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1990s in fashion

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

For most of the decade, 1990s fashion in Europe, Oceania, Asia, and America was defined by a return to minimalist fashion[1] in contrast to the more elaborate and flashy trends of the 1980s. One notable shift in the western world was the mainstream adoption of tattoos,[2] body piercings aside from ear piercing[3] and to a much 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 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,[4] notably the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

Due to increased availability of the internet[5] and satellite television outside the United States, plus the reduction of import tariffs under NAFTA, fashion became more globalized[6] and homogeneous in the late 1990s[7] and early 2000s.[8][9]

Women's fashion

Early 1990s (1990–93)

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

  • Throughout the 1990s, supermodels dominated the fashion industry.[10] The top models of the 1990s were Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Eva Herzigova, Nadja Auermann, Christie Brinkley, Christy Turlington, Kate Moss, Carla Bruni, Tatiana Sorokko, Helena Christensen, Claudia Schiffer, Karen Mulder, Yasmin Le Bon, Nadège, Yasmeen Ghauri, Stephanie Seymour, Valeria Mazza, Carolyn Murphy, Amber Valletta, Shalom Harlow, Kirsten Owen, Kristen McMenamy, Guinevere Van Seenus, Alek Wek, Karen Elson, Elsa Benítez, Michele Hicks, Stella Tennant, Audrey Marnay, Amy Wesson, Maggie Rizer, Erin O'Connor, Kirsty Hume, Bridget Hall, Milla Jovovich and Tyra Banks.[11]
  • 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 JKF 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".[12]

Neon colors

  • In the US, USSR,[13] South Africa,[14] Egypt, and Japan popular trends included bold geometric-print clothing in electric blue, orange, fluorescent pink, purple, turquoise[15] and the acid green exercise wear[16] popularized by Lisa Lopes[17] 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,[18] 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 skating dresses. Neon colored tops and leg warmers were popular, together with leopard print skirts[19] shiny satin or rayon blouses, embroidered jeans covered in rhinestones,[13] 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.

Leggings and exercise-wear


Mid-1990s (1994–96)

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

Late 1990s (1997–99)

Asian influences

Red and cream Indian woman's saree, late 1990s

1970s revival

Casual chic

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

Men's fashion

Early 1990s (1990–93)

Casual clothing

Grunge look

Grunge-style flannel shirt and curtained hair, 1993

Mid 1990s (1994–96)

Cool Britannia and '70s revival

  • 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,[76] 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.[30]
  • 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.[31] 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.[29]
  • 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.[30]
Trio in 1995 wearing neutral-colored tops and relaxed-fit, slim-leg pants and jeans.

Modern preppy


Late 1990s (1997–99)

African fashion

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.[22] In Europe, jeans were more popular than ever before.[62] From 1997-98 brighter colors came into style, including plum, charcoal, olive, wine,[59][91] and shades such as "camillia rose", "blazing orange", "whisper pink", "hot coral", and a light-grayish blue called "wind chime".[60]
  • Much of men's fashion in 1997 was inspired by the 1996 film Swingers,[59] 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.

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 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.[92] Tweed cloth and houndstooth sportcoats went out of fashion due to their association with older men.[93] Dress shoes (usually in black) included chelsea boots with rounded or square toes, wingtips, and monkstraps.[59]
  • In America, an increasing number of men began to dress smart-casual and business casual, a trend kickstarted by Bill Gates of Microsoft.[94] At more formal events such as weddings or proms, men often wear boxy three[95] 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.[58] Black leather reefer jackets and trenchcoats were also fashionable in the late 1990s.[96]

