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1990s In Fashion

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1990s In Fashion

A group of people in January 1999 sporting various mid and late 1990s fashions.

The fashion in the 1990s was the genesis of a sweeping shift in the western world: the beginning of the adoption of tattoos,[1] body piercings aside from ear piercing[2] and to a lesser extent, other forms of body modification such as branding.

In the early 1990s, several 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. The anti-conformist approach to fashion lead to the popularisation of the casual chic look; this included T-shirts, jeans, hoodies, and trainers, a trend which continued into the 2000s.

Overall, the 1990s saw a return to the minimalist fashion of the 1950s and 1970s,[3] contrasted to the more elaborate and flashy trends of the 1980s. Additionally, fashion trends throughout the decade recycled styles from previous decades,[4] notably the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.


  • Women's fashion 1
    • Early 1990s (1990-92) 1.1
      • Supermodels and high fashion 1.1.1
      • Neon colors 1.1.2
      • Leggings and exercise-wear 1.1.3
      • Grunge 1.1.4
    • Mid-1990s (1993-96) 1.2
      • Glamour wear 1.2.1
      • Work wear 1.2.2
    • Late 1990s (1997-99) 1.3
      • 1970s revival 1.3.1
      • Casual chic 1.3.2
  • Men's fashion 2
    • Early 1990s (1990-92) 2.1
      • Casual clothing 2.1.1
      • Grunge look 2.1.2
    • Mid 1990s (1993-96) 2.2
      • Cool Britannia and '70s revival 2.2.1
      • Modern preppy 2.2.2
      • Hip-Hop 2.2.3
    • Late 1990s (1997-99) 2.3
      • Rave culture and streetwear 2.3.1
      • Business wear 2.3.2
  • Youth fashion 3
    • General trends 3.1
      • Grunge 3.1.1
      • Hip-Hop 3.1.2
      • Britpop 3.1.3
      • Psychobilly and punk 3.1.4
      • Preppy 3.1.5
  • 1990s beauty trends 4
    • Hairstyles 4.1
      • Women's hairstyles 4.1.1
      • Men's hairstyles 4.1.2
      • Children's and teenager's hairstyles 4.1.3
    • Makeup and cosmetic trends 4.2
  • Gallery 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7

Women's fashion

Early 1990s (1990-92)

Actress Paula Abdul wearing semi-transparent black dress, curled hair and smoky eye makeup, 1990.
Young woman standing on sidewalk, Uptown New Orleans, 1992.

Supermodels and high fashion

Neon colors

  • The early 1990s saw a continuation of late 1980s fashion, including bold, geometric print clothing in electric blue, orange, fluorescent pink, purple, turquoise[6] and acid green,[7] popularized by dance rappers like Lisa Lopes[8] of TLC. In the US, South Africa,[9] and Japan, typical patterns included triangles, zigzag lightning bolts, diamonds, lozenges, rectangles, overlapping freeform shapes, simulated explosions inspired by comic books or pop art, intricate grids,[10] and clusters of thin parallel lines in contrasting colors, such as white, black and yellow on a cyan background. Many women wore denim button down Western shirts, colored jeans in medium and dark green, red, and purple colors, metallic spandex leggings, halterneck crop tops, drainpipe jeans, colored tights, bike shorts, black leather jackets with shoulder pads, baby doll dresses with bike shorts or capri leggings underneath, and skater dresses. Bright neon colored tops and leg warmers were popular, together with leopard print skirts[11] and black or white shirts, leggings and jackets printed with abstract red, blue, yellow and green geometric patterns. In America, popular accessories included court shoes, cowboy boots, headscarves, slouch socks, Keds, ballet flats, and penny loafers or boat shoes associated with the preppy look.

Leggings and exercise-wear

  • From 1990 onwards, sports bras, hoodies and Leotards worn as tops with jeans were popular with young girls, teens, college girls, and young women in the UK, Europe and America. A common outfit was to wear a skirt, dress shorts, babydoll or minidress with black opaque tights, white athletic socks, and white Keds athletic sneakers. It was not uncommon to see mothers dressed right along with their daughters in white slouch socks worn over black leggings or sweatpants (especially heather grey color), oversized T-shirt or sweater, and Keds, Converse All Stars, or unisex aerobic, basketball or running shoes like Nike Air or gold Reebok hi-tops.[12] Leggings and slouch socks with oversized tops and casual sneakers especially Keds continued to be worn as lounge wear and everyday comfortable and fashionable casual wear until the late 1990s.


