1990s in fashion

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Several mid and late 1990s men's and women's fashions in 1994.
As part of minimalism, hairstyles such as bob cuts were favored by women. (Saffron, 1996)
1980s . 1990s in fashion . 2000s
Other topics: Anthrolopogy . Comics . Music . Science and technology . Sociology . video games

Fashion in the 1990s was defined by a return to minimalist fashion,[1] in contrast to the more elaborate and flashy trends of the 1980s. One notable shift was the mainstream adoption of tattoos,[2] body piercings aside from ear piercing[3] and, to a much lesser extent, other forms of body modification such as branding.

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 to the mainstream by 1994. The anti-conformist approach to fashion led to the popularization of the casual chic look that included T-shirts, jeans, hoodies, and sneakers, a trend which continued into the 2000s. Additionally, fashion trends throughout the decade recycled styles from previous decades,[4] notably the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

Due to increased availability of the Internet[5] and satellite television outside the United States, plus the reduction of import tariffs under NAFTA, fashion became more globalized[6] and homogeneous in the late 1990s[7] and early 2000s.[8][9]

Women's fashion[edit]

Early 1990s (1990–1992)[edit]

Actress Paula Abdul wearing semi-transparent black dress, curled hair and smoky eye makeup, 1990.
Young woman standing on sidewalk, Uptown New Orleans, 1992.

Supermodels and high fashion[edit]

  • Throughout the 1990s, supermodels dominated the fashion industry.[10] The top models of the 1990s were Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Tatjana Patitz, Eva Herzigova, Nadja Auermann, Christie Brinkley, Christy Turlington, Kate Moss, Carla Bruni, Tatiana Sorookko, Helena Christensen, Claudia Schiffer, Karen Mulder, Yasmin Le Bon, Nadège, Yasmeen Ghauri, Stephanie Seymour, Carolyn Murphy, Amber Valletta, Shalom Harlow, Kirsten Owen, Kristen McMenamy, Guinevere Van Seenus, Alek Wek, Karen Elson, Michele Hicks, Stella Tennant, Audrey Marnay, Amy Wesson, Maggie Rizer, Erin O'Connor, Kirsty Hume, Bridget Hall, Milla Jovovich and Tyra Banks.[11]
  • One of the most influential group of models during the early 1990s was the Big Five, whose fame and social power allegedly surpassed that of many movie stars. The Big Five consisted of supermodels Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista and Tatjana Patitz. Whether booked as individuals or as an elite group, each supermodel gained worldwide success and had great influence on the fashion industry. Naomi Campbell was the first black woman to grace the cover of French Vogue, Time, and American Vogue's September issue. Cindy Crawford was the highest paid model on the planet in 1995 per Forbes. Christy Turlington was known for being a reliable model who garnered over 500 covers during her career and most notably, signed a contract with Maybelline for an annual fee of $800,000 for twelve days' work. Linda Evangelista was known as the industry's "chameleon" for her ability to suit a multitude of styles. Evangelista also infamously coined the phrase, "We don't wake up for less than $10,000 a day." Tatjana Patitz, the last of the Big Five, continues to be regarded as one of the "original supermodels" and even after her retirement, she remains in demand periodically by such designer houses as Jean-Paul Gaultier and Chanel. Later in the decade, Tatjana was replaced in the Big Five by supermodel Claudia Schiffer, who is one of the most successful supermodels in the world, holding the record for the most magazine covers according to The Guinness Book of World Records.[citation needed]
  • Later in the decade, the rise of Kate Moss shifted the world of fashion when her entrance onto the scene turned the Big Five into the Big Six. Kate Moss became one of the nineties' biggest phenomena when, at 14 years of age, she was discovered at JFK Airport. Her waif-like figure set a new fashion standard that became known as "heroin chic." This was a pale and ghostly look that called for a stick-thin stature and size zero body. Due to Kate's extremely skinny frame, she was often criticized for allegedly promoting eating disorders as apparently evidenced by her shots for Calvin Klein. Reportedly, posters of Kate Moss were often defaced with graffiti that read "feed me".[12]
  • For the 1994 Autumn/Winter issue of Arena Homme +, a spin-off of the bi-monthly Arena (magazine), master fashion photographer Albert Watson photographed a new generation of top male models of the era, including Tyson Beckford, Tim Boyce and Marcus Schenkenberg for the two-page fold-out cover proclaiming "High Five the New Supermodel Army - Malcom Tim, Marcus, In 1995 Gregg and Larry photographed by Albert Watson".[13]

