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 started the indifferent, anti-conformist approach to fashion which was popular throughout the 1990s, leading to the popularisation of the casual chic look, including T-shirts, jeans, hoodies, and trainers, a trend which continued into the 2000s.
The early 1990s saw the continued relevance of numerous mid and late 1980s fashions among both sexes, especially the preppy look. However, the popularity of grunge and alternative rock music helped bring the simple, unkempt grunge look into the mainstream by 1994. In general, the 1990s saw a minimalist fashion aesthetic in fashion, 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, a trend which would continue into the 2000s and 2010s.
- 1 Women's fashion
- 2 Men's fashion
- 3 Youth fashion
- 4 Hair and Makeup of the 1990s
- 5 See also
- 6 Gallery
- 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, Yasmeen Ghauri, Stephanie Seymour, Christy Turlington, 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 1980s fashion: women wore denim button down shirts, neon colors, oversized sweaters, T-shirts, sweatshirts, baby doll dresses, trenchcoats lined with fake fur, and black leather jackets. Matching jeans and denim jackets began to be made in darker shades rather than the bleached acid wash of the 1980s.
- From 1991 onwards, many women wore tight-fitting trousers with elastic boot-straps (stirrup pants/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.
- The mid-1990s saw a revival of the late 60s/early 70s hippie influenced fashion from 1994 onwards, 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, chunky platform shoes, Paisley scarfs, and yellow or blue denim shortalls, a version of overalls in which the legs of the garment resemble those of shorts, were very popular.
- Around 1995/96, fashion started to take cues from the disco fashion of the mid-late 1970s. This included pleather pants, yoga pants, metallic clothing, sequin dresses, and crop tops. This continued into the 2000s.
- 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 included conch shell necklaces, straw hats, chunky wedge heeled platform shoes, knee high boots, and dolly shoes. Navel piercings had started to gain popularity around this time.
Late 1990s (1997-1999)
- In the late 1990s, women wore pastel colors like pink or baby blue, fleeces, tank tops revealing the midriff (crop top), and Union jack motifs inspired by the Cool Britannia movement. This continued into the 2000s.
- Many trends from the early and mid-1990s continued late into the decade, including miniskirts, grey sweatpants, yoga pants, capri pants, lower-waisted jeans inspired by the designs of Alexander McQueen. Some of the newer trends that emerged included flared trousers and thong underwear popularised by contemporary R&B and jungle music.
- In Britain and the US, popular accessories included large hoop earrings, shoes with rounded toes, flip flops, jelly shoes, alice bands, fascinators, gold jewelry, running shoes, bandanas, and novelty wellington boots with patterns like leopard print or zebra stripes.
Early 1990s (1990-1993)
- In the early 1990s, flannel became very popular and lasted through most of the decade. 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, wool sweaters, black leather jackets, sheepskin coats, corduroy, anoraks, and polo shirts.
- The drainpipe jeans popular among metalheads and fans of new wave music went out of fashion in favor of straight-leg jeans like Levi 501s and baggy carpenter pants popularised by rappers, skaters, and grunge bands. Surfers favored baggies, colorful board shorts, and cut-off jean shorts.
- In Britain and the US, popular accessories included Converse All Stars, trapper hats, tuques, white Adidas trainers, Doc Martens Boots, Aviator sunglasses popularized by rock star Freddie Mercury, and neon-colored trainers (sometimes incorporating flashing lights and elastic self-tying laces).
- 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.
Mid 1990s (1994-1996)
- In the mid-1990s, 1960s mod clothing and longer hair were popular in Britain due to the success of Britpop. Men also wore Aloha shirts, brown leather jackets, paisley shirts, throwback pullover baseball jerseys, and graphic-print t-shirts (often featuring dragons, athletic logos or numbers).
- Desirable accessories during the mid-1990s included loafers, desert boots, chelsea boots, gold jewellery, boat shoes, chunky digital watches, Doc Martens, and black/neon colored high-top trainers.
- In America, hip-hop fashion went mainstream, with oversized baseball jackets, bomber jackets, Baja Jackets, and tracksuits popular among young men as casual wear.
- 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 (group) and Goodie Mob.
- Pants were, for the most part, much the same as they were in the early 1990s: baggy carpenter jeans, sweatpants, overalls, tracksuit bottoms, and camouflage, especially the popular chocolate chip pattern worn during Operation Desert Storm. In 1995, cargo pants came into fashion among both sexes.
Late 1990s (1997-1999)
- By the late 1990s, the most popular trainers were white or black and manufactured by Adidas, Reebok, 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.
- Young European and American men favored preppy brands like Old Navy, khaki cargo pants, baggy basketball shorts, and chinos. Other popular items of clothing included tracksuits, hoodies, and black bomber jackets with orange linings. Around this time it became fashionable to leave shirts untucked.
- In Europe, single-breasted three and four button suits in grey or navy blue, together with leather jackets based on the same cut as blazers, began to replace the 1980s power suits. Tweed cloth and houndstooth sportcoats went out of fashion due to their association with older men.
- In America, suits went out of fashion as men began to dress smart-casual and business casual, a trend kickstarted by Bill Gates of Microsoft.
- 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, flared trousers, 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 younger children, the mid-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 (often knitted by the child's grandmother) were worn by young boys in the UK. 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 early 2000s 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.
Hair and Makeup of the 1990s
Women's hair in the early 1990s continued in the big, curly style of the 1980s, albiet much more subtle. Straight hair, which became very popular in the 1990s, did not hit the mainstream until the mid 1990s, inspired by late 1960s hairstyles. 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. Straight hair was also styled with a short fringe cut just above the eyebrows, known as a hime cut, and those with Afro-styled or naturally curly hair would rely on a Relaxer to keep the sleek straight hair. In the mid-1990s, this style went out of fashion until its revival in the late 2000s. Dark-haired women tended to dye their hair a lighter color with blonde highlights (popularized by Jennifer Aniston) until the late 2000s. Bangs remained popular throughout most of the decade. The Bob cut was also quite popular in the late 1990's.
Men's hair became increasingly shorter from the early 1990s onwards. In the early 1990s, curtained hair (sometimes dyed blond) and small ponytails were popular among yuppies. Side-partings were briefly popular in the mid-1990s before head-shaving had become an acceptable way of dealing with male pattern baldness. From the late 1990s onwards, spiky hair, bleached hair, crew cuts and variants of the quiff became popular among young professional men. Dark haired men dyed their spikes blonde or added wavy blonde streaks well into the mid-2000s.
For teenagers 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. Headbands and scrunchies of various styles and colors were popular with girls throughout most of the 1990s, who frequently wore them with side ponytails and bangs.
A selection of images related to the period.
Grunge clothing, popular from 1992-1998. (Kurt Cobain, 1992)
Dancers at America's Snoqualmie Moondance Festival in 1992
Young woman in New York City, 1995 with her belly button exposed.
Slap bracelet worn by young girls in the mid-1990s
Baseball jacket was popular among hip-hop fans in the mid-1990s
Bomber jacket with orange lining, popular from the mid-late 1990s
Two women wearing bandanas, 1999.
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- Body piercings and Tattoos
- 1990s Minimalism
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