In contrast to the more ornate and showy styles of the 1980s, the 1990s saw a return to minimalist fashion, which helped to define the decade’s fashion. The widespread acceptance of tattoos, body piercings other than ear piercings, and, to a much lesser extent, other types of body alteration like branding, was one major change.
Several late 1980s trends were still extremely in style among both sexes in the early 1990s. But by 1994, the straightforward, untidy grunge aesthetic had entered the mainstream thanks to the success of grunge and alternative rock music. The casual chic look, which featured T-shirts, jeans, hoodies, and sneakers, became popular as a result of the anti-conformist approach to fashion and persisted into the 2000s. In addition, the decade’s fashion trends recycled patterns from earlier eras, particularly the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, fashion grew increasingly globalized and homogenized as a result of the expansion of the Internet and satellite television outside of the US and the elimination of import barriers under NAFTA.
Subcultures and Trends
Breaking away from the shoulder pads and large hair that dominated the 1980s, fashion in the 1990s began a wave of minimalist designs. The 1990s had a big influence on fashion from casual, stylish looks like sportswear, slip dresses, and loose T-shirts.
What Was the 1990s Fashion?
As the 1990s progressed, so did the decade’s fashion. Late 1990s fashion saw a move from bright colors and athletic apparel evocative of the 1980s to refined slip dresses and preppy designs. Popular fashions from the decade, including grunge looks, denim overalls, micro skirts, and cropped cardigans, were influenced by the music and entertainment industries. Due to the continued popularity of athleisure and streetwear, 1990s fashion trends are still prevalent today.
1990s Fashion Icons
Fashion idols from the 1990s influenced some of the decade’s most well-known trends in a variety of sectors.
- Celebrities. During the 1990s, well-known athletes and movie personalities also developed into powerful fashion idols. Jennifer Lopez added glitz to the decade’s fashion by styling lavish and vibrant beaded gowns, in contrast to the majority of ’90s fashion superstars who went for simplicity. Actors Freddie Prinze Jr. and Brad Pitt had stylish, preppy ’90s looks that included Oxford shirts and thin sunglasses, while basketball player Dennis Rodman sported low, baggy trousers and body piercings. Lisa Bonet combined and matched several statement elements in each costume, drawing inspiration from both men’s and women’s clothing.
- Musicians. The 1990s fashion was also influenced by the music business, as hip-hop culture made oversized jackets and baggy pants prominent items of casual clothing. Following the surge in popularity of crop tops, low-rise jeans, and athleisure, singer Aaliyah became recognized for her easygoing and understated style. Other female artists and groups, such as TLC and The Spice Girls, were also ’90s fashion superstars, appearing on stage in combat boots, wide-leg slacks, and sportswear. Rappers like LL Cool J, Biggie, and Tupac were known for their use of Timberland boots, bucket hats, tracksuits, and baggy cargo trousers. Grunge musicians like Kurt Cobain and Mark Arm were known for their use of Converse sneakers, graphic T-shirts, and Aviator sunglasses.
- Supermodels. In the fashion business, prominent models frequently appeared on the covers of internationally marketed publications. Supermodels including Yasmeen Ghauri, Devon Aoki, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, Tatjana Patitz, Noami Campell, Kate Moss, and Christy Turlington presented ’90s fashion on runways, TV screens, and in magazine shoots, turning it into a worldwide sensation.
While there were recurring elements in 1990s fashion, there were also significant subcultures that each had their distinctive style. The top three 1990s fashion subcultures are listed below.
- Grunge. Dark flannel shirts and torn jeans were the go-to ensembles for the grunge movement of the 1990s. This relaxed, carefree aesthetic proliferated in the ’90s as bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam gained prominence. Combat boots and Doc Martens were also common accessories in the grunge scene.
- Preppy. Hip-hop culture served as an inspiration for the preppy subculture of ’90s fashion. Preppy fashion from the 1990s was frequently characterized by oversized shirts, high-waisted trousers, and Sperry boat shoes. Another iconic ’90s preppy trend was plaid short skirts worn with a tank top and matching jacket, as seen in movies and MTV music videos like Britney Spears’s “Baby One More Time” clip.