  • In mid 1992, grunge fashion broke into the mainstream for both sexes. For younger American, Australian and Latina women, grunge fashion consisted of flannel shirts, ripped jeans, [19][18][13] Grunge fashion peaked in late 1993 and early 1994.[17]".My So Called Life A prominent example of the popularity of grunge fashion is the teen drama television series "[16]

Mid-1990s (1993-96)

Glamour wear

Slip dresses first became widely worn in the mid-90s, as part of the underwear-as-outerwear trend. (Jane Leeves, 1995)

Work wear

  • For much of the early and mid 1990s, power dressing was the norm for women in the workplace:[30] navy blue, grey or pastel colored skirt suits with shoulder pads,[31] pussy bow blouses, silk scarves, pointed shoes, stretchy miniskirts,[32] polka dot blouses, and brightly colored short dresses worn a with dark brocade blazer, bare legs and metallic open toed shoes. Other 1980s fashions such as chunky jewelery, hoop earrings, smoky eye make-up, hairspray, Alice bands,[33] and brightly painted nails remained common. Shorts suits were also very popular. They consisted of a regular suit top and jacket and dress shorts with tights underneath usually worn with flats.
  • By 1996, professional women in Britain, Australia and America wore more relaxed styles and muted colors,[34] such as black floral print dresses, plain kaftan style blouses, Mary Janes, maxi skirts, boots, smart jeans, big floppy hats, culottes, and chunky platform shoes. Trouser suits began to replace skirts,[35] and nude tights and black pantyhose made a comeback.[36]

Late 1990s (1997-99)

Young woman wearing a spaghetti strap top, a silver necklace, low ponytail and straight-leg jeans, circa 1999.

1970s revival

Casual chic

  • From 1998-2000, the unisex casual chic look gained mainstream appeal, with dark stonewash jeans, spaghetti strap crop tops, tracksuits, sweatpants, and other athletic clothing. Denim's popularity was at an all-time high in Europe, with designer denim jackets and matching jeans rocketing in prices. Other common, more affordable brands included Mudd, JNCO, and Evisu, a Japanese denim brand which launched in the 1980s.[47] The most popular trainers were white or black and manufactured by Adidas, Skechers, Hitec and Nike. Running 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.
  • In the US and Britain, popular accessories included large hoop earrings, shoes with rounded toes, flip flops, jelly shoes, rhinestone-encrusted hip belts, embellished slippers, beaded wristbands and lariats,[47] Alice bands, pashminas,[40] fascinators, gold jewelry,[13] moccasin loafers,[47] running shoes, jelly bracelets,[48] bandanas, and novelty Wellington boots with patterns like leopard print or zebra stripes.

Men's fashion

Early 1990s (1990-92)

Casual clothing

Grunge look

Grunge-style flannel shirt and curtained hair, 1993

Mid 1990s (1993-96)

Cool Britannia and '70s revival

Trio in 1995 wearing neutral-colored tops and relaxed-fit, slim-leg pants and jeans.
  • Around 1995/1996, 1960s mod clothing and longer hair were popular in Britain, Canada, and the US due to the success of Britpop. Men wore Aloha shirts,[57] brown leather jackets, velvet blazers, paisley shirts, throwback pullover baseball jerseys, and graphic-print T-shirts (often featuring dragons, athletic logos or numbers). Real fur went out of fashion and fake fur became the standard.[21]
  • 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 slacks.[22] This continued into the 2000s. Casual clothes such as trousers, sweaters, and denim jackets were worn with shirts made of satin, PVC, and terry cloth. Both pastel colors and bold patterns were popular and successfully replaced black.[20]
  • Desirable accessories during the mid-1990s included loafers, desert boots, chelsea boots, gold jewellery, boat shoes, chunky digital watches, solid colored ties, shoulder bags, and black/neon colored high-top sneakers replaced combat boots.[21]

Modern preppy


Late 1990s (1997-99)

Rave culture and streetwear

Trinidadian men wearing typical late 90s fashions, 1997.
  • By the late 1990s, the grunge look became unfashionable. 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 Ralph Lauren making a comeback.[13] In Europe, jeans were more popular than ever before.[47] Color started returning by 1997, with colors such as plum, charcoal, olive, and wine coming into.[41] Colors continued to evolve from there until the return of bright colors by 1999,[62] with shades such as "camillia rose", "blazing orange", "whisper pink", "hot coral", and a light-grayish blue called "wind chime" coming into style.[42]
  • Young men favored preppy brands like Old Navy and Abercrombie & Fitch. Sportswear such as casual jackets, T-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,[13] khaki cargo pants,[47] baggy basketball shorts, chinos,[47] tracksuits and black bomber jackets with orange linings. This continued into the 2000s.
  • Much of men's fashion in 1997 was inspired by the 1996 film Swingers,[41] leading to the popularization of the "dressy casual" look. Such apparel included blazers or leather jackets, bowling shirts or long-sleeve button-downs in either a variety of prints or a solid color, and loose-fitting flat-front khaki chinos or dress pants. Around this time it became fashionable to leave shirts untucked.

