1990s in fashion

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Several mid and late 1990s men's and women's fashions, 1994.
As part of minimalism, hairstyles such as bob cuts were favored by women. (Saffron, 1996)

Fashion in the 1990s was defined by a return to minimalist fashion,[1] in contrast to the more elaborate and flashy trends of the 1980s. One notable shift 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[edit]

Early 1990s (1990–93)[edit]

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[edit]

Neon colors[edit]

  • 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[edit]


Mid 1990s (1994–96)[edit]

Glamour wear[edit]

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

Work wear[edit]

Late 1990s (1997–99)[edit]

Asian influences[edit]

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

1970s revival[edit]

Casual chic[edit]

Model wearing a midriff shirt, a silver necklace, low ponytail and straight-leg leggings, circa 1999.

Men's fashion[edit]

Early 1990s (1990–93)[edit]

Casual clothing[edit]

Grunge look[edit]

Grunge-style flannel shirt and curtained hair, 1993

Mid 1990s (1994–96)[edit]

Cool Britannia and '70s revival[edit]

  • 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[edit]


Late 1990s (1997–99)[edit]

African fashion[edit]

Rave culture and streetwear[edit]

Rivers Cuomo sporting typical late 1990s 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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

General trends[edit]

  • The dominant youth clothing fad at the beginning of the 1990s was fluorescent clothing in blue, coral, orange, pink, and yellow. Hoop earrings were not as 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 unusually 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.


  • 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[edit]





Hairstyles of the 1990s[edit]

Women's hairstyles[edit]

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. Scrunchies are once again popular in the late 2010's. 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.

Children's and teenager's hairstyles[edit]

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. Scrunchies are once again popular in the late 2010's.

Men's hairstyles[edit]

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]

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.

Makeup and cosmetic trends[edit]

Women's makeup in the early 1990s primarily consisted of dark red lipstick and neutral eyes.[120] 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,[121] 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.[122] 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;[123] 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.[120] An alternative for those who did not like metallics were purples and browns.[123] Goth makeup and Y2K makeup continued into the early 2000s.


A selection of images related to the period.

See also[edit]


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