Don Tormey/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
For those of us who grew up in the late '90s and early '00s, hanging out at the local mall wasn't just considered cool — it was a rite of passage and a regular pastime. It wasn't weird to just wander around with your friends for hours, hitting up Sam Goody for the newest CDs before perusing Natural Wonders, where you'd contemplate whether or not you really needed a rain stick.
For fashion-lovers like us, our hard-earned allowance or early paychecks went toward clothing and accessories. And, if we're being honest, a handful of our core memories are actually tied to shopping for words-on-the-but pants and ruched dresses, most of which came from stores that don't even exist anymore.
Maybe it's the resurgence of early aughts trends, or the fact that we sometimes miss the days of flip phones with no Internet access, but recently, we've been getting nostalgic for our favorite Y2K stores. Yes, we still hope that low-rise jeans and flavored frosted lipgloss never fully make a comeback, but if these throwbacks suddenly resurfaced? We definitely wouldn't mind.
Michael Seamans/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images
The flared jeans and graphic T-shirts that featured dogs with soccer balls were irresistible to the pre-teens of this era. It was a good day if you also found a fuzzy scarf or a tattoo choker necklace to add to your purchase, or you happened to wander in on a "Too Bucks" day, which essentially meant you got coupons to spend on your next visit.
Did we really need a more expensive version of Abercrombie & Fitch? No, not at all. But that small fact didn't stop us from wandering into another one of these dimly lit stores and spending way too much on a logo hoodie.
Not only were the catalogs iconic (and now seem to be a source of inspiration for Gen Z fashion), but the retail store was always on our list any time we took a trip to the mall. Where else could we find denim maxi skirts, zebra halter tops, ponchos, and even graphic tees that made us feel like Lizze McGuire? These days, the brand lives on through Dolls Kill.
Alexandra Garcia/The Washington Post via Getty Images
We have fond memories of searching these racks in a panic, trying to find a sexy yet sophisticated dress for some sort of school dance or Sweet 16. If you liked tight and ruched designs, this right here was probably your go-to.
We're not entirely sure if this one existed beyond the East Coast or tristate area, but every mall surely had a store where you easily stock up on words-on-butt pants, babydoll dresses, and $1 thongs. This one had all that and more.
Warner Bros. Studio Store
For a moment, it felt like Disney and Warner Brothers were fierce competitors with similar stores. And while princess gear can still be purchased in person, the latter went out of business in 2001, forcing us to say goodbye to random Looney Tunes shirts and a replica of Marvin the Martian's spaceship, which could be found in a variety of locations.
Technically, this store opened in 1945 — and closed all its retail locations in 2016 — but in our mind, it'll live on as a very specific aughts go-to, where everything was neon or animal print and the bangle bracelets were smartly places by the register, making them impossible to resist.
James Leynse/Corbis via Getty Images
We'll forever think of this store any time we're shopping for wardrobe essentials. Does you waitressing job or chorus performance require you to wear black trousers? Are you in search of some colorful V-necks or yoga pants that fold at the top? You can probably find 'em at Wet Seal — and, if you're lucky, they'll be in those massive sale racks in the back, too.
To be honest, there may not be a store on this list that didn't sell batwing sweaters or illusion-neckline dresses, but we can't forget to mention Deb. The death of this store was pretty sad, too: after shuttering all retail locations in 2015, it offered a variety of sizes, including plus, online — until 2018, when the site shut down, too.
Tim Boyle/Getty Images
If a late '90s, early aughts Gadzooks reopened today, a number of fashion lovers would feel as if they'd hit the jackpot. Between the baggy JNCO jeans, flannel shirts, and platform shoes, the selection would likely right in with the trends of today.
If you're a millennial, chances are you'd walk by this store, take one look at the button-downs and pencil skirts in the window, and vow you'd visit when you were older and, you know, had an office job. Thankfully, workwear has become a little less formal — which probably wasn't so great for The Limited's business model. It officially closed it stores in 2017.
Don Lansu/WireImage for Steve and Barry's
Steve & Barry's
If you forgot about this store, we don't blame you — but please, please, try to remember! Aside from selling sweatshirts that represent your specific college or favorite sports team, Steve & Barry's was home to Sarah Jessica Parker's clothing line, Bitten, as well as Amanda Bynes' DEAR. It was quite the time.
For the most part, Afaze was where you went during a time when statement costume jewelry was all the rage. You knew this store sold very large geometric necklaces and drop earrings, and you'd probably add a $15 pair of flats for your purchase, which hung on a hanger on a spinning stand.