Business wear

  • In Europe, single-breasted three and four button notch lapel suits in grey or navy blue, together with leather jackets based on the same cut as blazers, began to replace the 1980s power suits. The wide neckties of the early 90s remained the norm, but the colors became darker and stripes and patterns were less common. Tweed cloth and houndstooth sportcoats went out of fashion due to their association with older men.[63] Dress shoes (usually in black) included chelsea boots with rounded or square toes, wingtips, and monkstraps.[41]
  • In America, an increasing number of men began to dress smart-casual and business casual, a trend kickstarted by Bill Gates of Microsoft.[64] At more formal events such as weddings or proms, men often wear boxy three[65] or four button, single-breasted suits with a brightly colored tie and an often matching dress shirt. Another trend was to wear black shirts, black ties, and black suits.[45] Black leather reefer jackets and trenchcoats were also fashionable in the late 1990s.[66]

Youth fashion

General trends

  • 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 teenage girls and women in the first years of the 1990s. Plaid shirts were also popular. Popular colors for girls included coral, hot pink, bright lime green, and turquoise. In Britain and the US, 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, Dress shorts worn with tights and flats sometimes in a girls version of women's shorts suits complete with a suit jacket and sometimes worn with slouch socks over the tights and Keds, sweaters, and T-shirts, flats, Keds, Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars, boat shoes, shortalls worn in summer with flats or Keds and a tee and in the winter with tights and a long sleeved tee, leotards worn as tops with jeans, colored jeans especially in medium and dark green, red, and purple, and athletic shorts especially soccer shorts. Boys wore soccer shorts, jean jackets, tartan shirts, tapered acid wash jeans, colored jeans in medium and dark green, red, and purple colors sweatpants, slouch socks worn with everything from shorts and rolled jeans and khakis to show the slouch socks to over 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. Also Champion (sportswear) crew neck sweatshirts were popular to be worn over a turtleneck. Preppies and athletic students and everybody from young kids to teens, college students and adults alike loved sporting this combination.
  • 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.[20] In the late 1990s, American teenage girls imitated the look of British girl group All Saints, which consisted of baggy jeans, T-shirts, sweatshirts, tanktops, and trainers,[67] as well as cargo pants, camouflage prints, and crop tops.[68]
  • 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, Champion (sportswear) crew neck sweatshirts worn over a turtleneck, colored jeans in medium and dark green, red, and purple colors, athletic shorts especially soccer shorts, slouch socks and sweaters were worn by young boys and girls in the UK and the US. Blue denim and railroad stripe overalls and shortalls were also popular for females, as seen on television and commercials throughout the decade, and for teenagers, some who would leave either strap hanging loose. A common outfit for all girls, especially tweens and teens, was to wear a skirt or dress shorts with tights underneath and sometimes slouch socks, baby doll dress or short dress with black opaque tights, white slouch socks and Keds, boat shoes, or Converse shoes or an oversized tee, sweatshirt or sweater over leggings with slouch socks and Keds. The Bangs hairstyle and side or regular ponytails with scrunchies and headband were popular with girls of all ages and college girls.


  • The new wave and heavy metal fashion of the 1980s lasted until early 1992, when Grunge and hip hop fashion took over in popularity.[69] By the mid-1990s the grunge style had gone mainstream in Britain and the US, resulting in a decline in bright colors from 1995 until the late 2000s, and was dominated by tartan flannel shirts, stonewashed blue jeans, and dark colors like maroon, forest green, indigo, brown, white and black.
  • 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.[70] Members of the subculture were nicknamed grebos or moshers and included those who did not skate.



Example of late 1990s Goth fashion.

Psychobilly and punk


1990s beauty trends


Women's hairstyles

Monica Lewinsky in 1997 sporting volumized hair and bangs.

Women's hair in the early 1990s continued in the big, curly style of the 1980s.

