1990s in fashion

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A group of people in January 1999 sporting various mid and late 1990s fashions.

The fashion in the 1990s was the genesis of a sweeping shift in the western world: the beginning of the adoption of tattoos,[1] body piercings aside from ear piercing[2] and to a lesser extent, other forms of body modification such as branding. This brought back the indifferent, anti-conformist approach to fashion, leading to the popularisation of the casual chic look; this included T-shirts, jeans, hoodies, and trainers, a trend which continued into the 2000s.

In the early 1990s, several late 1980s fashions remained very stylish among both sexes. However, the popularity of grunge and alternative rock music helped bring the simple, unkempt grunge look into the mainstream by 1994.

Overall, the 1990s saw a return to the minimalist fashion of the 1950s and 1970s,[3] contrasted to the more elaborate and flashy trends of the 1980s. Additionally, fashion trends throughout the decade recycled styles from previous decades,[4] notably the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

Women's fashion[edit]

Early 1990s (1990-1993)[edit]

Young woman standing on sidewalk, Uptown New Orleans, 1992.

Supermodels and High Fashion[edit]

Neon Colors[edit]

Leggings and Exercise-Wear[edit]

Mid-1990s (1994-1996)[edit]

1970s Revival[edit]

Woman wearing a shoulder padded top, black sunglasses, fishnet tights, and fashion boots in 1996.
  • 1994 saw a revival of the late 1960s/early 1970s hippie influenced fashion, including floral maxi dresses, turtleneck shirts, lace blouses, Gypsy tops, and tie dye T-shirts made at home.[6][7] In America, Britain and Australia, long floral skirts, olive green dresses, Paisley scarfs, and yellow or blue denim shortalls were very popular.
  • Women in the mid 1990s generally had less of an interest in provocative clothing, with comfort and freedom being the most important when it came to fashion. Both long and short skirts were favored,[8] and women wore what they wanted instead of listening to what fashion designers say was "in". However, the push-up bra was quite popular among those who did want to enhance their appearance.[9]
  • The most popular pant style from 1995 onwards was a lean and straight style with a somewhat low rise.[8] This was also the year that hot pants made a comeback,[10] and black Lycra leggings were revived a year later.[11]
  • Around 1996, fashion started to take cues from the disco fashion of the mid–late 1970s. This included pleather pants,[12] yoga pants, halter tops,[13] metallic clothing,[14] crop tops, tube tops, maxi coats, maxi skirts, and boot-cut dress pants.[11] Popular colors included plum, chocolate, and navy, all of which replaced black,[11] which had become ubiquitous.[15] This continued into the 2000s.

Preppy and Conservative Chic[edit]

Slip dresses first became widely worn in the mid-90s, as part of the underwear-as-outerwear trend. (Jane Leeves, 1995)
  • In the second half of the '90s, there was a revival of 1960s Modernist clothing styles and accessories. The revival consisted of collarless coats, slim-fit tailored pantsuits, checkerboard-print clothing, belted trench coats, and leather.[10]
  • In 1995, the film Clueless inspired a rejuvenation of women's preppy clothing from the mid 1960s. The lead character Cher Horowitz had a profound influence on women's fashions, and she is considered a fashion icon of the 1990s. The film and character popularized knee-high socks, thigh-high socks, blazers and skirts in matching plaid patterns,[16] collared shirts, slip dresses, and microskirts.[17]
  • Almost simultaneously with Clueless, 1950s ladylike fashions made a comeback in the United States. This included pencil skirts, cardigans, girdles, and fitted suits.[18] Popular accessories that went hand-in-hand with this revival included brooches, white gloves, sheer stockings, diamonds, sequins, and red lipstick.[18]

Designer Clothing[edit]

Late 1990s (1997-1999)[edit]

Young woman wearing a spaghetti strap top, a silver necklace, low ponytail and straight-leg jeans, circa 1999.

