1990s in fashion
The fashion in the 1990s was the genesis of a sweeping shift in the western world: the beginning of the adoption of tattoos, body piercings aside from ear piercing 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, contrasted to the more elaborate and flashy trends of the 1980s. Additionally, fashion trends throughout the decade recycled styles from previous decades, notably the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
- 1 Women's fashion
- 2 Men's fashion
- 3 Youth fashion
- 4 1990s beauty trends
- 5 Gallery
- 6 See also
- 7 References
Early 1990s (1990-1993)
Supermodels and High Fashion
- Throughout the 1990s, supermodels dominated the fashion industry. The top models of the 1990s were Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Eva Herzigova, Nadja Auermann, Christy Turlington, Kate Moss, Carla Bruni, Tatiana Sorokko, Helena Christensen, Claudia Schiffer, Karen Mulder, Nadège, Yasmeen Ghauri, Stephanie Seymour, Carolyn Murphy, Amber Valletta, Shalom Harlow, and Tyra Banks. Photographers like Peter Lindbergh loved photographing Evangelista, because he considered her to be both contemporary and elegant.
- Kate Moss, who often modeled for Calvin Klein, sparked controversy with her very thin, waif-like figure. Due to Kate’s extremely skinny heroin chic frame, many criticized her for allegedly promoting eating disorders in her shots. Reportedly, posters of Kate Moss were often defaced with graffiti that read “feed me”.
- The early 1990s saw a continuation of late 1980s fashion: women wore denim button down shirts, leggings, drainpipe jeans, colored tights, bike shorts, and tartan skirts. Popular accessories included court shoes, cowboy boots, headscarves, leggings, and penny loafers (associated with the preppy look).
Leggings and Exercise-Wear
- Leotards made worn as tops with jeans were popular. A common outfit was to wear a skirt, dress shorts, babydoll or minidress with black opaque tights, white slouch socks and white sneakers. It was not uncommon to see mothers dressed right along with their daughters in white slouch socks worn over black leggings or sweatpants, oversized T-shirt or sweater, and athletic sneakers like Keds or Converse.
- 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. 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, 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.
- The most popular pant style from 1995 onwards was a lean and straight style with a somewhat low rise. This was also the year that hot pants made a comeback, and black Lycra leggings were revived a year later.
- Around 1996, fashion started to take cues from the disco fashion of the mid–late 1970s. This included pleather pants, yoga pants, halter tops, metallic clothing, crop tops, tube tops, maxi coats, maxi skirts, and boot-cut dress pants. Popular colors included plum, chocolate, and navy, all of which replaced black, which had become ubiquitous. This continued into the 2000s.
Preppy and Conservative Chic
- 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.
- 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, collared shirts, slip dresses, and microskirts.
- Almost simultaneously with Clueless, 1950s ladylike fashions made a comeback in the United States. This included pencil skirts, cardigans, girdles, and fitted suits. Popular accessories that went hand-in-hand with this revival included brooches, white gloves, sheer stockings, diamonds, sequins, and red lipstick.
- Around this time in Europe (especially Italy), it was also fashionable to dress entirely in black or wear designer clothing displaying Italian or French labels (such as Lacoste, Yves Saint-Laurent, Armani, Gucci, or Chanel) as a way of demonstrating one's apparent social status and wealth.
- Popular accessories during the mid-1990s in Europe and North America included conch shell necklaces, berets, straw hats, floppy hats, loafers, black shoes, gold jewelry, knee high boots, mid-calf Go-go boots, hipster belts, jelly shoes, and Mary Janes. Navel piercings had started to gain popularity around this time.
Late 1990s (1997-1999)
The Return of Color
- In the late 1990s, color started making a comeback in mainstream fashion due to heavy demand. Colorful clothes included fleeces, tank tops revealing the midriff (crop top), Union jack motifs inspired by the Cool Britannia movement, and from 1998 onwards, military inspired clothing, such as cargo pants and flak jackets with camouflage patterns. Animal prints were ubiquitous in the late 1990s.
- In the warmer months, women wore skirts, dresses, tops, and handbags in bright floral colors, such as lipstick pink, bright orange, turquoise, and red. Both Gwyneth Paltrow's pink dress and Cate Blanchett's black beaded dress were mass-produced and sold for $300 at American department stores. This continued into the 2000s.