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.[78] Around the same time red hair also became a desirable color for women, as well as feathered bangs,[21] and mini hair-buns.[79] Ponytails and side ponytails worn with scrunchies were popular too. From 1995 onwards, dark-haired women tended to dye their hair a lighter color with blonde highlights (popularized by Jennifer Aniston) until about 2008.

In the late 1990s, the Bob cut was well-desired, popularized and rejuvenated by Victoria Beckham of the Spice Girls. This late 1990s-style bob cut featured a center, side, or zig-zag parting, as opposed to the thick bangs of the early 1990s. The Farrah Fawcett hairstyle made a comeback in 1997, with highlights going hand-in-hand with this revival.[80] Other late '90s haircuts included "Felicity curls" (popularized by Keri Russell in the hit TV show Felicity, the Fishtail Half-Up, and pigtails,[79] as well as the continuation of mid '90s hairdos.

Men's hairstyles

Young man in 1995 sporting an earring and a short undercut hairstyle.
A surfer with bleached blond dreadlocks, camouflage pants and military surplus boots, 1994.

The 1990s generally saw the continued popularity of longer hair on men. In the early 1990s, curtained hair and small ponytails were popular among yuppies. Other trends included Flattops, Hi-top fades, and cornrows.[81]

In the mid 1990s, men's hairstyle trends went in several different directions. Younger men who were more amenable had adopted the

  1. ^ Bad fads: Tattoos
  2. ^ Body piercings and Tattoos
  3. ^ 1990s Minimalism
  4. ^ Fashion at the edge: spectacle, modernity and deathliness, Evans, Caroline [2] Yale University Press, 2007, p. 22
  5. ^ Steele, Valerie (1997). Fifty years of fashion : new look to now (2. pr. ed.). New Haven: Yale University Press.  
  6. ^ Pink and Blue
  7. ^ Fitness fads
  8. ^ Marketing
  9. ^ African fashion
  10. ^ 1990s collection
  11. ^ Fashion Beans
  12. ^ Fitness Fads (with original photos) - Accessed 13 September 2015
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Fashion in the 1990s". Retrieved 9 May 2014. 
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  15. ^ Gypsy Rose
  16. ^ Sustainable textiles
  17. ^ "The Rise and Fall of Grunge". Retrieved March 17, 2015. 
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  29. ^ "The 22 Ugliest Examples Of ’90s Footwear To Ever Meet Your Eyes". Retrieved March 17, 2015. 
  30. ^ Dress codes of LA, 1992
  31. ^ Dressing for success
  32. ^ 1990s Fashion in Australia
  33. ^ Hilary Clinton look
  34. ^ University of Georgia
  35. ^ Work wardrobes through the decades
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  44. ^ Whatever happened to Cool Britannia? The UK after eight years of Blair Thirty British, US, French and Canadian scholars assess Blair's policies and style after two terms, in May 2005. Links to papers and video.
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See also

A selection of images related to the period.


By 1997, glittery, sparkling makeup had come into style.[89] This was called "Y2K makeup", consisting of facial glitter and lip gloss. Blue-frosted eye shadow remained a staple of late 1990s makeup, although silver was ideal look. Dark eyeliner was considered bodacious. Pale, shiny lips became desirable, as lip gloss largely replaced lipstick.[86] An alternative for those who did not like metallics were purples and browns.[90] Goth makeup and Y2K makeup continued into the early 2000s.

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.[88] Blue-frosted eye shadow became fashionable,[21] and was eventually integrated into the Y2K makeup of the late '90s/early '00s. 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. The Gothic makeup remained relevant in the later years of the decade.

Women's makeup in the early 1990s primarily consisted of dark red lipstick and neutral eyes.[86] 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,[87] but went out of style the next year.

Darker shade of lipstick seemed popular amongst women in the 90s. The trend continued until the early 2000s. (Madonna, 1990)[85]

Makeup and cosmetic trends

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.

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.

Children's and teenager's hairstyles

By 1997, it was considered unstylish and unattractive for men and boys to have longer hair (with the exception of celebrities like Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt around 1999), and as a result short hair completely took over. From 1997 onwards, aside from curtained hair (which was popular throughout the decade), spiky hair,[81] bleached hair,[81] 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 2000s. For African-American men, the cornrows (popularized by former NBA player Allen Iverson) and buzz cut were a popular trend that continued into the early 2000s.

[81] Meanwhile, men over 30 had conservative 1950s style haircuts or the Caesar cut.[84] often with a center parting. The curtained hairstyle was at its peak in popularity.[81] in season two, which premiered in mid 1995. More rebellious young men went for longer, unkempt "grunge" hair,ER on the hit TV show [83]

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