The Return of Color[edit]

Men's fashion[edit]

Early 1990s (1990-1993)[edit]

Grunge Look[edit]

Grunge-style flannel shirt and curtained hair, 1993

Mid 1990s (1994-1996)[edit]

Cool Britannia and 70s Revival[edit]

Trio in 1995 wearing neutral-colored tops and relaxed-fit, slim-leg pants and jeans.
  • Around 1995/1996, 1960s mod clothing and longer hair were popular in Britain, Canada, and the USA due to the success of Britpop. Men wore Aloha shirts,[29] brown leather jackets, velvet blazers, paisley shirts, throwback pullover baseball jerseys, and graphic-print T-shirts (often featuring dragons, athletic logos or numbers). Real fur went out of fashion and fake fur became the standard.[8]
  • The 1970s became a dominant theme for inspiration on men's apparel in 1996. Among these clothing styles were coats with fur- or faux fur-trimmings, jackets with bold shoulders and wide lapels, and boot-cut slacks.[11] This continued into the 2000s. Casual clothes such as trousers, sweaters, and denim jackets were made of satin, PVC, and terry cloth. Both pastel colors and bold patterns were popular and successfully replaced black.[10]
  • Desirable accessories during the mid-1990s included loafers, desert boots, chelsea boots, gold jewellery, boat shoes, chunky digital watches, solid colored ties, shoulder bags, and black/neon colored high-top sneakers replaced combat boots.[8]

Modern Preppy[edit]


Late 1990s (1997-1999)[edit]

Rave Culture and Streetwear[edit]

Trinidadian men wearing typical late 90s fashions, 1997.
  • By the late 1990s, the grunge look became unfashionable. The emergence of the rave subculture had sparked a revival of interest in more stylish clothes, with name brand designers such as Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren making a comeback.[9] In Europe, jeans were more popular than ever before.[22] Color started returning by 1997, with colors such as plum, charcoal, olive, and wine coming into.[24] Colors continued to evolve from there until the return of bright colors by 1999,[34] with shades such as "camillia rose", "blazing orange", "whisper pink", "hot coral", and a light-grayish blue called "wind chime" coming into style.[19]
  • Young men favored preppy brands like Old Navy and Abercrombie & Fitch. Sportswear such as casual jackets, T-shirts, sweaters, and tennis shoes became more acceptable to wear in public during the late 90s, even to the point of the clothes being considered fashionable. Other popular trends included hoodies, jean shorts,[9] khaki cargo pants,[22] baggy basketball shorts, chinos,[22] tracksuits and black bomber jackets with orange linings. This continued into the 2000s.
  • Much of men's fashion in 1997 was inspired by the 1996 film Swingers,[24] leading to the popularization of the "dressy casual" look. Such apparel included blazers or leather jackets, camp shirts or long-sleeve button-downs in either a variety of prints or a solid color, and loose-fitting flat-front khaki chinos or dress pants. Around this time it became fashionable to leave shirts untucked.

Business wear[edit]

  • In Europe, single-breasted three and four button notch lapel suits in grey or navy blue, together with leather jackets based on the same cut as blazers, began to replace the 1980s power suits. The wide neckties of the early 90s remained the norm, but the colors became darker and stripes and patterns were less common. Tweed cloth and houndstooth sportcoats went out of fashion due to their association with older men.[35] Dress shoes (usually in black) included chelsea boots with rounded or square toes, wingtips, and monkstraps.[24]
  • In America, an increasing number of men began to dress smart-casual and business casual, a trend kickstarted by Bill Gates of Microsoft.[36] At more formal events such as weddings or proms, men often wear boxy three[37] or four button, single-breasted suits with a brightly colored tie and an oftentimes matching dress shirt. Another trend was to wear black shirts, black ties, and black suits.[21] Black leather reefer jackets and trenchcoats were also fashionable in the late 1990s.[38]

Youth fashion[edit]

General trends[edit]