- In the late 1990s, many early and mid 1990s fashion trends continued late into the decade. This included high-waisted miniskirts, over-sized tee shirts, turtleneck sweaters, yoga pants, tube tops, capri pants, floral maxi skirts, tartan skirts, cardigans, and denim button-down shirts.
- Generally, women's fashion in the late 1990s became more body conscious and athletic. In 1997, some of the newer trends that emerged included tight shirts, flared pants, platform shoes, thong underwear (popular among women ages 18–25), and lower-waisted jeans inspired by the designs of Alexander McQueen. Denim's popularity was at an all-time high in Europe, with designer denim jackets and designer jeans skyrocketing in prices. Other common, more affordable brands included Mudd, JNCO, and Evisu, a Japanese denim brand which launched in the 1980s. This trend continued well into the 2000s.
- Dressier styles that emerged included silk blouses in neutral colors or animal prints, tailored pantsuits and miniskirt suits inspired by the 1980s, collarless coats, and the little black dress, with or without subtle embroidery. This continued into the 2000s.
- The most popular trainers were white or black and manufactured by Adidas, Skechers, Hitec and Nike. Shoes with built in air pumps were popular among both sexes. Leather had largely replaced canvas, and soles were made of foam rather than solid rubber.
- In the US and Britain, popular accessories included large hoop earrings, shoes with rounded toes, flip flops, jelly shoes, rhinestone-encrusted hip belts, embellished slippers, beaded wristbands and lariats, alice bands, pashminas, fascinators, gold jewelry, moccasin loafers, running shoes, jelly bracelets, bandanas, and novelty wellington boots with patterns like leopard print or zebra stripes.
Early 1990s (1990-1993)
- In 1992, flannel became very popular and lasted until the late 1990s. Unlike the fitted Western shirts of the 1970s which fastened with pearl snaps, the flannel shirts of the 1990s were padded and loose-fitting for optimum warmth. Men also wore Acid wash denim jackets with matching high waisted jeans, patterned wool sweaters, black leather jackets, sheepskin coats, corduroy sportcoats, grey sweatpants, anoraks, and polo shirts.
- In Britain and the US, popular accessories included Converse All Stars, trapper hats, tuques, combat boots, Doc Martens Boots, Aviator sunglasses popularized by rock star Freddie Mercury, and neon-colored trainers (sometimes incorporating flashing lights and elastic self-tying laces).
Mid 1990s (1994-1996)
Cool Britannia and 70s Revival
- 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, 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.
- 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. 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.
- 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.
- Preppy clothing was popular in the US, where wealthy young men wore khaki slacks, canvas boat shoes, and navy blue blazers with breast-pocket monogram or gold buttons bearing a family crest. In general, 1990s preppy was more casual than the almost dandified look of the 1980s as young men abandoned ascots and Oxford shoes in favor of Nantucket Reds, nautical-striped T-shirts, loafers, and madras cloth or gingham short-sleeved shirts.
- In Europe and North America, hip-hop fashion went mainstream in 1995, with oversized baseball jackets, baggy jeans, bomber jackets, Baja Jackets, and tracksuits popular among young men as casual wear. Simultaneously, industrial and military styles crept into mainstream fashion, with machinery pieces becoming accessories. Baseball caps started being worn forwards again.
- Southern hip hop provided a platform for Fashion designers and musical artists to collaborate forming an influential subculture of anti fashion and alternative fashion designs, especially the popular recycled clothing worn by Arrested Development and Goodie Mob.
- From 1995 onwards, men wore overalls, straight leg jeans, plaid pants, flat-front chinos, khaki pants, and camouflage pants worn ironically by anti-war protesters.
Late 1990s (1997-1999)
Rave Culture and Streetwear
- 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. In Europe, jeans were more popular than ever before. Color started returning by 1997, with colors such as plum, charcoal, olive, and wine coming into. Colors continued to evolve from there until the return of bright colors by 1999, with shades such as "camillia rose", "blazing orange", "whisper pink", "hot coral", and a light-grayish blue called "wind chime" coming into style.
- 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, khaki cargo pants, baggy basketball shorts, chinos, 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, 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.
- 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. Dress shoes (usually in black) included chelsea boots with rounded or square toes, wingtips, and monkstraps.
