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Womens 90s vintage clothing

October 22, 2015

Womens 90s vintage clothing came about partly as a reaction to the decade before. With the “More is More” 80s behind them, and a time of record unemployment ahead of them, the reactions of 90s fashions were two very different styles with the same core reason, that of saving money – “thrift store” and “Minimalism”.


Vintage Women’s 90s clothes

Thrift store style was based around eclectic second-hand clothing finds, which were usually piled in layers in an exuberant mismatched style. Second hand clothing was cheap, so even if you were impoverished you could afford to have a bulging wardrobe. Minimalist clothing was the opposite – it was about good quality clothing that would last longer, not quickly going out of style.


The idea was to build a pared down “capsule wardrobe” from one or two expensive pieces – black trousers or a pencil skirt suit, for example, and add a couple of shirts or a jumper to ring the changes.


Of course, minimal clothing could be very expensive, as luxury brands created simple seeming but perfectly cut garments in gorgeously tactile silks and cashmeres, albeit in muted colours. But the overall effect was not the 80s one of flashing the cash, with ginormous logos and bright colours every where, but of understated and discreet luxury.

Womens 90s vintage clothing – the body

Designers Jil Sander and Donna Karan are both closely associated with business like minimalism for women. They designed trouser suits, and crisp white shirts – modern and easy to wear pieces. Karan also made the “body” popular – a top that fastened between the legs to give an overall shape a bit like a swimming costume.


The idea was that your silhouette would be sleeker, with no bulky fabric tucking into your skirt or trousers, and no gaps where your top rode up to accidentally show your belly. In fact, when combined with the baggy trousers also in fashion, the effect of wearing the body was that when you stretched, the fabric cut into your crotch and the leg holes rode up instead, showing two half moons of flesh over your hips while your belly did remain covered as promised. Somehow the overall effect was so bizarre and somehow embarrassing that I always wished I’d plumped for a crop top and had done with it.


The body was mostly found in shapes like vests or t-shirts, which were usually made of lycra jersey anyway, but some versions of blouses were made, where the cotton blouse top was abruptly cut off around the hip line, to be replaced with the sewn on, crotch fastening knickers. They looked bizarre, and the trend never lasted in a big way beyond the 90s.

Womens 90s clothing – shift dresses

Alongside slim trousers, slim pencil skirts, the above mentioned body and the perfect white shirt, within womens 90s vintage clothing a reprise of the 60s Jackie O style shift dress became popular, with s simple silhouette and an A line or pencil skirt. Here is beautiful Heather Smalls of the pop band M People, who modelled the trend perfectly, looking always perfectly pulled together:

The psychedelic trend in Womens 90s vintage clothing

And here, for contrast, is equally beautiful Lady Miss Kier from dance music group Deee Lite, who went with a different kind of 60s look – the uber groomed psychedelic chick, a look that came out of the thrift store look but was less grungy and more glamorous. (If you look closely, she is actually wearing a turtle neck body on top of her leggings).

The average joe trend

Most Britpop bands however were not so glamorous. Sticking resolutely with the ladette culture of the 90s singers like Louise Wener from Sleeper and Justine Frischmann from Elastica went with shrunken T-shirts or a crop top, along with baggy jeans, or possibly boot cut jeans to ring the changes.


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The body
Heather Small and M People bandmates

Lady Miss Kier and Deee Lite
Resolutely average – Louise Wener