Evaluating the fashion phenomenons of 2001, from Lil' Kim's pasties to Jennifer Lopez's fedora

It’s a sartorial question as old as the boxers-versus-briefs debate: How does any fashion plate worth her bath salts choose between comfort and style? In the year 2001, pop-culture tastes shifted from one extreme to another, extolling the virtues of granny underwear one minute (à la Bridget Jones’s Diary), and coveting the rib-bruising Moulin Rouge and Victoria’s Secret corsets the next. Post-9/11, there was even more change, with fashion followers eschewing ’80s-inspired, camouflage-heavy getups in favor of comfy charity tees and flowy peasant blouses. Here’s a look back at 2001 style.

THE NEW BLACK Julia Roberts, Debra Messing, and prison inmates all agree: The best way to dress up black is with its airy counterpart on the color wheel. Black-and-white designs were ubiquitous this year, with Roberts and Messing modeling the combos at the Oscars and the Golden Globes, respectively—not to mention the conservative crowds who wore the colors at the subdued Emmy ceremony.

KIM DANDY Perhaps the biggest style statement after Sept. 11 was made by everyone’s favorite lil’ fashion barometer, Lil’ Kim. After taking the red carpet at the MTV Movie Awards on June 2 in orange pasties and jeans, the rapper appeared at the Oct. 19 VH1/Vogue Fashion Awards in a comparatively ladylike Versace ensemble.

SWEET ‘N’ LOW What do Tara Reid and your plumber have in common? Butt cleavage. Reid, Britney Spears, Gwen Stefani, and Julia Stiles were among the hordes of glitterati who grabbed hipbone-baring, low-rise trousers by the armful. And whether the pants were Earl, Mudd, Seven, or Levi’s, they kept ab rollers (and bikini waxers) in business.

TOGA! TOGA! Gladiator may be sooo 2000, but its fashion legacy lives on. Slinky, sexy one-shouldered tops and dresses were seen on everyone from Jennifer Lopez to Angelina Jolie. And they definitely have a higher swish quotient than Crowe’s nerdy tweed-and-plaid ensembles in A Beautiful Mind.

A CUT ABOVE Audrey Tautou, star of the international hit Amélie, wins this year’s Jennifer Aniston award for most admired hairdo. Though Tautou’s choppy bob with bangs is perfect for her pixie-on-a-mission character, the actress admits the style is ”very difficult to maintain.”

HAT TRICK The fedora kept J. Lo from looking like a sample-sale refugee at the MTV Video Music Awards. And so hats—once reserved for bad hair days—came to the forefront. From Sarah Jessica Parker‘s newsboy to Madonna‘s cowboy, cute caps topped almost every fashionable Hollywood head.