Neon colors[edit]

  • In the US, USSR,[14] South Africa,[15] Egypt, and Japan popular trends included bold geometric-print clothing in electric blue, orange, fluorescent pink, purple, turquoise[16] and the acid green exercise wear[17] popularized by Lisa Lopes[18] of TLC. Typical patterns included triangles, zigzag lightning bolts, diamonds, lozenges, rectangles, overlapping free-form shapes, simulated explosions inspired by comic book illustrations or pop art, intricate grids,[19] and clusters of thin parallel lines in contrasting colors for example, white, black and yellow on a cyan background. Many women wore denim button-down Western shirts, colored jeans in medium and dark green, red, and purple, metallic Spandex leggings, halterneck crop tops, drainpipe jeans, colored tights, bike shorts, black leather jackets with shoulder pads, high waisted ankle length jeans (aka mom jeans) and pants both styled plain or pleated, baby-doll dresses over bike shorts or capri leggings, and skater dresses. Neon colored tops and leg warmers were popular, together with leopard print skirts[20] shiny satin or rayon blouses, embroidered jeans covered in rhinestones,[14] and black or white shirts, leggings and jackets printed with abstract red, blue, yellow and green geometric patterns. In America, popular accessories included court shoes, cowboy boots, headscarves, slouch socks, Keds, ballet flats, and the penny loafers or boat shoes associated with the preppy look.

Leggings and exercise-wear[edit]


Mid 1990s (1993–1996)[edit]

Glamour wear[edit]

Slip dresses first became widely worn in the mid 1990s, as part of the underwear-as-outerwear trend. (Jane Leeves, 1995)

Work wear[edit]

  • For much of the early and mid 1990s, power dressing was the norm for women in the workplace:[40] navy blue, grey or pastel colored skirt suits with shoulder pads,[41] pussy bow blouses, silk scarves, pointed shoes, stretchy miniskirts,[42] polka dot blouses, and brightly colored short dresses worn with a dark brocade blazer, bare legs and metallic open toed shoes. Other 1980s fashions such as chunky jewelry, gold hoop earrings with horn of life pendants, smoky eye make-up, hairspray, Alice bands,[43] and brightly painted nails remained common. Shorts suits were also very popular. They consisted of a regular suit top and jacket and dress shorts with tights underneath worn with ballet flats.
  • By 1996, professional women in Britain, Australia and America wore more relaxed styles and muted colors,[44] such as black floral print dresses, plain kaftan style blouses, Mary Janes, maxi skirts, knee length dresses, boots, smart jeans, big floppy hats, culottes, capri pants and chunky platform shoes. Trouser suits began to replace skirts,[45] black or white tights and nude pantyhose made a comeback.[46]

Late 1990s (1997–1999)[edit]

Asian influences[edit]

Red and cream Indian woman's saree, late 1990s

1970s revival[edit]

Casual chic[edit]

Model wearing a midriff shirt, a silver necklace, low ponytail and straight-leg leggings, circa 1999.

