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A look back at bold and outrageous 90s fashion moments

March 2, 2016

While 90s fashion had its bold and often outrageous moments, those fashion trends, which inspired an entire generation, were driven by more than just star power.

 

From flannel shirts and cropped tops, to Cargo Skirts and slip dresses, they all captivated the imaginations of 90s fashion watchers. But what most industry observers will tell you is that, it wasn’t just musicians like Madonna, the Spice Girls and Britney Spears who inspired fashionistas in the 1990s. Popular movie icons like Drew Barrymore and Kate Moss played their part too, in inspiring 90s girls.   

Dasich, 1993

Dasich, 1993

The revival

The latest vintage fashion revival is the trends of 90s fashion. With styles our younger generation of today can relate to, this era of minimalist fashion is working its way back into our wardrobes. This decade of fashion saw a simple yet stylish change in the way people dressed with the rise of casual, sports items hitting the high street rather than the gym. There was a mixture of other influences in this fashion decade yet all followed a sleek, minimalistic approach to style.

90s customised jean shorts with slogans and logos

90s customised jean shorts with slogans and logos

90s fashion panorama revealed

Babydoll dresses, a dress featuring empire waists and skirts that ended just above knee length, were a popular part of 90s fashion too.  Although these sexy, frilly dresses had their origins back in the 20th century, and subsequently revived along the way, babydoll dresses became vogue for 90s fashion thanks to the 90s hip hop, punk and rock scene. It was Hole frontwoman Courtney Love, with her dark makeup and torn sheer slips, who really brought babydoll dresses to prominence on stage.

PearlJam-onstage

PearlJam-onstage

 Grunge 90s fashion

And then, there was the almighty grunge style that really rocked 90s fashion all over the world. Born in Seattle during the mid-1980s, grunge epitomised a timeless, durable thrift-store mentality, where clothes were deliberately loose-fit, de-emphasizing the silhouette. And like babydoll dresses, which owe so much to musicians, grunge style was propelled into 1990s fashion hall of fame thanks to bands like Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Soundgarden.

 

Typically, the grunge style entailed darkly coloured flannel shirts, ripped or stonewashed jeans, combat boots or sneakers – usually high tops – and Doc Martens. For anyone looking to embrace grunge style, Tv serials like My So-Called Life and big screen hits like Singles and Reality Bites are a must see.  The entertainers do a pretty good job of highlighting 90s fashion in action.

Genetikk hip hop magazine cover, 2013

Genetikk hip hop magazine cover, 2013

Hip hop musicians and rappers also played a pivotal role in defining 90s trends in fashion wear. If it wasn’t for rappers, who cooperated extensively with sporting goods manufacturers and athletes during the 90s, sports wear would likely not have become an important 90s fashion element. And thanks to endorsements from hip hop stars of that decade, including Goodie Mob and Arrested Development, alternate fashion and the 90s trend of wearing recycled clothes would never have seen the light of day.

90s fashion - Gala photo, 1994

Gala photo, 1994

1990s fashion dresses and tops

Slip dresses, halter tops and tank tops were a rave back in the 1990s. In fact, when music sensation TLC came into the limelight, 1990s fashion went berserk with the group wearing cropped tops during some of their appearances on stage. But it wasn’t just music icons like Britney, or TV shows like My So Called Life, or Hollywood celebrities like Kate Moss that loved to wear them.  Every-day people, young girls, and adult women embraced the fad with great gusto too.

 

Today, although the core 90s trends for pulling off those classics remain, the look has evolved significantly. For instance, when it comes to tank tops, while what made them popular in the 90s still holds true today, but now you’ve got countless spins on that ageless top. There are halter tank tops, backless tank tops, athletic and double-layered versions of it, and even cut-out tank tops that reveal a lot more of midriff and ribs than their 90s fashion statements.

