other options besides those late ’00s Hervé Léger bodycon numbers. Nevertheless, these looks are forever associated with going out on the town with your best friends, and so they remain an important part of fashion history. Click through to see the ultimate party trends since 1988.
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1988: Ruched Dresses With Giant Sleeves
Brooke Shields wore this polka-dot number with a ruched bodice back when the style was *so* in. And, of course, it wouldn’t be the ’80s without statement puffy sleeves AND hair.
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1989: Spandex Bike Shorts
Madonna proved that you can wear bike shorts even if don’t happen to be cycling. (The trend made a comeback thanks to the Kardashians.) The Material Girl dressed up hers with a back tank top, black loafers, and gold jewelry at a concert in Los Angeles.
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1990: Satin Color-Blocked Dresses
Everyone had a dress like this in 1990. Whether it was blue or green or pink, it was always color-blocked and satin. Model Jerry Hall paired her slightly off-the-shoulder version with a black bag and sheer tights.
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1991: Leather Jackets
Cher showed us what it meant to be motorcycle chic in this leather biker jacket, which she paired with a sheer top and light-wash jeans. Nirvana released their infamous album Nevermind the same year, and the band’s grunge influence also made waves on the fashion scene.
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1992: Button-Down Shirts Tied Around the Waist
Even supermodels like Naomi Campbell weren’t immune to button-downs, often choosing to tie them around their waists. Naomi wore hers with a knitted black crochet beanie to an awards ceremony in New York City.
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1993: Denim Jackets
Drew Barrymore proved that a party look doesn’t necessarily have to be dressy. Here, she rocked a denim jacket with contrast stitching — and a plush Mickey Mouse backpack, no less — to a premiere in Westwood, California.
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1994: Sheer Dresses
A delicate, sheer dress covered by a just-as-sheer shirt was the lewk for ’94, demonstrated by none other than fashionable It girl Sarah Jessica Parker. Although Sex and the City didn’t premiere until four years later, she totally channeled Carrie Bradshaw with this look, which she completed with a black bag and block-heel sandals.
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1995: Super Strappy Bra Tops
Underwear as outerwear was the party look of ’95. Bonus points if it was strappy and crocheted, like Jada Pinkett Smith’s turquoise two-piece ensemble, which she wore to the Devil in a Blue Dress movie premiere in Beverly Hills.
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1996: Babydoll Dresses
Babydoll dresses with a square neckline, like Mariah Carey’s, were a staple in everyone’s “going out” wardrobe in the mid-’90s — ESPECIALLY if they featured a tiny belt that wrapped right under your boobs.
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1997: Tube Dresses
In ’97 it was all about simplicity — an outfit you could simply pull over your head with no straps and no zippers was key. And, of course, it absolutely had to match your shoes, like Tyra’s red tube dress and red heels.
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1998: Spaghetti-Strap Tops
Anything with spaghetti straps was definitely on trend in ’98, and Gwyneth Paltrow modeled the look at a Beck concert in New York City with her grey-blue tank. Her sandals and bag handle also featured thin straps, really driving home the popularity of the style.
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1999: Metallic Overload
From her cropped copper bomber jacket to the silver metallic snakeskin patterned pants, Britney Spears’ look was perfect for hitting the town — or, in her case, the MTV Video Music Awards.
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2000: Head-to-Toe Pink
With the new millennium came the groundbreaking trend of all-pink party outfits, like Mary J. Blige’s matching leather ensemble featuring a crop top, vest, knee-high boots, and even pink highlights. The look is so bright it’s like staring straight at the sun — except it’s hot pink.
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2001: Handkerchief Crop Tops
Handkerchief tops really swept the party scene in 2001, and Christina Aguilera was the queen of the trend. They were always cropped and paired with low-rise jeans, although you could also use a bandana to create the same effect. A newsboy cap to accessorize was optional but definitely encouraged.
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2002: Rhinestone Dresses
Paris Hilton’s 21st birthday dress is probably the party look to end all party looks. She wore this rhinestone-covered halter dress with a huge rhinestone choker to her big bash in London, along with a little tiara and very of-the-time butterfly clips. TBH, we wouldn’t expect anything less from the heiress.