Men's fashion[edit]

Early 1990s (1990–1992)[edit]

Casual clothing[edit]

Grunge look[edit]

Jonathan Brandis in a Grunge-style flannel shirt and curtained hair in 1993

Mid 1990s (1993-1996)[edit]

Cool Britannia and 1970s revival[edit]

  • Around 1995/1996, 1960s mod clothing and longer hair were popular in Britain, Canada, and the US due to the success of Britpop. Men wore Aloha shirts,[77] 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 norm.[30]
  • 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.[31] This continued into the 2000s (decade). Casual clothes such as trousers, sweaters, and denim jackets were worn with shirts made of satin, PVC, and terry cloth. Both pastel colors and bold patterns were popular and successfully replaced black.[29]
  • 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.[30]
Trio in 1995 wearing neutral-colored tops and relaxed-fit, slim-leg pants and jeans.

Modern preppy[edit]


Late 1990s (1997–1999)[edit]

African fashion[edit]

  • During the mid and late 1990s,[84] the silk Madiba shirt became popular in South Africa and the wider global community.[85] From 1996 to 1998, traditional African clothing began to face serious competition[86] from cheap imported mitumba clothing[87][88] as a consequence of the Kenyan and Tanzanian government's easing of trade restrictions during the early to mid 1990s.[89] By the end of the decade, the safari jacket associated with kleptocrat dictator Mobutu Sese Seko of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the previous South African Apartheid regime had declined in popularity, and was replaced as formal wear by the dashiki suit.[90] Variants in green, yellow and black were worn as an alternative to the business suit by many African-Americans[91] for Kwanzaa.[92] African art began to influence and gain greater recognition on account of the Festival de la Mode Africaine (FIMA).[93] These influences started to make their way into fashion shows all over, for reference New York fashion week, 1998. In this show models were wearing sheath-like dresses made of loosely knitted yarn and denim jackets with large fake fur collars. Loose threads dangled from some of the garment's seams and other garments had the labels sewn on the outside of the collars.[94]


Rivers Cuomo sporting typical late 1990s fashions, 1997.
  • By the late 1990s, the grunge look became unfashionable, and there was a revival of interest in more stylish clothes, with name brand designers such as Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren making a comeback.[22] In Europe, jeans were more popular than ever before.[63] From 1997 to 1998 brighter colors came into style, including plum, charcoal, olive, wine,[60][95] and shades such as "camillia rose", "blazing orange", "whisper pink", "hot coral", and a light-grayish blue called "wind chime".[61]
  • Much of men's fashion in 1997 was inspired by the 1996 film Swingers,[60] leading to the popularization of the "dressy casual" look. Such apparel included blazers, black or red leather jackets and bowling shirts in either a variety of prints or a solid color, and loose-fitting flat-front or pleated khaki chinos or jeans. 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 double breasted 1980s power suits. The wide neckties of the early 1990s remained the norm, but the colors became darker and stripes and patterns were less common. In India and China, the Nehru suit and Mao suit declined in popularity in favor of conventional Western business wear.[96] Tweed cloth and houndstooth sportcoats went out of fashion due to their association with older men.[97] Dress shoes (usually in black) included chelsea boots with rounded or square toes, wingtips, and monkstraps.[60]
  • In America, an increasing number of men began to dress smart-casual and business casual, a trend kickstarted by Bill Gates of Microsoft.[98] At more formal events such as weddings or proms, men often wear boxy three[99] or four button, single-breasted suits with a brightly colored tie and an often matching dress shirt. Another trend was to wear black shirts, black ties, and black suits.[59] Black leather reefer jackets and trenchcoats were also fashionable in the late 1990s, the latter inspired by The Matrix.[100]

Youth fashion[edit]

General trends[edit]

