This season, the denim maxi skirt has emerged in full force. Givenchy’s Spring 2023 collection featured many denim pieces, the most notable being a distressed maxi denim skirt worn by Bella Hadid. British brands Burberry showed a mermaid-esque denim maxi skirt that flowed with every step. Street style trendsetters like the Hadid sisters and Julia Fox are on board. The garment is everywhere, in a myriad of washes. “It’s another interpretation of denim that feels a bit more creative and different,” says Toronto editorial stylist Carla Candela.
Like many other revived Y2K trends—low-waisted jeans, frilly lingerie tops, motorcycle sunglasses—the denim maxi is an emblem of early 2000s fashion. But denim maxi skirts emerged as a wardrobe staple in the 1970s. Originally crafted by repurposing a pair of jeans, elements like front snaps and distressed patchwork denim echoed the flower-child aesthetic of the decade. Throughout the ’80s, hemlines got shorter and acid wash denim went all the rage. It wasn’t until the late ’90s and new millennium that the maxi denim skirt made a return—often bejewelled, distressed or flared to early-aughts perfection.
Since its inception, denim was considered exclusively casual. It was Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake’s iconic denim-on-denim moment at the 2001 American Music Awards that put a dressier spin on the trend, particularly Spears’ floor-sweeping patchwork denim gown. “They really brought it home in their denim looks. I feel like that was a comment on the Canadian tuxedo, but they brought it onto the red carpet and elevated it,” says Candela. Other stars of the time like Mandy Moore and Sarah Jessica Parker also wore the denim maxi for everyday, pairing it with spaghetti strap tank tops and kitten heels.
Really, the styling options are endless. “It can feel like it’s like an intimidating piece to style, but it’s actually quite diverse and super fun and playful,” says Candela. Lean into the hyper-feminine look of the early 2000s with a slinky tank and kitten heels, or go for an androgynous look with an oversized blazer and loafers (à la Avril Lavigne).
When it comes to fit, Candela recommends looking for a style that hugs your hips. “You definitely want a skirt that highlights the best parts of your curves, whether big or small, and then flows a little bit more A-line or a bit more straight,” she says. If you’re worried that the extended length will make you look frumpy, consider a style with a slit to show a little leg and allow for more breeze and movement. And pay attention to the hem. “Make sure that the length hits right about mid-ankle so that you can still show a bit of shoe and add a bit of length without cutting yourself off.” Noted.
When it comes to sourcing any Y2K trend, my first stop is always a secondhand or vintage store. The quality is superior, the options are endless and it’s more affordable. “Vintage is always the way to go when you’re trying to find something that’s so specific to an era. It’s the best feeling when you find something vintage that fits you perfectly,” says Candela. “Denim maxi skirts were everywhere [in the early 2000s], and they weren’t a novelty. If you can find one from back then, there’s just more options to play with because they were so part of that time.”
As someone who has been partial to a shorter skirt since childhood (I wore a denim mini skirt to my first day of third grade), trying out a maxi skirt of any kind seemed unfathomable. I couldn’t bear the idea of my legs being confined in material terms, of not being able to walk freely. But I found my perfect dark denim maxi skirt at a thrift store one Saturday night. To my surprise, it fits my curves like a glove and then flares out into that A-line silhouette. The length hit just above my ankles, allowing a shoe to peek out. And how did I feel? Effortlessly cool.
Shop the trends
Between the vintage racks and the great options below, it’s never been a better time to shop for a denim maxi skirt
A pale denim wash and delicate waist tie make this skirt a perfect piece to anchor dainty patio season looks.
Free People skirt
Channel the ’80s attitude with a stonewash finish and waist seaming.
A sleek cut and darkest denim wash makes this one ideal for a polished office outfit—just add a blazer.
Trust Ref to bring the sexiness with a thigh-high slit and curve hugging cut.
Minimalists, look no further: your perfect clean-cut, black denim long skirt is here.