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2003: Drapey Necklines
Another Hilton, another party look. Nicky Hilton wore this pale blue dress with a draped neckline to a party in Las Vegas, complete with a matching blue watch, metallic heels, and a flawless pink mani/pedi. The dress also featured a strap across the front that can only be described as seatbelt-esque.
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2004: Halterneck Tops and Boot-Leg Jeans
Gabrielle Union showed up to Teen Vogue‘s Young Hollywood party in this baby-blue halter neck top and boot-leg jeans. Every girl had an outfit like this in her closet in the early aughts, right down to the silver sandals and brown leather bag.
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2005: Dropwaist Dresses
Nicole Richie wore this patterned dropwaist dress with a blue belt and silver heels on the pink carpet at a T-Mobile Sidekick and Juicy Couture event.
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2006: Leggings and Babydoll Tops
Outfits like Ashley Tisdale’s long babydoll top, worn over knee-length leggings, were commonplace on a night out in 2006. And the best part? You really could dress your whole look up or down depending on the length of your leggings.
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2007: Sequin Minis
Lindsay Lohan (a.k.a. LiLo) practically invented the sequin mini party dress. Avid partygoer that she was, her sparkly number (and matching silver Mary Jane shoes) was the going-out look of 2007.
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2008: Tiered, Ruffle Dresses
The year 2008 was all about ruffles and tiered dresses — better yet if they featured halter necks. The old Taylor Swift rocked hers at MTV’s studios in New York City with cowboy boots — way back when she was still a country darling best known for “Teardrops On My Guitar.”
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2009: Hervé Léger Bandage Dresses
“Bandage” dresses, as they were so delightfully called, were a trend you couldn’t miss. Hervé Léger practically invented these figure-hugging bodycon cocktail dresses that everyone wore to parties — fittingly, Hilary Duff wore hers to Hervé Léger’s runway show in New York City.
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2010: Bright, Strapless Dresses With so Many Necklaces
Bright AF strapless dresses, like Vanessa Hudgens’ here, were a wardrobe staple in 2010 and best paired with a million long necklaces. Here, Vanessa and her many necklaces were spotted arriving to a party at Soho House in West Hollywood.
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2011: Leopard Print and Leather Pants
Leopard print (or basically any animal print) popped up in 2011, especially on post-Disney/Nickelodeon starlets like Victoria Justice. If leopard print wasn’t sexy enough, leather pants REALLY made it a party look.
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2012: Peplum Everything
Peplum made a splash on the fashion scene in 2012 — you were hard-pressed to find a shirt, dress, or skirt that year that didn’t have those extra waist-defining flaps of fabric. Mila Kunis wore her black dress, which featured a peplum waist, to the premiere of Ted in Los Angeles.
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2013: High-Waisted Shorts and Crop Tops
In 2013, it was hard to find anyone at a party not wearing high-waisted shorts like Miley Cyrus’. And, nearly 100 percent of the time, they were paired with a crop top.
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2014: Matching Top-and-Skirt Sets
This was the year of everything matchy, as demonstrated by Selena Gomez (and even Taylor Swift — remember all her insanely matchy outfits?). These sets were amazing, because you didn’t have to think too much about what to wear — all you had to do was pick out some shoes and a bag, and you were done. Selena wore her burgundy party look with a keyhole cutout to the iHeartRadio Music Awards in Los Angeles.
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2015: Lace-Up Everything
Remember when peplum was everywhere? It had nothing on all the lace-up shirts, sleeves, skirts, and dresses of 2015, and it’s even a happening trend on the party scene today, if you can believe it. Kim Kardashian wore this black sheer top with lacing on the neck and sleeves while out with her sister, Kourtney, in New York City.
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2016: Slip Dresses
This was the year that slip dresses, popularized in the ’90s, became a wardrobe staple to wear out, especially when paired with a lacy bralette underneath. Hailey Baldwin wore her yellow version in New York City, accessorizing with neutral sock boots — another very on-trend style that year.
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2017: Off-the-Shoulder Tops and Chokers
The year 2017 was the year of exposing your shoulders — because these tops were EVERYWHERE. Bella Hadid wore her off-the-shoulder top with a leather jacket and skirt and white ankle booties in New York City. And really, if you’re going out with a shoulder-baring top, there’s no better way to accessorize than with a ton of chokers.
Janaya Wecker Lifestyle Editor Janaya is a Lifestyle Editor for Hearst Magazines.
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