Cargo pants
  • The dominant youth clothing fad at the beginning of the 1990s was fluorescent clothing, Hoop earrings, and plaid shirts. Popular colors for girls included coral, hot pink, bright mint, hot red, yellow, orange, and turquoise. In Britain and the US, girls wore oversized tee shirts, mid calf dresses with leggings, oversized v-neck sweaters over a turtleneck, slouch socks, triple striped tube socks usually folded over at the top, black or white lace trimmed bike shorts with babydoll dresses, belts worn with dresses, skater dresses, dress shorts worn with tights and ballet flats, tights with slouch socks, crew neck T-shirts, Keds, Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars, boat shoes, shortalls, leotards, bodysuits and pantywaist tops worn with jeans or skirts, long sleeved T-shirts, Nike Tempo athletic shorts, Mom Jeans and colored jeans especially in medium and dark green, red, and purple, and leggings with slouch socks, oversized tops, and sneakers especially Keds. It was not uncommon to see mothers dressed right along with their daughters in the leggings outfits and jeans outfits. Boys wore soccer shorts, jean jackets, tartan shirts, tapered acid wash jeans, colored jeans in bright and light mint green, red, and purple colors sweatpants, slouch socks and single, double or triple stripe athletic socks sometimes folded down at the top especially the triple striped ones worn with everything from shorts to rolled jeans and khakis. In the Southern Suburbs of Chicago during the late 1980s and early 1990s, Z Cavaricci pants and IOU sweatshirts were worn by members of the middle/upper-middle class.[citation needed]
  • For much of the 1990s, particularly the middle years, teenage boys and girls bought and wore very simple clothes, such as overalls, shortalls, athletic shorts, dress shorts, high waisted ankle length jeans and pants plain or pleated. flannel shirts, grey knitted sweaters, and backpacks. Popular stores selling these items included Gap and Urban Outfitters.[29] 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,[101] as well as cargo pants, and crop tops.[102]
  • For many younger children, the 1990s was the Golden Age of Disney films with T-shirts and sweaters featuring characters such as Simba, Mickey Mouse, Belle, Aladdin, and Winnie the Pooh. Tartan trousers, striped shirts, long sleeved polo shirt, Champion (sportswear) crew neck sweatshirts worn over a turtleneck, colored jeans in bright mint, red, aqua and purple colors, d high waisted ankle length jeans and pants plain or pleated. athletic shorts especially soccer shorts, slouch socks, continuing from the 1980s triple striped tube socks usually folded over at the top through the early 1990s, and sweaters were worn by young boys and girls in the UK and the US. Blue denim and railroad stripe overalls and shortalls were also popular for girls, as seen on television and commercials throughout the decade, and for teenagers, some of whom would leave either strap hanging loose. Common outfits for tweens and teenage girls, was to wear an oversized tee, a Champion brand sweatshirt over a turtleneck, a babydoll dress with opaque tights or bike shorts, shorts with black opaque tights or leggings, white slouch socks, and either Keds, boat shoes such as the Sperry Top-Sider or Eastland brands, white Sperry sneakers, Rockport dress sneakers or Converse sneakers.[citation needed]

Subcultures of the 1990s[edit]


Acid washed jean shorts with grunge and hippie inspired DIY slogans and pictures.

Psychobilly, punk and skater[edit]

Garage punk band, 1997

Rave culture and clubwear[edit]

  • Popular fashion themes of the rave subculture during the early 1990s included plastic aesthetics, various fetish fashions especially PVC miniskirts and tops, DIY and tie dye outfits, vintage 1970s clothing, second-hand optics, retro sportswear (such as Adidas tracksuits), and outfits themed around sex (showing much skin and nudity, e.g. wearing transparent or crop tops), war (e.g. in the form of combat boots or camouflage trousers), postmodernism and science fiction themes. In the early 1990s the first commercial rave fashion trends developed from the underground scene, which were quickly taken up by the fashion industry and marketed under the term clubwear.[105] Common raver fashion styles of the 1990s included tight-fitting nylon shirts, tight nylon quilted vests, bell-bottoms, neoprene jackets, studded belts, platform shoes, jackets, scarves and bags made of flokati fur, fluffy boots and phat pants, often in bright and neon colors.
Crowd of rave-goers, 1995.


Swedish hip-hop fans watch Public Enemy perform in 1991.



Example of late 1990s gothic fashion.


Hairstyles of the 1990s[edit]

Women's hairstyles[edit]

R&B singer Brandy Norwood sporting box braids, a style popular among Black Women in the 1990s.

