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 to the mainstream by 1992. The anti-conformist approach to fashion led to the popularization of the casual chic look that included T-shirts, jeans, hoodies, and sneakers, a trend which continued into the 2000s. Additionally, fashion trends throughout the decade recycled styles from previous decades, notably the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
Due to increased availability of the Internet and satellite television outside the United States, plus the reduction of import tariffs under NAFTA, fashion became more globalized and homogeneous in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
One of the most influential group of models during the early 90s was the Big Five, whose fame and social power allegedly surpassed that of many movie stars. The Big Five consisted of supermodels Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista and Tatjana Patitz. Whether booked as individuals or as an elite group, each supermodel gained worldwide success and had great influence on the fashion industry. Naomi Campbell was the first black woman to grace the cover of French Vogue, Time, and American Vogue's September issue. Cindy Crawford was the highest paid model on the planet in 1995 per Forbes. Christy Turlington was known for being a reliable model who garnered over 500 covers during her career and most notably, signed a contract with Maybelline for an annual fee of $800,000 for twelve days' work. Linda Evangelista was known as the industry's "chameleon" for her ability to suit a multitude of styles. Evangelista also infamously coined the phrase, "We don't wake up for less than $10,000 a day." Tatjana Patitz, the last of the Big Five, continues to be regarded as one of the "original supermodels" and even after her retirement, she remains in demand periodically by such designer houses as Jean-Paul Gaultier and Chanel. Later in the decade, Tatjana was replaced in the Big Five by supermodel Claudia Schiffer, who is one of the most successful supermodels in the world, holding the record for the most magazine covers according to The Guinness Book of World Records.
Later in the decade, the rise of Kate Moss shifted the world of fashion when her entrance onto the scene turned the Big Five into the Big Six. Kate Moss became one of the nineties' biggest phenomena when, at 14 years of age, she was discovered at JFK Airport. Her waif-like figure set a new fashion standard that became known as "heroin chic." This was a pale and ghostly look that called for a stick-thin stature and size zero body. Due to Kate's extremely skinny frame, she was often criticized for allegedly promoting eating disorders as apparently evidenced by her shots for Calvin Klein. Reportedly, posters of Kate Moss were often defaced with graffiti that read "feed me".
In the US, USSR,South Africa, Egypt, and Japan popular trends included bold geometric-print clothing in electric blue, orange, fluorescent pink, purple, turquoise and the acid green exercise wear popularized by Lisa Lopes of TLC. Typical patterns included triangles, zigzag lightning bolts, diamonds, lozenges, rectangles, overlapping free-form shapes, simulated explosions inspired by comic book illustrations or pop art, intricate grids, and clusters of thin parallel lines in contrasting colors for example, 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, metallic Spandex leggings, halterneck crop tops, drainpipe jeans, colored tights, bike shorts, black leather jackets with shoulder pads, baby-doll dresses over bike shorts or capri leggings, and skater dresses. Neon colored tops and leg warmers were popular, together with leopard print skirts shiny satin or rayon blouses, embroidered jeans covered in rhinestones, 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 the penny loafers or boat shoes associated with the preppy look.
For much of the early and mid 1990s, power dressing was the norm for women in the workplace: navy blue, grey or pastel colored skirt suits with shoulder pads,pussy bow blouses, silk scarves, pointed shoes, stretchy miniskirts,polka dot blouses, and brightly colored short dresses worn with a dark brocade blazer, bare legs and metallic open toed shoes. Other 1980s fashions such as chunky jewelry, gold hoop earrings with horn of life pendants, smoky eye make-up, hairspray, Alice bands, 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 worn with ballet flats.
By 1996, professional women in Britain, Australia and America wore more relaxed styles and muted colors, 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, and nude tights and black pantyhose made a comeback.
Model wearing a midriff shirt, a silver necklace, low ponytail and straight-leg leggings, circa 1999.
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. The most popular trainers were white or black and manufactured by Adidas, Skechers, 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.
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. This continued into the 2000s (decade). 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.
In the late 1990s ski goggles became a popular accessory in hip hop fashion.
Late 1990s (1997–99)
During the mid and late 1990s, the silk Madiba shirt became popular in South Africa and the wider global community. From 1996-98, traditional African clothing began to face serious competition from cheap imported mitumba clothing as a consequence of the Kenyan and Tanzanian government's easing of trade restrictions during the early to mid 1990s. By the end of the decade, the safari jacket associated with kleptocrat dictator Mobutu Sese Seko of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the previous South African Apartheid regime had declined in popularity, and was replaced as formal wear by the dashiki suit. Variants in green, yellow and black were worn as an alternative to the business suit by many African-Americans for Kwanzaa. African art began to influence and gain greater recognition on account of the Festival de la Mode Africaine (FIMA). These influences started to make their way into fashion shows all over, for reference New York fashion week, 1998. In this show models were wearing sheath-like dresses made of loosely knitted yarn and denim jackets with large fake fur collars. Loose threads dangled from some of the garment’s seams and other garments had the labels sewn on the outside of the collars. 
By the late 1990s, the grunge look became unfashionable, and there was a revival of interest in more stylish clothes, with name brand designers such as Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren making a comeback. In Europe, jeans were more popular than ever before. From 1997-98 brighter colors came into style, including plum, charcoal, olive, wine, and shades such as "camillia rose", "blazing orange", "whisper pink", "hot coral", and a light-grayish blue called "wind chime".
Much of men's fashion in 1997 was inspired by the 1996 film Swingers, leading to the popularization of the "dressy casual" look. Such apparel included blazers, black or red leather jackets and bowling shirts in either a variety of prints or a solid color, and loose-fitting flat-front khaki chinos or jeans. Around this time it became fashionable to leave shirts untucked.