Youth fashion

General trends

Gwen Stefani and Tony Kanal of the group No Doubt with eight-year old Quinn Marston, 1996.
  • The dominant youth clothing fad at the beginning of the 1990s was fluorescent clothing in blue, coral, 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 mint, hot red, and turquoise. In Britain and the US, girls, tweens, teens, and college girls wore the outfit of an oversized tee shirts, sweat shirts with a turtleneck underneath, mid calf dresses with leggings, oversized sweaters especially v-neck sweaters over a turtleneck, slouch socks worn over leggings or sometimes sweatpants and Keds with their hair inusually in bangs with a headband or high ponytail or high side ponytail. It was not uncommon to see mothers dressed right along with their daughters in this outfit. Also girls, tweens, teens, and college girls wore black or white lace trimmed bike shorts with babydoll dresses, belts worn with dresses, Dress shorts worn with tights and ballet flats or sometimes with slouch socks over the tights and Keds, tights with slouch socks and Keds, leggings worn over pantyhose or tights with a pair of flats, sweaters, crew neck T-shirts, ballet flats, Keds, Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars, boat shoes, shortalls worn in the summer with ballet flats or Keds, and in the winter with a long sleeved tee or turtleneck and tights and flats or Keds, leotards and pantywaist tops worn with jeans or skirts, colored jeans especially in medium and dark green, red, and purple worn rolled up to show off their slouch socks or worn in skinny jeans style with the slouch socks worn over the jeans, long sleeved T-shirts, and athletic shorts such as the Nike Tempo. Boys wore soccer shorts, jean jackets, tartan shirts, tapered acid wash jeans, 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.
  • For much of the 1990s, particularly the middle years, teenage boys and girls bought and wore very simple clothes, such as overalls, flannel shirts, grey knitted sweaters, and backpacks. Popular stores selling these items included Gap and Urban Outfitters.[29] 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,[97] as well as cargo pants, and crop tops.[98]
  • For younger children, the mid-late 1990s was the Golden Age of Disney films with T-shirts and sweaters featuring characters such as Simba, Mickey Mouse, Belle, Aladdin, and Winnie the Pooh. Tartan trousers, striped shirts, long sleeved polo shirts, Champion (sportswear) crew neck sweatshirts worn over a turtleneck, colored jeans bright mint, red, aqua and purple colors, jeans rolled up to show off their slouch socks, 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 of whom would leave either strap hanging loose. A common outfit for tweens and teenage girls, was to wear an oversized tee, a Champion brand sweatshirt over a turtleneck, a babydoll, skirt or dress shorts with black opaque tights or leggings, white slouch socks, and either Keds, boat shoes such as the Sperry Top-Sider, or Converse sneakers.


Acid washed jean shorts with grunge and hippie inspired DIY slogans and pictures, 1995.
  • The new wave and heavy metal fashion of the 1980s lasted until 1992, when Grunge and hip hop fashion took over in popularity.[99] 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 late 1999, and was dominated by tartan flannel shirts, stonewashed blue jeans, and dark colors such as 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.[100] Members of the subculture were nicknamed grebos or moshers and included those who did not skate.

Psychobilly, punk and skater


Swedish hip-hop fans watch Public Enemy perform in 1991.



Example of late 1990s gothic fashion.


1990s beauty trends


Women's hairstyles

Actress Chiara Mastroianni in 1997, sporting volumized and layered hair.

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 late 90's when hair ties began to replace scrunchies. 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.[citation needed]

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.[113] Around the same time red hair also became a desirable color for women, as well as feathered bangs,[30] and mini hair-buns.[114] From 1995 until 2008, dark-haired women tended to dye their hair a lighter color with blonde highlights (popularized by Jennifer Aniston).

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 in 1997, with highlights going hand-in-hand with this revival.[115] Other late 1990s haircuts included "Felicity curls" (popularized by Keri Russell in the hit TV show Felicity), the Fishtail Half-Up, and pigtails,[114] as well as the continuation of mid 1990s hairdos.

Men's hairstyles

The 1990s generally saw the continued popularity of longer hair on men. In the early 1990s, curtained hair, mullets, and ponytails were popular. Other trends included flattops, hi-top fades, and cornrows.[116]

Young man in 1995, sporting an earring and 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,[117] either natural or dyed. This style was popularized by George Clooney[118] on the hit TV show ER in season two, which premiered in mid 1995. More rebellious young men went for longer, unkempt "grunge" hair,[116] often with a center parting. The curtained hairstyle was at its peak in popularity, and sideburns went out of style.[119] Meanwhile, most professional men over 30 had conservative 1950s style bouffant haircuts or the Caesar cut.[116]

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,[116] bleached hair,[116] 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.

