After the decade of exuberance 90s fashion took an opposite trajectory. 1990s fashion trends consisted of pieces that were accessible for everyone. Graphic t-shirts, flannel shirts and mom jeans were all you needed at these times. Everyday fashion in the 90’s was dominated by boxy and casual clothes. Thrifting clothes started to become a trend and sneaker culture flourished.
What shaped 1990s fashion trends?
Fashion of the 90s was influenced by various factors. People no longer resonated with everything extra, which was main theme of the 80’s fashion. The reason for that was undoubtedly connected with an economic recession, which made boasting about money tactless. They wanted to dress casual and in more muted colors, which gave birth to a trend called minimalism.
The main idea of minimalism in fashion was mixing streamlined silhouettes with opulent fabrics, mainly in neutral colors. By doing so one can create a collection of separates that work well together. I think today many people might call this style of clothing quiet luxury.
We can’t talk about 90’s fashion trends without mentioning grunge. This subculture was popularised by Nirvana and Pearl Jam and seriously took over the world in the first half of the decade. Kurt Cobain was, in today’s words, the biggest influencer of this trend.
The style itself had no strict rules,however it is most often associated with wearing flannel shirts, oversized sweaters, graphic tees and Doc Martens boots. Grunge style often included distressed clothes with holes to emphasize the rebellious nature of its origin.
Hip-hop and Streetwear
When it comes to music and lifestyle Hip-hop and Streetwear contributed to many 1990s fashion trends. Notorious artists like Salt-N-Pepa, Aaliyah, The Notorious B.I.G. or Tupac inspired millions of people, especially in the USA. From street performers to high schoolers, baggy jeans became a must-have item for anyone wanting to embrace that urban vibe.
Let’s not forget the iconic oversized shirts that became a staple in ’90s fashion. These shirts were not only comfy but also allowed individuals to express themselves with bold graphics and logos.
As for headwear, baseball caps and bandanas became the go-to accessory. Whether worn backward or forward, they added a touch of coolness to any outfit. Sneakers were another essential element of the Hip-Hop and Streetwear style. Chunky sneakers or Air Jordans were an ideal finish of any outfit.
Supermodels and Heroin Chic
During the 1990s, the fashion industry witnessed the rise of an elite group of supermodels who became global icons. Names like Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, and Linda Evangelista became household names, gracing the covers of prestigious fashion magazines, strutting down runways, and starring in high-profile ad campaigns. These supermodels not only captivated audiences with their beauty but also influenced the course of fashion trends with their signature styles.
The Heroin Chic trend emerged as a stark contrast to the glamorous and polished looks that dominated the previous decade. It was characterized by a “grunge-meets-glamour” aesthetic, embracing a more raw and rebellious appeal. The most associated garment with this style are slip dresses that were very popular 90’s fashion.
With the raising awareness of environmental problems many designers focused on repurposing already existing materials. One of the most influential was Martin Margiela, who is considered as a pioneer of recycling and reconstruction in fashion. His famous sock sweater was a brilliant example of recreating something in a new way.
Following this trend brands established eco-friendly lines and individuals embraced the idea of DIY. It wasn’t strange anymore that one sewed together a few different garments to create a unique piece that couldn’t be copied.
Development of technology
As technology advanced so did the possibilities in the fashion industry. When it comes to exploring new materials, Japanese designer Issey Miyake spearheaded the industry. His line “Pleats Please” was made of polyester, using heat-pressing technology to give clothes their characteristic flow. He used an innovative method of pleating the material.
As the new decade emerged people started to be scared of technology and its impact on everyday life. But fashion designers saw it as an opportunity and started to add wearable technology to their designs. Alexander Mcqueen amazed everyone during his 1999 Spring show when model Shalom Harlow wore a plain white dress on the runway. Two robotic arms started to spray the dress over with a paint while Shalom was spinning on the platform. This was to most memorable show of the decade.
90s fashion trends you can wear today
As you can see if you want to channel that 90’s flair in your outfits you have many options to choose from. I suggest looking for the brands that were popular during this period and add them to your rotation. So what brands did people wear in the 90s? Fubu, New Balance, Nikes and Doc Martens are footwear brands preferred in the 90s. Combine them with Tommy Hilfiger, Starter Jackets or Coogi sweaters and you are good to good.
When it comes to the silhouette you can go either oversize and boxy, or streamlined. Cargo pants, button down shirts and crop tops were the fashion staple of this time. I like to look for vintage pieces on Vinted and oftentimes I find amazing pieces there. Like this Nike sweatshirt that literally screams 90’s. I also encourage you to visit your local thrift shops and grab what you like. I found this pair of Levi’s for 5$ in the charity shop, look at the boxy shape. Tuck in your shirt, put on flannel and you got a 90’s inspired outfit good to go.
Shirts with stripe prints were very common in the 90’s and can add that umph to your outfit. Another popular style in the 1990s was wearing jeans overalls paired with chunky boots. If you got an old pair of jeans or sweater that is distressed don’t throw it away. It is a perfect way to emphasize 90s style. Don’t be scared to add layers to your outfits. When looking for sunglasses choose those in oval shape and stay with quite small sizes. This look was very popular in the 90’s, think of Kurt Cobain, or Jennifer Aniston.
The 90’s fashion is still very popular in 2023, as it brings a feeling of nostalgia and good times. Tell me in the comments, what is your favorite thing about the 1990’s fashion.
Book “Fashion in the 90s” by Valerie Steele, Colleen Hill