In the early 1990s, several mid and late 1980s fashions remained very stylish among both sexes. However, the popularity of grunge and alternative rock music helped bring the simple, unkempt grunge look into the mainstream by 1994. Overall, the 1990s saw a return to the minimalist fashion of the 1950s and 1970s, contrasted to the more elaborate and flashy trends of the 1980s. Additionally, fashion trends throughout the decade recycled styles from previous decades, notably the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, a trend which would continue into the 2000s and 2010s.
Kate Moss, who often modeled for Calvin Klein, sparked controversy with her very thin, waif-like figure. Due to Kate’s extremely skinny heroin chic frame, many criticized her for allegedly promoting eating disorders in her shots. Reportedly, posters of Kate Moss were often defaced with graffiti that read “feed me”.
Slip dresses first became widely worn in the mid-90s, as part of the underwear-as-outerwear trend. (Jane Leeves, 1995)
The mid 1990s saw a revival of the late 1960s/early 1970s hippie influenced fashion from 1994 onwards, including floral maxi dresses, turtleneck shirts, lace blouses, Gypsy tops, and tie dye T-shirts made at home.
Women in the mid 1990s generally had less of an interest in provocative clothing, with comfort and freedom being the most important when it came to fashion. Both long and short skirts were favored, and women wore what they wanted instead of listening to what fashion designers say was "in". However, the push-up bra was quite popular among those who did want to enhance their appearance.
In America, Britain and Australia, long floralskirts, olive green dresses, black shoes, Paisley scarfs, black Lycraleggings, and yellow or blue denimshortalls were very popular. The most popular pant style was mid-rise slim cut, but not tight fitting. To celebrate 40 years in the fashion industry, Mariuccia Mandelli revived the hot pants in 1995, which she had made fashionable in the early 1970s.
In 1995, the film Clueless inspired a rejuvenation of women's preppy clothing. The lead character Cher Horowitz had a profound influence on women's fashions, and she is considered a fashion icon of the 1990s. The film and character popularized knee-high socks, thigh-high socks, blazers and skirts in matching plaid patterns, collared shirts, and microskirts.
Almost simultaneously with Clueless, 1950s ladylike fashions made a comeback in the United States. This included pencil skirts, cardigans, girdles, and fitted suits. Popular accessories that went hand-in-hand with this revival included brooches, white gloves, sheer stockings, diamonds, sequins, and red lipstick.
In Europe, Australasia, and East Asia, men's fashion was lively but unusual, with a large emphasis on colors and textures. Seemingly casual clothes such as trousers, sweaters, and denim jackets were made of satin, PVC, and terry cloth. Both pastel colors and strong colors were popular.
The 1970s became a dominant theme for inspiration on men's apparel in 1996. Among these clothing styles were coats with fur- or faux fur-trimmings, jackets with bold shoulders and wide lapels, and boot-cut trousers. This continued into the 2000s.
From 1995 onwards, American men wore overalls, straight leg jeans, plaid pants, flat-front chinos and khaki pants, and camouflage pants worn ironically by anti-war protesters.
Late 1990s (1997-1999)
Rave Culture and Streetwear
By the late 1990s, the grunge look that was popular the years before had gone out of style. The emergence of the rave subculture had sparked a revival of interest in more stylish clothes, with name brand designers such as Calvin Klein and Vera Wang making a comeback. The most popular trainers were white or black and manufactured by Adidas, Reebok, Hitec and Nike. Shoes with built in air pumps were popular among both sexes. Leather had largely replaced canvas, and soles were made of foam rather than solid rubber. This continued into the 2000s.
Young men favored preppy brands like Old Navy and Abercrombie & Fitch. Sportswear such as casual jackets, tee shirts, sweaters, and tennis shoes became more acceptable to wear in public during the late 90s, even to the point of the clothes being considered fashionable. Other popular trends included hoodies, jean shorts, khaki cargo pants, baggy basketball shorts, and chinos. Other popular items of clothing included tracksuits and black bomber jackets with orange linings. Around this time it became fashionable to leave shirts untucked. This continued into the 2000s.
In Europe, single-breasted three and four button suits in grey or navy blue, together with leather jackets based on the same cut as blazers, began to replace the 1980s power suits. Tweed cloth and houndstoothsportcoats went out of fashion due to their association with older men.
The dominant youth clothing fad at the beginning of the 1990s was fluorescent clothing in blue, green, orange, pink, and yellow. Hoop earrings were also a popular accessory for teenaged girls and women in the first years of the 1990s. Plaid shirts were also popular. Popular colors for girls included coral, hot pink, and turquoise. In Britain and the USA, girls wore oversized tee shirts, sweat shirts, sweaters, slouch socks worn over sweatpants or leggings, black or white lace trimmed bike shorts with babydoll dresses, belts worn with dresses, sweaters, and t-shirts, flats, Keds, Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars, shortalls, leotards worn as tops with jeans, and athletic shorts. Boys wore soccer shorts, jean jackets, tartan shirts, tapered acid washjeans, and sweatpants. For example, in the Southern Suburbs of Chicago during the late 1980s and early 1990s, Z Cavericci pants and IOU sweatshirts were worn by members of the middle/upper-middle class.