Children's and teenager's hairstyles

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 girls throughout the early and mid 1990s, and they frequently wore them with twin pigtails, or high or high side ponytails and bangs. Also hair pulled to the side over one shoulder sometimes in a braid was seen. Many times in combination with bangs. Bangs and ponytail hair style remained popular with girls throughout the 2000s and the 2010s. Bangs are now less poofy and like "mall bangs" and lay closer to the forehead. It is not uncommon to still see scrunchies but many times ponytails are seen are with hair ties and bows instead.

Makeup and cosmetic trends

A darker shade of lipstick seemed popular among women throughout the decade. (Mariah Carey, 1990)[120]

Women's makeup in the early 1990s primarily consisted of dark red lipstick and neutral eyes.[121] 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,[122] 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.[123] Blue-frosted eye shadow became fashionable,[30] 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.[124] 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.[121] An alternative for those who did not like metallics were purples and browns.[124] Goth makeup and Y2K makeup continued into the early 2000s.


A selection of images related to the period.

See also


  1. ^ 1990s Minimalism
  2. ^ Bad fads: Tattoos
  3. ^ Body piercings and Tattoos
  4. ^ Fashion at the edge: spectacle, modernity and deathliness, Evans, Caroline [1] Yale University Press, 2007, p. 22
  5. ^ Popsugar insights
  6. ^ Globalization of fashion
  7. ^ Globalisation of fashion
  8. ^ A window into globalization
  9. ^ Fashioning globalization
  10. ^ Supermodels of the 90s
  11. ^ 15 sexiest supermodels
  12. ^ Steele, Valerie (1997). Fifty years of fashion: new look to now (2. pr. ed.). New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-07132-9.
  13. ^ a b 90s Russian fashion
  14. ^ African fashion
  15. ^ Pink and Blue
  16. ^ Fitness fads
  17. ^ Marketing
  18. ^ 1990s collection
  19. ^ Fashion Beans
  20. ^ Fitness Fads (with original photos) - Accessed 13 September 2015
  21. ^ Gottex Swimsuit
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  39. ^ Dress codes of LA, 1992
  40. ^ Dressing for success
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  42. ^ Hillary Clinton look
  43. ^ University of Georgia
  44. ^ Work wardrobes through the decades
  45. ^ Business casual
  46. ^ Bollywood fashion guru
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  63. ^ "Sex Bracelets". Retrieved 9 June 2014.
  64. ^ Football Casuals
  65. ^ 1990s revival, 2017
  66. ^ Psychological foundations of marketing
  67. ^ Golden Decade
  68. ^ Trainspotting style lessons
  69. ^ Trainspotting fashion
  70. ^ How trainspotting invented the skinny jean
  71. ^ 90s fashion
  72. ^ Michael Deeds
  73. ^ Australian 90s fashion
  74. ^ 10 things about the 90s
  75. ^ Ray Bans
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  83. ^ Mandela's craziest shirts
  84. ^ Kenya national assembly June 1996
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  86. ^ Fear in Bongoland
  87. ^ Mens and womens secondhand clothing
  88. ^ Monuments culture and heritage in democratic SA
  89. ^ Wear the right thing
  90. ^ Lesson plan Kwanzaa
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  92. ^ Gentlemen's Gazette
  93. ^ Anthony Head
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  95. ^ 90s and Millennial black tie
  96. ^ "The Matrix". Retrieved 17 September 2014.
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  102. ^ Baggy jeans
  103. ^ ICP sues FBI
  104. ^ Violent J of ICP
  105. ^ Britpop
  106. ^ Harris, John. Britpop!: Cool Britannia and the Spectacular Demise of English Rock. Da Capo Press, 2004. Pg. 202. ISBN 0-306-81367-X.
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  110. ^ Goth movement
  111. ^ Last white superstar
  112. ^ All American back from Japan
  113. ^ Mock, Janet; Wang, Julia (eds.). "Jennifer Aniston Biography". Archived from the original on 28 February 2011. Retrieved 27 February 2011.
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