It was difficult to pinpoint the Nineties’ fashion. There were many trends that screamed for attention, while others were so quiet cool, they are still staples in our collective wardrobes. Slip dresses, Doc Martens and chokers are just a few of the sartorial choices. Style in the 1990s was a lot more low-maintenance than it was in 1980.
Perhaps the most obvious example is the slip dress, which was one of the decade’s most durable garments. Spaghetti straps supported barely-there silk dresses and swapped the frills of ’80s for minimalist simplicity. Biker shorts, turtlenecks and high-waisted jeans were the norm on weekends. Hair was either shaved into scrunchies, or left unstyled.
Celebrity supermodels were also born in the ’90s. Linda Evangelista, who summed up the excesses of the industry at the beginning of the decade by saying that she wouldn’t get out the bed for less than $10,000 a night, was one of them.
Evangelista was joined by Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington at Versace’s final Fall 1991 collection. They walked hand-in-hand down the runway, lip-syncing George Michael’s lyrics “Freedom!” “90” — The music video in which they all had starred. It was in the early 1990s.
From glam to grunge
However, by the middle of the decade, the glamazons had been replaced with a more humane type of beauty. Kate Moss is the best example of this new, waif-like feminineity. Grunge was also gaining popularity. Marc Jacobs, then 29, walked the catwalk in a Perry Ellis show in 1993 that featured unstructured pieces, Doc Martens, and plaid shirts. He was widely criticized, and eventually fired. The collection was a turning point in fashion’s history, and it helped him to build his career.
Chanel’s Spring 1994 collection was also inspired by street fashion. Models were dressed in skates and baggy boy shorts, with rapper’s chains. Calvin Klein, on the other hand, presented lingerie-layered pieces. He told Vogue that Calvin Klein’s lingerie-layered pieces were about the personal, about being in control and not showing off what you have.
Fashion evolved from being functional to becoming more feminine as the decade went on. Tom Ford, in his first Gucci show, reinvented the Italian brand by wearing velvet trousers and satin shirts, which Madonna endorsed at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards. Alexander McQueen was a pioneer in explicit provocation. He created a series of experimental shows that included models wearing various metal restraints.
Remember Cher’s plaid yellow blazer that transformed the hallway of a high school into a runway? For a generation of teenagers raised on MTV and the fictional lives and adventures of their peers — Beverly Hills, 90210, and Bel-Air to name a few — fashion was defined as a mixture of preppy garments (duster covers, plaid miniskirts and knee-high boots), and slouchy cardigans and ripped jeans.
Skechers and Keds were cool, but Timberlands was the shoe of choice for those who loved rap. Reebok Pumps were the holy grail of sneakerheads and combat boots were the hallmark for Kurt Cobain-enamored children. Tracksuits began to appear everywhere in the mid-1990s. Juicy Couture would continue this trend well into 2000.
It girls and it broody boys
The list of celebs who defined the ’90s fashion scene — and their best fashion moments — seems endless, just like “Friends,” which is reruns every few weeks. Some classic 1990s hairstyles were worn by the cast of Friends.
The sitcom provided the perfect example of mid- to late-90s fashion with Jennifer Aniston’s Rachel leading the charge and her famously slicked hair. Sarah Jessica Parker (both on HBO’s “Sex and the City”), Alicia Silverstone (Clueless), Naomi Campbell and Tyra banks were also part of our style guidelines.
The men were, however, broody — Jared Leto and Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp — and their casual looks featured casual dressing with a preference for leather jackets, white T-shirts and minimal tailoring. Anyone who was anything throughout the decade made a strong case for effortless elegance. They wore double-breasted waistcoats and blazers or coordinated head to toe looks. This made even more impact when they were praised by couples (Gwyneth & Brad) and girl groups like TLC and Destiny’s Child.
Celebrity fashion changed as the decade ended. The hemlines became shorter and the outfits were more flashy (Lil’ Kim was the best at this trend) and the pants became lower-rise. The 2000s were coming, and they were ready to take their stylistic toll
’90s back, alright!
The 1990s are alive and well today. Fashion’s tendency to look back has made the 1990s one of its most productive sources of inspiration. This has led to a renewed appreciation for Champion sweatshirts and Nirvana T-shirts.
Brands like Saint Laurent and Off-White, Gucci, Prabal Gurung, and Gucci have rediscovered the greatest trends of the era, including velvet, pastel slips, and biker shorts. The ’90s aesthetic is the core of Vetements’ raison d’etre.
The revival isn’t over at the clothes. Supermodels from the Nineties are back on the runways. From Naomi closing Saint Laurent spring 2020 last Sept. to Christy Turlington walking Marc Jacobs Fall 2019 show, all but one of them is Naomi. Hailey Baldwin and Justin Bieber did an excellent job last year of recreating that sexy Calvin Klein ad. Even Friends is planning a reunion.
We feel a sense of collective nostalgia that keeps us coming back. Perhaps it was because the ’90s were all about easy and fun looks. There was something for everyone, including sheer fabrics, too much satin, cargo shorts and capri pants, small sunglasses, double denim, and tiny sunglasses.
The simplicity of it all sounds appealing right now.