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90s dresses – Three influential 90s dress styles

October 1, 2015

It was in 1991 that Rifat Ozbek designed his infamous all white collection, which was entitled New Age. It was intended to be a critique of the excessive and flashy 80s, and to signal, well, a new age. Unfortunately, alongside the minimalism of Ozbek, Ann Demeulemeester (who worked in mainly black) and Calvin Klein (who liked shades of beige and stone) came the phenomenon known as Bling.This was the total opposite, and its devotees enjoyed wearing really obviously expensive clothing and accessorising with as much gold as possible. womens 90s dresses could fall into either camp, as well as grunge babydoll dresses or unexpectedly cut Japanese strangeness.

Japanese womens 90s dresses

In 1981 both Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto, two Japanese designers, started their campaign to shock the Western world with their outfits that were gender-free and disregarded body shape. Instead of being cut to fit the body and enhance its shape, the designers chose to make clothes in amorphous shapes, or on a cleverly cut geometric basis.In the 1990s they continued.


For her 1992 collection Rei Kawakubo, who shows under the name of Comme des Garcons, showed clothes that looked like a paper pattern which you would use to make clothing, rather than the finished items. In 1995 she courted controversy by showing men in striped pyjamas with shorn hair. Jewish groups strongly objected. And in 1997, she went further than a disregard of the body and actually padded her clothes into humps and bumps – not breast padding or bum padding but bulbous shapes landing on the models back or twisted on their hips.


Her branding and photography was just as wayward, with photos in which the clothes were more incidental than centre stage. Being a individual, outside of fashion, has really paid off for the designer and she has many shops and concessions all over the world, as well as establishing the widely admired destination store Dover Street Market, which stocks other brands as well as her own in an innovative retail environment.

Innovative womens 90s dresses

Another Japanese designer, Issey Miyake, designed his Pleats Please range in 1988, and it was extremely popular by the 90s. He was a textile innovator, establishing his studio in the 1970 and experimenting with fabric and shape. Sometimes his creations were more like sculpture than clothes, but most of his creations were both wearable and globally popular.


The Pleats Please range was inspired by Mariano Fortuny, the turn of the century Italian designer and innovator who created beautiful pleated classical style gowns in silk. Miyake found a way to recreate the effect in polyester, producing simple tubes and free form shapes that adapted to the body as it moved. “I try not to fear radical things” he stated.

Grunge 90s dresses

90s dresses worn by grunge chicks were usually quite short, cute, and made of viscose. Worn over leggings, and with lots of layers, they were not worn to make the wearer look conventionally pretty or sexy but more sort of “really don’t care” with the attractiveness that comes with that attitude.


You would normally team the dress with a long, sloppy cardi, maybe a t shirt or long sleeve tee underneath, and Doc Martins or huge army boots on your feet. Top tip to complete the look: don’t brush your hair, or bother with perfect makeup.


The slip dress was once little more than a piece of underwear, to be seen only when a woman undressed.


But the 1990s brought the slip dress into the public gaze as women wore minimalist slip dresses with heels and discreet jewellery. It made for a powerful and sexy look.As 90s dresses go, the slip dress has to be up there as one of the best.

90s Slip dresses

The slip dress – underwear, nothing more

The corset leaves the slip enters

It made its very first appearance in the 1920s to be worn as an undergarment to help smooth down a woman’s silhouette.

The corset, still popular during the First World War, was no longer seen as an appropriate garment for women, as well as being uncomfortable, the practicalities meant that materials used to make them were now rationed.

The slip makes the flapper dress look simple and free

The 1920s favoured an androgynous body shape and the slip was perfect for this, there was not only enough room to move now the corset was dead, it was made from beautiful fabrics, and helped the new lighter flapper look dresses achieve a perfect shape worn with a slip underneath.

More bust less androgyny

Slips continued to be the functional garment they had been designed for throughout the 40s and 50s, but this time with more emphasis on the bust. There’d be extra trimmings and fabrics to enhance the upper part of the slip and by the time the 60s came they shortened in length.

90s dresses and the renaissance of the slip dress

As lining clothes started to become the norm, slips disappeared and it slowly became redundant.


However, the 90s saw a renaissance of the slip dress as designers created a more minimalist look that was a far cry from the colours, patterns and more ostentatious designs of the 1980s.


Designers such as Yves Saint Laurent and Donna Karan turned the slip dress into a stripped down look, with an emphasis on illuminous well cared for skin, and glossy hair.


Slip dresses were shorter now, and tight, but they could be both elegant and smart, worn at night with simple shoes.

During the mid-nineties the slip dress was seen over a t-shirt with chunky shoes and a sweater, this was the slip dress as grunge, worn to attract attention, finished off with thigh high stockings, it was a finger to minimal dressing.

The noughties sees the return once again of the slip dress

The late noughties has started to see the return of the slip dress with Hedi Slimane for YSL and Miuccia Prada and Marc Jacobs enthusiastically making their contributions in 2013.

The slip dress reinvented

Whether you prefer a minimalist or grunge look for your 90s dresses, it really is up to you how you wear them.


And naturally a vintage slip dress is the perfect choice in order to give this look authority. Just accessorise as you please, you can aim for a minimalist 90s look or go for something grungier.


Shoes, coats and jackets can be more contemporary if you wish, or you can stick with vintage, no necessarily from the same decade. Whatever you decide to do, just wear it with confidence.

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