  • The dominant youth clothing fad at the beginning of the 1990s was fluorescent clothing in blue, green, orange, pink, and yellow. Hoop earrings were also a popular accessory for teenaged girls and women in the first years of the 1990s. Plaid shirts were also popular. Popular colors for girls included coral, hot pink, and turquoise. In Britain and the USA, girls wore oversized tee shirts, sweat shirts, sweaters, slouch socks worn over sweatpants or leggings, black or white lace trimmed bike shorts with babydoll dresses, belts worn with dresses, sweaters, and T-shirts, flats, Keds, Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars, shortalls, leotards worn as tops with jeans, and athletic shorts. Boys wore soccer shorts, jean jackets, tartan shirts, tapered acid wash jeans, and sweatpants. For example, in the Southern Suburbs of Chicago during the late 1980s and early 1990s, Z Cavericci pants and IOU sweatshirts were worn by members of the middle/upper-middle class.
  • For much of the 1990s, particularly the middle years, teenage boys and girls bought and wore very basic clothes, such as overalls, flannel shirts, and backpacks. Popular stores selling these items included Gap and Urban Outfitters.[10] In the late 1990s, American teenage girls imitated the look of British girl group All Saints, which consisted of baggy jeans, T-shirts, sweatshirts, tanktops, and trainers,[39] as well as cargo pants, camouflage prints, and crop tops.[40]
  • For younger children, the mid-late 1990s was the Golden Age of Disney films with T-shirts and sweaters featuring characters like Simba, Mickey Mouse, Aladdin, and Winnie the Pooh. Tartan trousers, striped shirts, long sleeved polo shirts, and sweaters were worn by young boys in the UK and the USA. Blue denim and railroad stripe overalls were also popular for females, as seen on television and commercials throughout the decade, and for teenagers, who would leave either strap hanging loose. A common outfit for all girls, especially tweens and teens, was to wear a skirt, dress shorts, baby doll dress or short dress with black opaque tights, white slouch socks and Converse shoes.
Main article: Grunge
  • The new wave and heavy metal fashion of the 1980s lasted until early 1992, when Grunge and hip hop fashion took over in popularity.[41] By the mid-1990s the grunge style had gone mainstream in Britain and the US, resulting in a decline in bright colors from 1995 until the late 2000s, and was dominated by tartan flannel shirts, stonewashed blue jeans, and dark colors like maroon, forest green, indigo, brown, white and black.
  • Grunge fashion remained popular among the British skater subculture until the late 1990s as the hard-wearing, loose-fitting clothing was cheap and provided good protection.[42] Members of the subculture were nicknamed grebos or moshers and included those who did not skate.
Main article: Hip-hop fashion
Main article: Cool Britannia
Example of late 1990s goth fashion.
Psychobilly and Punk
Main article: Punk fashion
Main article: Preppy

1990s beauty trends[edit]


Women's hairstyles[edit]

Monica Lewinsky in 1997 sporting volumized hair and bangs.

Women's hair in the early 1990s continued in the big, curly style of the 1980s.

The pixie cut and Rachel haircut, based on the hairstyles of Jennifer Aniston in Friends and Marlo Thomas in That Girl, were popular in America from 1995 onwards.[52] Around the same time red hair also became a desirable color for women, as well as feathered bangs,[8] and mini hair-buns.[53] From 1995 onwards, dark-haired women tended to dye their hair a lighter color with blonde highlights (popularized by Jennifer Aniston) until about 2008.

In the late 1990s, the Bob cut was well-desired, popularized and rejuvenated by Posh Spice. This late 1990s-style bob cut featured a center, side, or zig-zag parting, as opposed to the thick bangs of the early 1990s. The Farrah Fawcett hairstyle made a comeback in 1997, with highlights going hand-in-hand with this revival.[54] Other late '90s haircuts included "Felicity curls" (popularized by Keri Russell in the hit TV show Felicity, the Fishtail Half-Up, and pigtails,[53] as well as the continuation of mid '90s hairdos.

Men's hairstyles[edit]

Young man in 1995 sporting an earring and a short undercut hairstyle.

The 1990s generally saw the continued popularity of longer hair on men. In the early 1990s, curtained hair and small ponytails were popular among yuppies. Other trends included Flattops, Hi-top fades, and cornrows.[55]

In the mid 1990s, men's hairstyle trends went in several different directions. Younger men who were more amenable had adopted the Caesar cut,[56] either natural or dyed. This style was popularized by George Clooney[57] on the hit TV show ER in season two, which premiered in mid 1995. More rebellious young men went for longer, unkempt "grunge" hair,[55] often with a center parting. The curtained hairstyle was at its peak in popularity.[58] Meanwhile, men over 30 had conservative 1950s style haircuts or the Caesar cut.[55]

By 1997, it was considered unstylish and unattractive for men and boys to have longer hair (with the exception of celebrities like Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt around 1999), and as a result short hair completely took over. From 1997 onwards, aside from curtained hair (which was popular throughout the decade), spiky hair,[55] bleached hair,[55] crew cuts, and variants of the quiff became popular among younger men. Dark haired men dyed their spikes blonde or added wavy blonde streaks, a trend which continued into the early 2000s. For African-American men, the cornrows and buzz cut were a popular trend that continued into the early 2000s.