- Punk. Drawing inspiration from skatewear, the ’90s punk movement included vivid colors, spiky hair, and black leather jackets. Choker necklaces and torn jeans also evolved into fashion staples throughout the 1990s punk movement.
The decade’s fashion styles included sophisticated, high-fashion looks as well as streetwear-inspired, casual clothing, glam, and grunge looks. Here are some common ’90s-inspired clothing and accessories:
- Slip dress. The minimalist aesthetic that dominated 1990s design was exemplified by the slip dress, a straightforward outfit with spaghetti straps. The underwear-as-outerwear style, popularized on the red carpet by celebrities like Jennifer Aniston and Gwyneth Paltrow, was also greatly influenced by the short silk slip dress.
- Chain belts. Chain belts are a style of belt constructed of connected metal that was popularized by hip-hop. A chain-link belt often wraps around the mid-waist or hips and hangs down, occasionally looping around the body more than once, unlike a regular buckle belt, which fits through the belt loops of a pair of pants. Chain belts first emerged on the catwalk in couture presentations for ready-to-wear collections throughout the 1990s.
- Sportswear. Athletic clothing like tracksuits cropped T-shirts, and large jerseys became a mainstay of 1990s fashion. On stage, performers frequently wore baggy sports jerseys, while other fashion icons made sportswear mainstream. For instance, Princess Diana frequently sported an oversized sweater, a pair of fitting biker shorts, and a pair of white shoes. This informal, exercise-inspired outfit rose to fame as a symbol of 1990s street style.
- Scrunchies. In the 1990s, scrunchies, worn as a bracelet or as a hair item, were a common addition to casual, daily attire. Scrunchies were frequently used to hold a high ponytail or a half-up, half-down hairdo and to give a splash of color to an outfit.
- Graphic shirts. During the 1990s, both men’s and women’s clothing included big graphic tees. Unpretentious ways to express one’s style included baggy T-shirts with vibrant and patterned patterns. A band T-shirt, a pair of trousers, and a beanie cap made up the standard grunge ensemble.
- Overalls. Denim overalls with one strap down were frequently worn by actors in famous ’90s comedies including The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Friends, and Full House. The 1990s saw the emergence of yet another iconic trend: this casual ensemble. Depending on the style, actors donned a loud, patterned long-sleeve shirt underneath the overalls or a straightforward white turtleneck.
- In the 1990s, denim was the preferred material for practically everyone. Denim overalls, denim shorts, denim skirts, and jackets were in style.
- Flannel shirts were a mainstay of grunge fashion in the 1990s, and they were worn everywhere. They were frequently worn with tattered jeans and band t-shirts.
- The Spice Girls contributed to the popularity of platform shoes, which were a must-have item in the 1990s. They were offered in many sizes and shapes, from hefty to elegant.
- In the 1990s, chokers were a common accessory. They were frequently made of black velvet or plastic. They were worn with everything, including formal gowns and t-shirts.
- Hip-hop culture flourished in the 1990s, and baggy clothing grew in vogue as a result. T-shirts, jeans, and jackets that were too big were all the rage.
- Hair scrunchies were a must-have item in the 1990s. They were available in a variety of hues and designs. As a fashion statement, they were frequently worn on the wrist.
- Jeans with a high waist were fashionable in the early 1990s. They were frequently paired with a cropped top or tucked-in shirt.
- Neon colors dominated throughout the decade of the 1990s. Popular colors were neon green, pink, and orange, which were frequently worn as leggings or coats.
- Fanny packs were well-liked because they were both useful and stylish accessories in the 1990s. They were frequently thrown over the shoulder or wrapped around the waist.
- Scrunch socks were in. Also known as slouch socks, scrunch socks were a fashion trend in the 1990s. They were frequently worn with high-top or sneaker shoes.