For much of the 1990s, particularly the middle years, teenage boys and girls bought and wore very basic clothes, such as overalls, flannel shirts, and backpacks. Popular stores selling these items included Gap and Urban Outfitters.
For younger children, the mid-late 1990s was the Golden Age of Disney films with T-shirts and sweaters featuring characters like Simba, Mickey Mouse, Aladdin, and Winnie the Pooh. Tartan trousers, striped shirts, long sleeved polo shirts, and sweaters were worn by young boys in the UK and the USA. Blue denim and railroad stripe overalls were also popular for females, as seen on television and commercials throughout the decade, and for teenagers, who would leave either strap hanging loose. A common outfit for all girls, especially tweens and teens, was to wear a skirt, dress shorts, baby doll dress or short dress with black opaque tights, white slouch socks and Converse shoes.
Grunge fashion remained popular among the British skater subculture until the late 1990s as the hard-wearing, loose-fitting clothing was cheap and provided good protection. Members of the subculture were nicknamed grebos or moshers and included those who did not skate.
The late 1990s saw the rise of the British chav subculture, an offshoot of the casuals, a football fan subculture of the 1980s. Common items of clothing included tracksuits, baseball caps, gold jewellery, diamond earrings, and white Adidas trainers. Hair was heavily gelled, often bleached blonde, and either spiky or shaped into a quiff. Girls wore large hoop earrings and pulled their hair into a tight ponytail known as a croydon facelift.
Women's hair in the early 1990s continued in the big, curly style of the 1980s.
The early and mid 1990s saw the continued popularity of longer hair on men. In the early 1990s, curtained hair and small ponytails were popular among yuppies.
The pixie cut and Rachel haircut, based on the hairstyles of Jennifer Aniston in Friends and Marlo Thomas in That Girl, were popular in America from 1995 onwards. Around the same time it became fashionable to center-part one's hair again for both men and women, reminiscent of the 1970s. From 1995 onwards, dark-haired women tended to dye their hair a lighter color with blonde highlights (popularized by Jennifer Aniston) until the late 2000s.
In the mid 1990s, younger men's hair was mostly long and unkempt with a center-parting as they became stylish again, while men over 30 had conservative 1950s style haircuts.
By 1997, it was considered unstylish and unattractive for men and boys to have longer hair, and as a result short hair made a comeback in the mainstream. From 1997 onwards, aside from curtained hair (which was popular throughout the decade), spiky hair, bleached hair, crew cuts, and variants of the quiff became popular among younger men. Dark haired men dyed their spikes blonde or added wavy blonde streaks, a trend which continued into the early and mid 2000s. For African-American men, the cornrows and buzz cut were a popular trend that continued into the early 2000s.
For teenage boys longer hair was popular in the early to mid-1990s, including collar-length curtained hair, shaggy surfer hair popular among some Britpop fans, and dreadlocks. During the mid-1990s, the much-ridiculed bowl cut became a fad among skaters, while hip-hop fans wore a variant of the flattop known as the Hi-top fade. In the late 1990s, hair was usually buzzed very short for an athletic look, although a few grunge fans grew their hair long in reaction to this.
For teenage girls and younger children, hair was worn long with heavily teased bangs called "mall bangs" which were long fringes covering the forehead. Headbands and scrunchies of various styles and colors were popular with girls throughout the early and mid 1990s, and they frequently wore them with side ponytails and bangs.
Makeup and Cosmetic Trends
Women's makeup in the early 1990s primarily consisted of dark red lipstick and heavy eyeliner and mascara. Around 1992 the "grunge look" came in to style among younger women and the look was based on dark red lipstick and smudged eyeliner and eyeshadow. Both styles of makeup continued into 1994, but went out of style the next year.
The trends in makeup shifted in the mid 1990s. In 1995, nude shades became desirable and women had a broader color palette in brown. Another makeup trend that emerged was matte lipsticks, with deep shades of red and dark wine colors worn as part of night makeup. Gothic makeup had broken into the mainstream, having been made up of vamp lipstick (or even black lipstick), heavy mascara and eyeliner, often purple-tinted eye-shadow (or else very dark blue), and extremely pale foundation. This remained common until the late 2000s.
By 1997, glittery, sparkling makeup had come into style. This was called "Y2K makeup", consisting of facial glitter and lip gloss. Eyeshadow became less obvious by this point in time, with the most popular color being baby blue. Brown lipsticks remained relevant, although they lost their grip in favor of lip gloss.