Children's and teenager's hairstyles[edit]

For teenage boys longer hair was popular in the early to mid-1990s, including collar-length curtained hair, shaggy surfer hair popular among some Britpop fans, and dreadlocks. During the mid-1990s, the much-ridiculed bowl cut became a fad among skaters, while hip-hop fans wore a variant of the flattop known as the Hi-top fade. In the late 1990s, hair was usually buzzed very short for an athletic look, although a few grunge fans grew their hair long in reaction to this.

For teenage girls and younger children, hair was worn long with heavily teased bangs called "mall bangs" which were long fringes covering the forehead. Headbands and scrunchies of various styles and colors were popular with girls throughout the early and mid 1990s, and they frequently wore them with side ponytails and bangs.

Makeup and cosmetic trends[edit]

Darker shade of lipstick seemed popular amongst women in the 90s. The trend continued until the early 2000s. (Madonna, 1990)[59]

Women's makeup in the early 1990s primarily consisted of dark red lipstick and neutral eyes.[60] Around 1992 the "grunge look" came in to style among younger women and the look was based on dark red lipstick and smudged eyeliner and eyeshadow. Both styles of makeup continued into 1994,[61] but went out of style the next year.

The trends in makeup shifted in the mid 1990s. In 1995, nude shades became desirable and women had a broader color palette in brown. Another makeup trend that emerged was matte lipsticks, with deep shades of red and dark wine colors worn as part of night makeup.[62] Blue-frosted eye shadow became fashionable,[8] and was eventually integrated into the Y2K makeup of the late '90s/early '00s. Gothic makeup had broken into the mainstream, having been made up of vamp lipstick (or even black lipstick), heavy mascara and eyeliner, often purple-tinted eye shadow (or else very dark blue), and extremely pale foundation. The Gothic makeup remained relevant in the later years of the decade.

By 1997, glittery, sparkling makeup had come into style.[63] This was called "Y2K makeup", consisting of facial glitter and lip gloss. Blue-frosted eye shadow remained a staple of late 1990s makeup, although silver was ideal look. Dark eyeliner was considered bodacious. Pale, shiny lips became desirable, as lip gloss largely replaced lipstick.[60] An alternative for those who did not like metallics were purples and browns.[63] Goth makeup and Y2K makeup continued into the early 2000s.