Women's hair in the early 1990s continued in the big, curly style of the 1980s. High and High sided ponytails continued through most of the decade, especially when playing sports and at the gym. These were worn with a scrunchie until the mid-1990s when hair ties began to replace scrunchies. Scrunchies became popular once again in the late 2010s. Bangs remained big throughout the decade, especially the "mall bangs" poofy style associated with the early 1990s. From 1994 and through 2000s they got smaller and somewhat flatter and less poofy and laid closer to the forehead.[citation needed]

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.[119] Around the same time red hair also became a desirable color for women, as well as feathered bangs,[30] and mini hair-buns.[120] From 1995 until 2008, dark-haired women tended to dye their hair a lighter color with blonde highlights (popularized by Jennifer Aniston).

In the late 1990s, the Bob cut was well-desired, popularized and rejuvenated by Victoria Beckham of the Spice Girls. 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, with highlights going hand-in-hand with this revival.[121] Other late 1990s haircuts included "Felicity curls" (popularized by Keri Russell in the hit TV show Felicity), the Fishtail Half-Up, and pigtails,[120] as well as the continuation of mid 1990s hairdos.

Children's and teenager's hairstyles[edit]

Butterfly and floral clips, worn by young girls in the mid and late 1990s.

For teenage boys longer hair was popular in the early to mid-1990s, including collar-length curtained hair, Long, unkempt grunge hair, blond 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. From 1994 and through 2000s they got smaller and somewhat flatter and less poofy and laid closer to the forehead. Alice bands, headbands and scrunchies of various styles and colors (especially red, navy blue polka dot, plaid and neon) were popular with American girls throughout the early and mid 1990s, and they frequently wore them with twin pigtails, or high or high side ponytails and bangs. Beginning in the late 1990s and continuing into the 2010s, straightened hair and variants of the French braid became popular in Europe.

Men's hairstyles[edit]

Young man in 1995, sporting a short undercut hairstyle.

The 1990s generally saw the continued popularity of longer hair on men, especially in the United States, Scandinavia and Canada. In the early 1990s, curtained hair, mullets, and ponytails were popular. Other trends included flattops, hi-top fades, and cornrows.[122]

In the mid-1990s, men's hairstyle trends[123] went in several different directions. Younger men who were more amenable had adopted the Caesar cut,[124] either natural or dyed. This style was popularized by George Clooney[125] on the hit TV show ER in season two, which premiered in mid 1995. More rebellious young men went for longer, unkempt "grunge" hair,[122] often with a center parting. The curtained hairstyle was at its peak in popularity, and sideburns went out of style.[126] Meanwhile, most professional men over 30 had conservative 1950s style bouffant haircuts, regular haircuts, or the Caesar cut.[122]

In the late 1990s, it was considered unstylish and unattractive for men and boys to have longer hair. As a result, short hair completely took over. From 1997 onwards, aside from curtained hair (which was popular throughout the decade), spiky hair,[122] bleached hair,[122] 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 2000s. Variants of the surfer hair was popular among rock musicians during that time period. For African-American men, the cornrows (popularized by former NBA player Allen Iverson) and buzz cut were a popular trend that continued into the 2000s.

Makeup and cosmetic trends[edit]

Nude and darker shades of lipstick seemed popular among women throughout the decade. (Jocelyn Enriquez, 1997)

Women's makeup in the early 1990s primarily consisted of dark red lipstick and neutral eyes.[127] Around 1992 the "grunge look" came into 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,[128] 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.[129] Blue-frosted eye shadow became fashionable,[30] and was eventually integrated into the Y2K makeup of the late 1990s/early 2000s (decade). 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 1999, glittery, sparkling makeup had come into style.[130] 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.[127] An alternative for those who did not like metallics were purples and browns.[130] Goth makeup and Y2K makeup continued into the early 2000s.


A selection of images related to the period.

See also[edit]


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