1990s in fashion

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Women's hair was straight and usually styled with a short fringe cut, known as a hime cut. In Europe, long dresses were popular for day and evening wear. (Photo date, 1997).

The fashion in the 1990s was the genesis of two sweeping shifts in the western world: the beginning of fashion rejection and 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. This started the indifferent, anti-conformist approach to fashion which was popular throughout the 1990s, leading to the popularisation of the casual chic look, including T-shirts, jeans, hoodies, and trainers which continued into the 2000s.

The popularity of grunge and alternative rock music also helped bring the simple, unkempt grunge look mainstream. In general, the 1990s saw a minimalist fashion aesthetic in fashion,[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, a trend which would continue into the 2000s and 2010s. Many in the industry have noted the lack of divide between the 1990s and early 2000s due to the continued popularity of anti-fashion among a large section of the population.[5]

The top-models of the 1990s were Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Eva Herzigova, Nadja Auermann, Christy Turlington, Kate Moss, Carla Bruni, Tatiana Sorokko, Helena Christensen, Claudia Schiffer, Yasmeen Ghauri, Stephanie Seymour, Carolyn Murphy, Amber Valletta, Shalom Harlow, and Tyra Banks.

Women's fashion[edit]

Darker shade of lipstick seemed popular amongst women in the 90s. The trend continued until early 2000s. (Madonna, 1990)[6]

Early 1990s (1990-1993)[edit]

Neon colors[edit]

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

Leggings and exercise-wear[edit]

Mid-1990s (1994-1996)[edit]

Hippie look[edit]

Designer clothing[edit]

Late 1990s (1997-1999)[edit]

Pastel colors[edit]

Casual chic[edit]

Men's fashion[edit]

Early 1990s (1990-1993)[edit]

Grunge-style flannel shirt and curtained hair, 1993

Grunge look[edit]

Modern Preppy[edit]

Mid 1990s (1994-1996)[edit]

Cool Britannia[edit]

African-American teenager with Hitop fade, popular from the early-mid-1990s.


Late 1990s (1997-1999)[edit]


  • By the late 1990s, 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.
  • Young European and American men favored preppy brands like Old Navy, khaki cargo pants, baggy basketball shorts, and chinos. Other popular items of clothing included tracksuits, hoodies, and black bomber jackets with orange linings. At this time it became fashionable to leave shirts untucked.

Business wear[edit]

Youth fashion[edit]

Kate Moss popularized the "heroin chic" look during the 1990s, which was characterized by pale skin, dark circles underneath the eyes and angular bone structure.

General trends[edit]

  • 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, flared trousers, leotards worn as tops with jeans, and athletic shorts. Boys wore soccer shorts, jean jackets, tartan shirts, tapered acid wash jeans, 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 younger children, the mid-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 (often knitted by the child's grandmother) were worn by young boys in the UK. 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 white sneakers especially Keds.


  • The new wave and heavy metal fashion of the 1980s lasted until early 1992, when Grunge and hip hop fashion took over in popularity.[18] 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 early 2000s as the hard-wearing, loose-fitting clothing was cheap and provided good protection.[19] 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[edit]


Hair and Makeup of the 1990s[edit]

Woman with Rachel haircut, late 1990s

Women's hairstyles[edit]

In the early 1990s, women's hair changed from the teased curls popular in the late 1980s to straight, smooth hair, inspired by late 1960s hairstyles. 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.[29] Straight hair was also styled with a short fringe cut just above the eyebrows, known as a hime cut, and those with Afro-styled or naturally curly hair would rely on a Relaxer to keep the sleek straight hair. In the mid-1990s this style went out fashion until its revival in the late 2000s. Dark-haired women tended to dye their hair a lighter color with blonde highlights (popularized by Jennifer Aniston) until the late 2000s. Bangs remained popular throughout most of the decade.

Men's hairstyles[edit]

Men's hair became increasingly shorter from the early 1990s onwards. In the early 1990s curtained hair (sometimes dyed blond) and small ponytails were popular among yuppies. Side-partings were briefly popular in the mid-1990s before head-shaving had become an acceptable way of dealing with male pattern baldness. From the late 1990s onwards, spiky hair, crew cuts and variants of the quiff became popular among young professional men. Dark haired men dyed their spikes blonde or added wavy blonde streaks well into the mid-2000s.

Youth hairstyles[edit]

For teenagers 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. This changed in the mid-1990s when 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. Headbands and scrunchies of various styles and colors were popular with girls throughout most of the 1990s who frequently wore them with side ponytails and bangs.

See also[edit]


A selection of images related to the period.


  1. ^ Bad fads: Tattoos
  2. ^ Body piercings and Tattoos
  3. ^ 1990s Minimalism
  4. ^ Fashion at the edge: spectacle, modernity and deathliness, Evans, Caroline [1] Yale University Press, 2007, p. 22
  5. ^ "Retro fashion". Newsweek. 30 September 2009. Retrieved 30 November 2011. 
  6. ^ http://www.stylist.co.uk/beauty/trend-on-trial-90s-brown-lips#image-rotator-1
  7. ^ Highbeam.com
  8. ^ Gypsy Rose
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ Vaidyanathan, Rajini (12 February 2010). "Six ways Alexander McQueen changed fashion". BBC magazine. Retrieved 27 February 2011. 
  11. ^ Ray Bans
  12. ^ Wallace, Carol McD. (24 October 2005). "We're All Preppies Now". New York Times. Retrieved 19 June 2011. 
  13. ^ a b Colman, David (17 June 2009). "The All-American Back From Japan". New York Times. Retrieved 19 June 2011. 
  14. ^ Roots of preppy
  15. ^ Keyes, Cheryl (2004). Rap Music and Street Consciousness (Music in American Life). University of Illinois Press. p. 152. ISBN 978-0-252-07201-7. 
  16. ^ Anthony Head
  17. ^ "Six Categories". Casualpower.com. Archived from the original on 2013-07-02. Retrieved 27 February 2011. 
  18. ^ Nelson, Chris (13 January 2003). "Nine Years After Cobain's Death, Big Sales for All Things Nirvana". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 February 2011. 
  19. ^ ^ Peterson, Brian (2009). Burning Fight: The Nineties Hardcore Revolution in Ethics, Politics, Spirit, and Sound. Revelation Books. ISBN 978-1-889703-02-2.
  20. ^ "Football Casual | FootballCasual.com | History" . Footballcasual.com. http://www.footballcasual.com/history/the_history.html . Retrieved 2008-10-18.
  21. ^ Why is chav still controversial?
  22. ^ Britpop
  23. ^ Harris, John. Britpop!: Cool Britannia and the Spectacular Demise of English Rock. Da Capo Press, 2004. Pg. 202. ISBN 0-306-81367-X.
  24. ^ Geri auctions her famous dress
  25. ^ Peterson, Brian (2009). Burning Fight: The Nineties Hardcore Revolution in Ethics, Politics, Spirit, and Sound. Revelation Books. ISBN 978-1-889703-02-2. 
  26. ^ Goodlad, Lauren M. E.; Bibby, Michael, eds. (2007). Goth: Undead Subculture. Duke University Press. ISBN 978-0-8223-3921-2. 
  27. ^ Last white superstar
  28. ^ All American back from Japan
  29. ^ Mock, Janet; Wang, Julia (eds.). "Jennifer Aniston Biography". People.com. Archived from the original on 28 February 2011. Retrieved 27 February 2011.