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 double breasted 1980s power suits. The wide neckties of the early 1990s remained the norm, but the colors became darker and stripes and patterns were less common. In India and China, the Nehru suit and Mao suit declined in popularity in favor of conventional Western business wear.Tweed cloth and houndstoothsportcoats went out of fashion due to their association with older men. Dress shoes (usually in black) included chelsea boots with rounded or square toes, wingtips, and monkstraps.
In America, an increasing number of men began to dress smart-casual and business casual, a trend kickstarted by Bill Gates of Microsoft. At more formal events such as weddings or proms, men often wear boxy three 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. Black leather reefer jackets and trenchcoats were also fashionable in the late 1990s, the latter inspired by The Matrix.
The dominant youth clothing fad at the beginning of the 1990s was fluorescent clothing, Hoop earrings, and plaid shirts. Popular colors for girls included coral, hot pink, bright mint, hot red, yellow, orange, and turquoise. In Britain and the US, girls wore oversized tee shirts, mid calf dresses with leggings, oversized v-neck sweaters over a turtleneck, slouch socks, black or white lace trimmed bike shorts with babydoll dresses, belts worn with dresses, dress shorts worn with tights and ballet flats, tights with slouch socks, crew neck T-shirts, Keds, Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars, boat shoes, shortalls, leotards and pantywaist tops worn with jeans or skirts, long sleeved T-shirts, Nike Tempo athletic shorts, and colored jeans especially in medium and dark green, red, and purple. It was not uncommon to see mothers dressed right along with their daughters in this outfit. Boys wore soccer shorts, jean jackets, tartan shirts, tapered acid washjeans, colored jeans in bright and light mint green, red, and purple colors sweatpants, and single, double or triple stripe athletic socks worn with everything from shorts to rolled jeans and khakis. 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.
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.
Popular fashion themes of the American, German and Australian rave subculture during the early 1990s included plastic aesthetics, various fetish fashions especially PVC miniskirts and tops, DIY and tie dye outfits, vintage 1970s clothing, second-hand optics, retro sportswear (such as Adidas tracksuits), and outfits themed around sex (showing lots of skin and nudity, e.g. wearing transparent or crop tops), war (e.g. in the form of combat boots or camouflage trousers), postmodernism and science fiction themes. In the early 1990s the first commercial rave fashion trends developed from the underground scene, which were quickly taken up by the fashion industry and marketed under the term clubwear. Common raver fashion styles of the 1990s included tight-fitting nylon shirts, tight nylon quilted vests, bell-bottoms, neoprene jackets, studded belts, platform shoes, jackets, scarves and bags made of flokati fur, fluffy boots and phat pants, often in bright and neon colors. Common unisex hairstyles included neon colored spiky hair, natural dreadlocks, undercut hairstyles, and synthetic hairpieces, and many ravers in the US and Europe wore tattoos and body piercings. Widespread accessories included wristbands and collars, pacifiers, cyberpunk inspired goggles, glow sticks, and record bags made of truck tarpaulins.
Women's hair in the early 1990s continued in the big, curly style of the 1980s. High and High sided ponytails continued through most of the decade, especially when playing sports and at the gym. These were worn with a scrunchie until the mid 1990s when hair ties began to replace scrunchies. Scrunchies became popular once again in the late 2010s. Bangs remained big throughout the decade, especially the "mall bangs" poofy style associated with the early 1990s. From 1994 and through 2000s they got smaller and somewhat flatter and less poofy and laid closer to the forehead.
In the late 1990s, the Bob cut was well-desired, popularized and rejuvenated by Victoria Beckham of the Spice Girls. This late 90s-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, with highlights going hand-in-hand with this revival. Other late 1990s haircuts included "Felicity curls" (popularized by Keri Russell in the hit TV show Felicity), the Fishtail Half-Up, and pigtails, as well as the continuation of mid 1990s hairdos.
For teenage boys longer hair was popular in the early to mid-1990s, including collar-length curtained hair, Long, unkempt grunge hair, blond 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. From 1994 and through 2000s they got smaller and somewhat flatter and less poofy and laid closer to the forehead. Alice bands, headbands and scrunchies of various styles and colors (especially red, navy blue polka dot, plaid and neon) were popular with American girls throughout the early and mid 1990s, and they frequently wore them with twin pigtails, or high or high side ponytails and bangs. Beginning in the late 1990s and continuing into the 2010s, straightened hair and variants of the French braid became popular in Europe.
Young man in 1995, sporting a short undercut hairstyle.
In the mid 1990s, men's hairstyle trends went in several different directions. Younger men who were more amenable had adopted the Caesar cut, either natural or dyed. This style was popularized by George Clooney on the hit TV show ER in season two, which premiered in mid 1995. More rebellious young men went for longer, unkempt "grunge" hair, often with a center parting. The curtained hairstyle was at its peak in popularity, and sideburns went out of style. Meanwhile, most professional men over 30 had conservative 1950s style bouffant haircuts or the Caesar cut.
By 1999 it was considered unstylish and unattractive for men and boys to have longer hair. As a result, short hair completely took over. From 1999 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 2000s (decade). Variants of the surfer hair was popular among rock musicians during that time period. 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.
Women's makeup in the early 1990s primarily consisted of dark red lipstick and neutral eyes. Around 1992 the "grunge look" came into 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. Blue-frosted eye shadow became fashionable, and was eventually integrated into the Y2K makeup of the late 1990s/early 2000s (decade). 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.
By 1999, glittery, sparkling makeup had come into style. 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. An alternative for those who did not like metallics were purples and browns. Goth makeup and Y2K makeup continued into the early 2000s.
A selection of images related to the period.
Converse All Stars, popular in the early 1990s
Grunge clothing, popular from 1991–1996. (Kurt Cobain, 1992)