1990s: The Decade of Anti-fashion

Best known as the decade of “anti-fashion”, the 90s brought forth several iconic movements, and offered carefree styles which dabbled in rebellion. Grunge and minimalism were the main style trends of the decade, with hippie, hip-hop, and sexy preppy styles also trending. In the 90s, buxom supermodels were traded in for a new breed of waif models – with Kate Moss – and her iconic heroin chic look, leading the pack. Everyone wanted to emulate Moss’s no fucks given style, and fashion featured this attitude. Music and fashion also went hand in hand as fans copied the unique styles of their musical idols.

In this article, we’ll break down some of the totally bangin’ looks of the 1990s. 

Early 90s

Nirvana in the early 90s

One of the best known and remembered style movements of the decade is without a doubt grunge. The movement began in the gritty Seattle music scene, but was pioneered by designer Marc Jacobs. Jacobs’ now iconic show for Perry Ellis in 1992, which introduced his historic grunge collection, was so ahead of its time that it got Jacobs fired. Following the show, journalist Bernadine Morris described the style in The New York Times: “His spring collection, in a sort of post-modern hippie way, mixes everything up — lengths, shapes and colors. A typical outfit looks as if it were put together with the eyes closed in a very dark room.” 

Naomi Campbell & Kristen McMenamy Vogue, December 1992

The early 90s also saw the revival of hippie fashion, with the return of tie-dye shirts in 1990, bell-bottom jeans in 1992, and crocheted vests in 1993. Most fashion critics considered the grunge and the neo-hippie looks complimentary.

Mid 90s

TLC & Dr. Dre in 1994

While the early 90s style was heavily influenced by the Seattle music scene, the mid 90s was all about hip-hop. Hip-hop artists like Tupac, Biggie Smalls, N.W.A., TLC, and Public Enemy had a heavy influence on 1990s fashion. Kangol caps, Timberland boots, oversized t-shirts, baggy denim dungarees, baseball jerseys, starter jackets, Versace silk shirts, giant checked shirts, bandanas, puffy vests, and everything denim were all staples of the era. 

90s Skaters

The mid 90s also saw the rise of skater culture and fashion. Skate shoes like Vans and Converse, skate shorts with cargo pockets, oversized graphic t’s, canvas belts, oversized hoodies, and enormously wide-legged baggy JNCO jeans became the epitome of skater style. Oh, dude, and we can’t forget to mention wallet chains. These chains were designed to keep wallets secure during ollies and 360s, but also worked to reinforce a rebellious style. 

In the fall of 1995, 70s Mod fashion made a huge comeback. Bootcut pants, Levis 501-style jeans, black boots with chunky high heels, tight t-shirts, baby doll dresses, and hip-hugger flare jeans were popular with women. 

The Spice Girls at the 1997 MTV VMAs

The Spice Girls had a massive influence on mid-90s fashion, bringing brazen and buoyant trends like mini skirts and long jackets, leopard print, neon, track suits, platforms (platform everything – boots, sandals, sneakers), lots of latex, and of course, the iconic LBD’s (little black dresses). 

Late 90s

90s Goth chic

By 1996, punk and alternative styles were common, especially among skaters. Short, spiky, multi-colored hair, black t-shirts, black pants, wraparound sunglasses, skater shoes, red tartan and darker colors were a part of this look. The late 90s also dragged goth music from the underground. With this came the rise of goth fashion: black hair, black lipstick, black nail polish, black ripped tights, a studded choker necklace, big black combat boots, and a give-no-fucks attitude.

Clueless 1995

The preppy look (think Clueless) was huge in the mid-to-late 90s. For women, this look meant plaid or tartan skirts, sweaters, slip dresses, and knee-high boots. Men’s clothing included khakis, navy blazers, button-up shirts, nautical-striped t-shirts, and sweaters.

Reese Witherspoon in 1997

By 1997, it seemed like women everywhere were wearing tight spaghetti strap tank tops and “skorts” (if you don’t remember, a “skort” is an awesome combination of short-shorts and mini skirt), or skimpy schoolgirl outfits with huge chunky shoes. Then came the camouflage cargo pants, capri pants, low-rise jeans, crop tops, and tube tops.  

By the late 90s, men’s business casual looks were made popular by the dot-com boom and included dress slacks, chinos, khakis, belts, long sleeve button-up shirts, sweaters, dark socks, dress shoes, and an optional tie. A more formal look was a three or four button single breasted suit, with a bright tie, and matching shirt. All black suits, shirts, and ties was also a popular formal look for men.

Final Thoughts 

The 90s will probably always be my favorite decade in terms of fashion. The patches. The leather. The plaid. The platform shoes. The gargantuan JNCO jeans. The tiny slip dresses. I could go on forever. 

Maybe it’s nostalgia, maybe it’s because the trends were a little all over the place, or because of the general “fuck it”aesthetic. Either way, I love the 90s look. 

What’s your favorite trend from the 90s?

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1990s: The Decade of Anti-fashion

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