- In America, an increasing number of men began to dress smart-casual and business casual, a trend kickstarted by Bill Gates of Microsoft. At more formal events such as weddings or proms, men often wear boxy three 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. Black leather reefer jackets and trenchcoats were also fashionable in the late 1990s.
- 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. 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, as well as cargo pants, camouflage prints, and crop tops.
- 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.
- The new wave and heavy metal fashion of the 1980s lasted until early 1992, when Grunge and hip hop fashion took over in popularity. 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. Members of the subculture were nicknamed grebos or moshers and included those who did not skate.
- The early 1990s saw widespread interest in hip hop and gangsta rap due to the influence of artists like MC Hammer, Tupac Shakur, Eazy E, Dr. Dre, N.W.A., Wu Tang Clan, and Public Enemy. The sagging trend began in the early 1990s and continued until the 2010s. Wide leg jeans, Plaid, Khakis, Locs glasses, bomber jackets, tracksuits and baseball caps and snapback hats worn backwards became popular among hip hop fans together with gold chains, sovereign rings, and FUBU T-shirts.
- The late 1990s saw the rise of the British chav subculture, an offshoot of the casuals, a football fan subculture of the 1980s. Common items of clothing included tracksuits, baseball caps, gold jewellery, diamond earrings, and white Adidas trainers. Hair was heavily gelled, often bleached blonde, and either spiky or shaped into a quiff. Girls wore large hoop earrings and pulled their hair into a tight ponytail known as a croydon facelift.
- In the mid-1990s, indie rock, Madchester, and Britpop bands like Blur, Stone Roses, and Oasis resulted in a revival of 1970s fashions, including Mod haircuts, aviator sunglasses, denim jackets, green parkas, harrington jackets, velvet sportcoats, striped shirts, Ben Sherman polo shirts, T-shirts bearing the RAF roundel, and Union Jack motifs like the dress worn by the Spice Girls' Geri Halliwell.
- Psychobilly and Punk
- Hardcore Punk fashion, which began in the 1970s, was very popular in the 1990s, and Goth fashion reached its peak. Common items for pop punk and nu metal fans included spiky hair, black hoodies, and baggy pants in black or red Royal Stewart tartan.
- In the US, Psychobilly bands like Reverend Horton Heat and Rocket from the Crypt popularised brothel creepers, gas station shirts and dark-colored bowling shirts during the late 1990s.
- The conservative preppy look of the 1980s remained popular among wealthy teenagers in the Northeastern USA until the late 1990s, when many members of the subculture began adopting elements of hip hop fashion. Typical clothing for preppies of the 1990s included khaki chinos, navy blue blazers, oxford shirts, brogues, and neat, well-groomed hairstyles.
1990s beauty trends
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. Around the same time red hair also became a desirable color for women, as well as feathered bangs, and mini hair-buns. 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. Other late '90s haircuts included "Felicity curls" (popularized by Keri Russell in the hit TV show Felicity, the Fishtail Half-Up, and pigtails, as well as the continuation of mid '90s hairdos.
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.
In the mid 1990s, men's hairstyle trends went in several different directions. Younger men who were more amenable had adopted the Caesar cut, either natural or dyed. This style was popularized by George Clooney on the hit TV show ER in season two, which premiered in mid 1995. More rebellious young men went for longer, unkempt "grunge" hair, often with a center parting. The curtained hairstyle was at its peak in popularity. Meanwhile, men over 30 had conservative 1950s style haircuts or the Caesar cut.
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, bleached hair, 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
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
Women's makeup in the early 1990s primarily consisted of dark red lipstick and neutral eyes. 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, 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. Blue-frosted eye shadow became fashionable, 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. 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. An alternative for those who did not like metallics were purples and browns. Goth makeup and Y2K makeup continued into the early 2000s.
A selection of images related to the period.
Grunge clothing, popular from 1992–1996. (Kurt Cobain, 1992)
Dancers at America's Snoqualmie Moondance Festival in 1992
African-American teenager with Hitop fade, popular from the early-mid-1990s.
Slap bracelet worn by young girls in the early-1990s
Baseball jacket was popular among hip-hop fans in the mid-1990s
Undercut hairstyle popular in the early and mid 90s.
Bomber jacket with orange lining, popular from the mid-late 1990s
Woman with Rachel haircut, late 1990s.
Two women wearing bandanas, 1999.
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