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is 90s fashion truly vintage?

May 27, 2024

Okay, We’ve Gotta Know: Is 90s Fashion Truly Vintage?

As 1990s fashion enters into its thirty-fourth year of being, there’s a question that we can longer ignore: is it now technically and truly classed as vintage?”

is 90s fashion truly vintage - 1997 Pierre Cardin wedding dress and 2012 Parabolic evening dress

london road, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

When looking at the question of whether 90s fashion is truly vintage, there’s a couple of things we need to factor in. Firstly, what even is ‘vintage’? What’s the difference between ‘vintage’ and ‘retro’? But then, where and how does ‘antique’ come into play?


If these are questions that you’re not quite sure you know the answers to, never fear. This article is here to help!

What Is Vintage?

Though the term ‘vintage’ is used pretty casually to describe a myriad of things, its definition is actually a lot more concrete than you’d think. An object or piece of clothing is classed as ‘vintage’ once it was created between 20 years (or 40, depending on the definition) and 100 years ago. In addition though, vintage clothes must also symbolize the styles and trends of their era: for instance, a random nondescript cotton t-shirt from 1960 wouldn’t necessarily be vintage, but a high school 1950s bomber jacket would be (as it represents a significant style from 1950s era).


The parameters for what is an era’s ‘significant style’ are a little more fluid, as it can be down to personal perspective. We hope this has helped to give you a little more of a general understanding of vintage-ness (it’s totally a word), and let’s continue our deep dive into whether or not 90s fashion is truly vintage!

What Is Retro?

‘Retro’ fashion, though sometimes used interchangeably with the term ‘vintage’, has a slightly different definition. Retro fashion or objects imply a vintage aesthetic: as in, they may be made in modern times, but they mimic or replicate previous decade’s vintage styles. Retro fashion can be older than brand-new (for instance, it can be made in the 1970s or 1980s), but its key element is that it symbolizes vintage fashion from a minimum of 15 to 20 years prior to its creation.


Phew! That was a lot of words, we hope you’re still with us. The concept for ‘retro’ clothing is definitely a little more vague than ‘vintage’ fashion, but that doesn’t make it any less fashion-savvy. If you’d like a fun fact, the world ‘retro’ actually originates from the Latin prefix ‘retro’, which translates to ‘in past times’, or ‘backwards’. So there you go, you can use that to impress your friends with your language knowledge!


So 90s retro fashion included the iconic grunge style originating from the USA and in particular around Seattle, Hip Hop fashions including baggy jeans, shell suits and tracksuits, Mercedes benz logo neckaces, MA1 style satinized bomber jackets, ripped Levi 501 jeans, doc martens, combat boots, fanny packs and slip dresses.


Okay, so that’s two down, one more to go. We’re almost at our core question of ‘is 90s fashion truly vintage?’, but let’s have a look at antiques first.</p>

Is 90s fashion truly vintage – What Is Antique?

Don’t worry, the definition of ‘antique’ fashion is much easier than the previous two we’ve covered. In a nutshell, antique fashion (or any antique objects) are described as being ‘collectable’, and at least 100 years old… so at least we can cross this one off the list in terms of describing 90s fashion!


People can have a variety of reasons for describing antiques as ‘collectables’: it could be due to their beauty, their well-kept condition, how rare they are or even just due to their age itself. So, while a tissue that your great-great grandmother used 100 years ago would be technically classed as ‘antique’, it may not be the most collectable or coveted of items…


Alright! That’s all of our groundwork covered. Let’s complete the quest of figuring out whether 90s fashion is truly vintage!

What Is 1990s Fashion, and Is 90s fashion Truly Vintage?

90s fashion is a big, broad term that spans many different styles, genres and trends. Nearly every fashion niche had a home in the 1990s, but some were more significant than others. A couple of those key players are:


Is 90s fashion truly vintage – Hip Hop

Hip hop blossomed in the 1990s, and its signature style did too. Think snapbacks, loose pants, baggy jeans, and chunky statement jewelry. You’ve gotta love it!


Punk rock/grunge

Though punk, grunge style and rock have been around since long before the 1990s, their styles thankfully were still up, running and flourishing during the 90s. Leather jackets, combat boots (doc martens, anyone?), tank tops and black jeans weren’t only staples of these vintage styles, but practically necessary. You won’t hear us complaining, though!


Celebrity styles in is 90s fashion truly vintage

I’m not too sure how to name this category, but that doesn’t make it any less iconic. From style icons like Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Aniston to the Spice Girls, to Kate Moss, there was some absolutely key looks served to us via the 1990’s red carpet. Scrunchies, tube tops, tank tops, crop tops, low waist jeans, sheer dresses and slip dresses are just a few of the outfits that inspired many 1990s high school teens to buy fanny packs, hair crimpers  and butterfly clips. And while the fanny pack wasn’t usually a piece that was hitting the red carpet too often, its practicality definitely merits an honorable mention!


So…Is 90s Fashion Truly Vintage or Not?

According to all of the previous definitions, 1990s fashion is now considered to be technically vintage – and oh dear, that makes us feel old…


But again, what people truly feel to be vintage can change depending on the person. The 1990s started 34 years ago (scary, we know) and so fall into the vintage category, but for some vintage style clothing pieces like a generic pair of socks from the 1990s, they don’t encapsulate the style of the time and so wouldn’t quite fall into the vintage clothes category.


For the likes of slip dresses, romper suits à la style icon Will Smith’s renowned photoshoot, and leather jackets, they’re definitely vintage. On the bright side though, it means if you have any leftover clothing from your 1990 years collecting dust at the back of your wardrobe, there’s never been a better time to break them out!


So, that brings us to the end of our deep-dive into is 90s fashion truly vintage for today. Thank you for joining us on this journey! Is there any particular 1990s piece of clothing that you’re keen to see back in the spotlight? How about trends that you’d like to see buried in the 1990s for all eternity? For me, I think it’s gotta be tinted glasses, I could never get them to look right! Maybe that’s a ‘me’ problem though…


Until next time, go forth and fashion!