Woman wearing white tied shirt

Woman wearing white tied shirt

But when it came to 1990s fashion, it wasn’t all about cropped tops, babydoll dresses, loose-fitting grunge trousers, flannel shirts and tank tops alone. 90s fashionistas also had an eye for footwear that few other decades have paralleled. From open-toed shoes and tennis shoes, to keds and platform shoes – they were all a rave during the 90s fashion revolution.  And who can forget the dazzling array of Spice Girls shoes and footwear embellishments, from chunky ankle straps and platform sneakers, to combat boots and the iconic leopard print boots worn by Scary Spice.

90s men

90s fashion was not just the exclusive domain of girls and young ladies. 90s men had a particular affinity for shiny pointy-toed shoes. These were usually made from shiny faux leather or glistening patent leather. Typical office attire would include long sleeve shirts, straight cut trousers, fastened with a belt, and low-heeled pointed-toe shoes. While one could be forgiven for thinking this was a throw back from the 80s, it was very much part of the bourgeoning fashion trends of the 1990s.

Black Converse All Stars

Black Converse All Stars

90s fashion footwear craze

90s girls had their eyes on footwear too, thanks in large part to musical icons like the Spice Girls. Their use of fashion, to highlight girl power, included body glitter, pigtail buns and – of course, platform shoes. It wasn’t long before the clunky footwear became a 90’s girls “must have” wardrobe piece.  And while platform shoes caught everyone’s imagination, it wasn’t the only piece of footwear that rode the woman’s 90s fashion wave.

 

By then, Mary Janes – that rounded-toe, flat shoe for young 90s girls and women, the one with the single strap on top – was giving platform shoes a run for its money. But because the footwear market was so vast within the 1990s fashion arena, it had plenty of room for other players too. High platform favourites included Doc Martens as well as platform Tevas – both equally popular 90s fashion picks with women and young girls.

90s fashion - Spice Girls live on stage,1997

Spice Girls live on stage,1997

But along with variations of chunky platform shoes and keds, women of the 90s also loved their knee-high boots, go-go boots, suede sneakers, clogs and mules. As statement pieces, 90s girls and young women loved wearing chunky shoes with slip dresses – usually floral prints, and huge-brimmed hats. Later in the decade, professional women wore their platform shoes with jeans, maxi skirts and darker coloured tailor fitted dress trousers.

 

And as part of their 90s fashion revolution, girls were also not afraid to rock footwear that was traditionally the domain of their men counterparts. Grunge style army boots were a common sight on 90s girls feet. And with the popularity of musical genera’s like rock and hip hop, it wasn’t uncommon for celebrities to come on stage wearing battle fatigues and combat boots.

Inside of Dr martens shoes

Inside of Dr martens shoes

90s fashion footwear options

Doc Martens certainly took the world by storm as a 90s fashion statement.  But other, somewhat lesser known, every-day footwear options included Jelly Sandals, Chinese Slippers and Adidas Shower shoes. And while platform shoes adorned the feet of many young ladies, popular 90s trends for footwear also included Wooden Heels, Platform Sneakers, Strappy Heels and Chunky Sandals.

Gwen Stefani onstage with No Doubt

Gwen Stefani onstage with No Doubt.
Photo credit: Lorie Shaull from St Paul, United States

Everlasting 90s girls star power

Like many decades before and after it, 90s fashion too had star power behind it. One of the most imitated artists was, of course, Madonna. She rocked stages around the world in her slip dresses, lacy under garments and body-hugging leopard prints. However, nowhere was the hip hop queen’s display of 90s girls power more apparent than in her Jean Paul Gaultier designed cone bra that was especially created for her 1990 Blond Ambition tour.

Drew Barrymore

Drew Barrymore was yet another one of Hollywood’s stars that set 90s trends for flirty fashion. Her signature wild-child with flower-child fusion looks featured babydoll dresses and tank tops. Barrymore was very adept at seemingly pulling off unique styles by merging cross genera’s of 1990s fashion ideas. One often imitated look was her mix of grunge style with classic Boho pieces, and cropped tops with washed out jeans.

