The 90’s has often been immortalized as an era of minimalist fashion that rejected the psychedillic creations of the 80’s. Unlike the 80’s which embraced the ‘colourful’ exaggeration of silhouettes and ‘disco-trash esque’ materials such as lurex, the 90’s was defined by Calvin Klein and alternative culture which helped streamline the 90’s image as one that supported alternative culture and/or began cultivating luxurious yet simple looks that could be worn in both boudoir and night-time ocassion wear. But at the beginning the 90’s still borrowed trends that were popular in the 80’s and it wasn’t until the mid 1990’s that minimalism and grunge culture came into popularity.
In the early 90’s the influence of 80’s ‘disco culture’ was still in providence, with an alarming array of neon bright legwarmers, scrunchies and trousers dominating the early 90’s fashion scene. The 80’s neon colour scheme was influenced by the introduction of MTV which many youths used as their style inspiration and this was an ethos that continued into the 1990’s. MTV began to deviate away from the ‘pop-disco’ music of the 80’s and instead underground or alternative music began to rise in popularity.
By 1994 the alternative music scene became popular with bands such as Red Chilli Peppers and Oasis normalizing anti-conformist fashion uniform consisting of T-shirts, jeans, hoodies, and trainers, a trend which continued into the 2000s. The rejection of 80’s values was a cultural affiliation with underground culture that challenged the norm and allowed women to embrace ‘tomboy culture’.
The integration of ‘Tomboy Culture’ was normalized by girl bands like TLC who paired ‘shredded jeans’ with Doc Martens to rebel against societies rules on what women could and could not wear. TLC’s defiant attitude torwards patriarchal dictatorship was an ethos that many aspiring grunge-styled teens adopted and made a stand against the minimalist wear that would become popular by 1995. Grunge culture was unisex and for the first time men and women were wearing each others clothes but it was not an ethos that all individuals accepted. Many saw Tomboy or Grunge Culture as an unwarranted denial of their ‘sexual identity’ or even as an assertion of their ‘queer sexual preferences’. To many women tomboy culture was a ‘rite of passage’ which liberated them from masculine control and made them ‘genderless’. Popular 90’s tomboy looks included dungarees, tracksuits and acid washed jeans all clothing that had been traditionally associated with male fashion
By 1995 grunge led fashion had faded back into underground culture and was replaced with glamour wear. Glamour wear was inspired by the hit film Clueless whose “sexy school girl” look inspired many young women to wear mini kilts, undersized sweaters, short slip dresses, baby doll tees, knee highs, thigh highs, miniature backpacks, overalls, tights,pantyhose, and chunky shoes to create an innocent yet sensual ootd. The rejection of a unisex culture was not only inspired by the media portrayal of women but it was also because of the catwalk industry which for the first time mediated what the public would and wouldn’t wear. 90’s supermodels like Kate Moss were synonmous with the image of 90’s glamour, where her portfolio of Calvin Klein ads, silk night slips and fresh faced look seemed austere in comparison to the exaggerated beauty and fashion standards of the 80’s.
The changing face of 90’s fashion has made it one of the most experimental yet equally reviled eras to date with many fashionistas cringing at their love of multiple scrunchies, frosted eye shadows and bell bottom jeans preferring the more undertstated look of the modern era. But what makes the 90’s era brilliant is its ability to change and adapt to the cultural circumstances of its time. When glamour fashion died out towards 1997, the end of the decade favoured a more comfortable and less fluid approach to fashion citing the 70’s as its main influence. The re-introduction 0f 70’s staples like dungarees and printed shirts layered underneath were made popular by hit American sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bell Air’ starring 90’s film icon Will Smith.
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Photography: Jumanna Khanom
Demin Midi Dress– Topshop
Turtleneck, Shoes and Hat: Primark