A selection of images related to the period.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bad fads: Tattoos
  2. ^ Body piercings and Tattoos
  3. ^ 1990s Minimalism
  4. ^ Fashion at the edge: spectacle, modernity and deathliness, Evans, Caroline [1] Yale University Press, 2007, p. 22
  5. ^ Steele, Valerie (1997). Fifty years of fashion : new look to now (2. pr. ed.). New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-07132-9. 
  6. ^ Highbeam.com
  7. ^ Gypsy Rose
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h "Shopping the Trends: Fashion: Another look at 1995, a year that threw the kitchen sink at the trend watchers.". Retrieved 9 May 2014. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Fashion in the 1990s". Retrieved 9 May 2014. 
  10. ^ a b c d e "Fashions: Year In Review 1995". Retrieved 9 May 2014. 
  11. ^ a b c d e "Fashions: Year In Review 1996". Retrieved 7 June 2014. 
  12. ^ "The 1990s Fashion History The Mood of the Millennium Part 1". Retrieved 7 June 2014. 
  13. ^ "Halter Tops". Retrieved 17 September 2014. 
  14. ^ "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion". Retrieved 17 September 2014. 
  15. ^ a b c "The 1990s Fashion History Global Fashion Attitudes". Retrieved 7 June 2014. 
  16. ^ "Clueless". Retrieved 17 September 2014. 
  17. ^ "Cher from Clueless:90's Style Icon". Retrieved 26 May 2014. 
  18. ^ a b "‘90s America Trying So Hard To Recreate Its Fantasy Of The ‘50s From TV To Fashion, Nation Embracing Ideas It Perceives As Representing A Simpler Time, Trend Watchers Say". Retrieved 26 May 2014. 
  19. ^ a b "Bloomingdale's Fanning Trend Back To Color". Retrieved 4 September 2014. 
  20. ^ Whatever happened to Cool Britannia? The UK after eight years of Blair Thirty British, US, French and Canadian scholars assess Blair's policies and style after two terms, in May 2005. Links to papers and video.
  21. ^ a b c "Clothes-circuit Surveillance Fashion In 1997 Was Less About Garments Than About Tragic Deaths, Falling Fortunes And Sizzling New Personalities.". Retrieved 16 September 2014. 
  22. ^ a b c d e f g h "Fashions: Year In Review 1999". Retrieved 16 September 2014. 
  23. ^ "Practical Magic". Retrieved 17 September 2014. 
  24. ^ a b c d e "Fashions: Year In Review 1997". Retrieved 16 September 2014. 
  25. ^ "Spice World". Retrieved 17 September 2014. 
  26. ^ Vaidyanathan, Rajini (12 February 2010). "Six ways Alexander McQueen changed fashion". BBC magazine. Retrieved 27 February 2011. 
  27. ^ "Sex Bracelets". Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  28. ^ Ray Bans
  29. ^ "Romeo + Juliet". Retrieved 17 September 2015. 
  30. ^ Wallace, Carol McD. (24 October 2005). "We're All Preppies Now". New York Times. Retrieved 19 June 2011. 
  31. ^ a b Colman, David (17 June 2009). "The All-American Back From Japan". New York Times. Retrieved 19 June 2011. 
  32. ^ Roots of preppy
  33. ^ Keyes, Cheryl (2004). Rap Music and Street Consciousness (Music in American Life). University of Illinois Press. p. 152. ISBN 978-0-252-07201-7. 
  34. ^ "Bloomingdale's I Spring/Summer 1999". Retrieved 5 September 2014. 
  35. ^ Anthony Head
  36. ^ "Six Categories". Casualpower.com. Archived from the original on 2013-07-02. Retrieved 27 February 2011. 
  37. ^ 90s and Millenial black tie
  38. ^ "The Matrix". Retrieved 17 September 2014. 
  39. ^ "Fashions: Year In Review 1998". Retrieved 17 September 2014. 
  40. ^ "10 Things I Hate About You". Retrieved 17 September 2014. 
  41. ^ Nelson, Chris (13 January 2003). "Nine Years After Cobain's Death, Big Sales for All Things Nirvana". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 February 2011. 
  42. ^ ^ Peterson, Brian (2009). Burning Fight: The Nineties Hardcore Revolution in Ethics, Politics, Spirit, and Sound. Revelation Books. ISBN 978-1-889703-02-2.
  43. ^ "Football Casual | FootballCasual.com | History" . Footballcasual.com. http://www.footballcasual.com/history/the_history.html . Retrieved 2008-10-18.
  44. ^ Why is chav still controversial?
  45. ^ Britpop
  46. ^ Harris, John. Britpop!: Cool Britannia and the Spectacular Demise of English Rock. Da Capo Press, 2004. Pg. 202. ISBN 0-306-81367-X.
  47. ^ Geri auctions her famous dress
  48. ^ Peterson, Brian (2009). Burning Fight: The Nineties Hardcore Revolution in Ethics, Politics, Spirit, and Sound. Revelation Books. ISBN 978-1-889703-02-2. 
  49. ^ Goodlad, Lauren M. E.; Bibby, Michael, eds. (2007). Goth: Undead Subculture. Duke University Press. ISBN 978-0-8223-3921-2. 
  50. ^ Last white superstar
  51. ^ All American back from Japan
  52. ^ Mock, Janet; Wang, Julia (eds.). "Jennifer Aniston Biography". People.com. Archived from the original on 28 February 2011. Retrieved 27 February 2011. 
  53. ^ a b "The 19 Most Important Women’s Hairstyles Of The ’90s". Retrieved 30 November 2014. 
  54. ^ "Farrah Fawcett Look". Retrieved 29 July 2014. 
  55. ^ a b c d e "The 15 Most Important Men’s Hairstyles Of The ’90s". Retrieved 30 November 2014. 
  56. ^ "The 50 Most Stylish Celebrities of the '90s". Retrieved 30 November 2014. 
  57. ^ "George Clooney's Hair Evolution". Retrieved 30 November 2014. 
  58. ^ "Analyzing the History of Ryan Gosling’s Ever-Moving Hair Part". Retrieved 30 November 2014. 
  59. ^ http://www.stylist.co.uk/beauty/trend-on-trial-90s-brown-lips#image-rotator-1
  60. ^ a b "A Brief History of Cosmetics". Retrieved 16 September 2014. 
  61. ^ "Pulp Fiction". Retrieved 17 September 2014. 
  62. ^ "1990s Fashion Trends". Retrieved 30 July 2014. 
  63. ^ a b "Make-Up For The Year 2000". Retrieved 25 July 2014.