Gwen Stefani

While Britney Spears stormed the 1990s fashion stage in babydoll dresses and school girl uniforms, other female entertainers choose a more dominating look to highlight their 90s girls image. When it came to vibrant, agile star power, no one puled off 90s fashion like No Doubt frontwoman Gwen Stefani. If baring your six-pack abs is your thing – and Stefani certainly had the physique for it – then you too can rock cargo pants and cropped tops and Wife Beaters for that on-the-go athletic look.

 

And of course, Britain’s own Spice Girls need no introduction when we’re talking about the impact of star power on 90s fashion.  From Baby Spice’s playful babydoll dresses, to Scary Spice’s leopard prints, and from Ginger’s Union Jack mini dress to Posh Girl’s PVC Catsuit, 90s girls power was never more apparent and on full display.

Calvin Klein minidress,1991

Calvin Klein minidress,1991

Kate Moss

But what might be termed as one of the boldest and most outrageous moments of 90s fashion star power is likely the one featuring Hollywood star Kate Moss.  When the Calvin Klein team “discovered” the young budding starlet, they soon had sexy male model Mark Wahlberg in undies – posing with a nude Kate – as part of an underwear publicity campaign. That really showed the fashion world how 90s girls had the power to showcase almost any aspect of fashion, and to influence 90s trends in fashion and design.

 

As we look around at today’s fashion landscape, we see 90s fashion making a strong comeback – thanks largely to the lasting legacy of that decades’ star power. Men and women today dress up in androgynous fashion, much like grunge style back in the 1990s. They even sport similar looking Doc Martens – which is a throwback from 1990s fashion.

 

You’ll also notice that baby-style dresses, and cropped tops have made it back in design catalogues, as have PVC pants and leather jackets – all of which were popularised by the Spice Girls. And if you follow the contemporary fashion scene closely, you’ll see that flannel shirts and frayed jeans, albeit with a more modern twist, are a staple at many runway events.  And thanks to Kate Moss, who continues to advocate simplicity in her dress code, another one of 90s fashion icons is making a comeback – slip dresses!

90s fashion, Cindy Crawford, 1995

Cindy Crawford, 1995

The rise of the supermodel

In this decade, the supermodels gracing high fashion catwalks were becoming iconic style setters in their own right. Designer Calvin Klein became a household name with model Kate Moss at the helm of their campaign ads. Kate Moss herself was a popular style muse in the 90s and displayed a captivating heroin chic image, very different to the Cindy Crawford’s and Naomi Campbell’s of the time.

90s fashion Grunge chic

Grunge was a huge trend in the early 90s with both men and women embracing this rebellious look. The looks featured in today’s retailers take inspiration from the key pieces loved in 90s fashion. Pieces include check shirts, ripped jeans, oversized knitwear, band t-shirts and the iconic Doc Marten boot. The revival of this style sees designers using a feminine twist on this tougher grungy look.

Clueless

The cult classic film Clueless was a huge hit during the mid 90s and sparked a slight change in younger women’s fashion. Sexy was in and mini skirts, baby doll tees, thigh high socks and chunky shoes proved hit fashion pieces.

The power suit

In the early to mid 90s, a statement power suit was the key to work wear dressing. Strong lines, dark skirt suits provided the ultimate powerful image. Yet later in the decade the trends started to change with casual looks proving popular and a cute sleeker looks prevailed.

90s fashion Sporty chic

The late 90s saw a huge rise in casual fashion. Long gone were the days of just wearing your sportswear to the gym, it was now hitting the high street. It was commonplace to wear jeans with a strappy top or – bottoms and the sports brands of Nike, Adidas and Skechers were hugely popular during this time.

Underwear as outerwear

During the mid 90s, fashion started taking on a whole different approach. Feminine lines starting making waves on the red carpet with the 90s slips dress showcasing an underwear as outerwear look. High shine fabrics such as silk, satin and metallic were a popular fabric.

 

Just a few days ago, we saw a revival on the red carpet of a huge 90s look. At the Oscars Rachel McAdams wowed with a sleek emerald gown that showcased a strong reminiscence of the slip dress popular in that decade. This simple style was complimented with a smoky eye and understated up-do, all paying homage to statement 90s style.

 

 

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