How to Recreate Decades of Fashion: 1990s

Welcome to the final installment of “How to Recreate Decades of Fashion!” We’ve had a lot of fun on this loooong journey together, so let’s end on a high note!

Fashion in the early 1990s was generally loose fitting and colorful. Or if you were going for the grunge look, color was the enemy. Women and girls’ fashion in the 1990s is very distinct. While not quite as loud as the ‘80s, the ‘90s took that attitude and tried to be a little smarter and a little classier.

Some common items of clothing from the 1990s: black leggings with oversized sweaters, low heeled shoes, flannel shirts, denim everything, t-shirts, sweatpants, skirts, Birkenstocks, solid colors, silk shirts, turtlenecks (under cardigans or sweaters), plain white Keds, and army surplus clothing, to name a few.

TV shows featured more realistic looking kids and adults. Nickelodeon was really popular, and teenagers took most of their fashion tips from their favorite characters in movies and shows like Clueless, Friends, Full House, Saved by the Bell, Clarissa Explains it All, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Boy Meets World.

By the mid-‘90s, saying something was from the ‘80s was like a four-letter word. Hair spray was “so eighties.” Too much makeup was “so eighties.” Flashy clothing was “eighties.”

Then grunge happened. Suddenly every thrift store in town couldn’t keep a flannel shirt in stock to save their backs. Teens were digging through dad’s box of old clothes to get their hands on some authentic hole-ridden jeans to wear over top of their long john stockings. Barbers nearly went out of business because no one under 17 got their hair cut any more (okay, I might be exaggerating just a little.)

In the early ‘90s, fashion worn by hip-hop artists were becoming increasingly mainstream. And because of the growing popularity of hip-hop music among the suburban community, urban styles were seen everywhere, not just in the big city. By the late 1990s hip-hop style was arguably the most popular among young people.

Some artists/bands that were SUPER popular in the ‘90s included Pearl Jam, Nirvana, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Radiohead, Green Day (they’ve been a band since the ‘80s, believe it or not), Madonna, The Spice Girls, early Britney Spears, TLC, NWA, and The Backstreet Boys.

Starting in the mid-’90s, industrial and military styles crept into mainstream fashion. People were finding any way to make a fashion accessory out of a piece of machinery. Camouflage pants were ironically worn by anti-war protesters.

By the late ‘90s, rave culture swept through the country, and people were looking for clothes that were more glamorous again. The grungy styles of the early ‘90s were old hat. Looking rich was cool again. Name brand designers were back in a big way.

Interestingly enough, late ‘90s clothing styles are not too drastically different than they are today. In the 1990s, celebrities and musicians had a much greater influence on what young people wore than designers. All a kid in Kansas had to do was turn on MTV for the latest east and west coast styles of the moment.

Here’s how you can get a few iconic ‘90s trends today:

The Nirvana (Grunge)

‘90s grunge is back and better than ever (albeit more polished), and the flannel shirt has made a comeback in a big way. Based in a love of hard alternative rock music and a thirst for rebellion, this look is super easy to recreate with things you (hopefully) already have (or can easily get your hands on!)

1. The Band Tee

This one is pretty easy: remember that one time (or a bunch of times) you went to that concert for your favorite band and bought a t-shirt? Boom, you’re done. If you don’t buy t-shirts at every concert you go to like me, you can easily pick one up at Forever 21 (I know this isn’t a ‘90s band—sue me. I like that it looks old and that the silhouette is true to ‘90s fashion). 

2. The Flannel

Now, this is where it gets pretty fun. For this one, I highly recommend borrowing a flannel from your dad or getting one from a local thrift store. The older, bigger, and more worn looking, the better. I’m not even going to put an internet link on this one because if you don’t already have a flannel (which I’m assuming you do, or at least you have a plaid shirt), it’s time you invest in a $1.99 flannel from Salvation Army. Wear it around your waist or as an overshirt like the girl below.

3. The Jeans/Bottoms

For this part, you have 2 options: 1) Insanely ripped jeans, or 2) Black or denim shorts with black (ripped) stockings. I like my ripped jeans to last a long time, so I get them from Gap. I recommend jeans if you’re going to wear a similar look on a daily basis because its much more comfortable. 

4. The Shoes

COMBAT BOOTS! They’re so in style right now—just like how Doc Martens were super popular in the ‘90s. You can find Docs in a lot of different places, but they’re on the pricey side. To find a budget-friendly pair of combat boots, try DSW and try after winter is over for a great sale.

5. The Finishing Touches

To finish off your look, put on a black choker and some dark bracelets. Even though the ‘90s wasn’t all about a ton of makeup, you can bring this trend into today by wearing some deep wine (or even black) lipstick with low-maintenance eyes and killer eyebrows.

 

The Clarissa (Teen TV)

Most of you (I hope) will remember Clarissa Darling from the hit TV show Clarissa Explains It All, when she was an inspiring, wacky, smart and funny girl who brightened up every Saturday morning. Of all the women TV stars, Clarissa was the most out there. She was known for mixing prints, wearing oversized shirts, and rocking wacky accessories. Clarissa had so much personality in her clothes, she had an identity, and she was empowering and inspirational for ‘90s girls everywhere.

1. The Top

Oversized mock neck turtlenecks were not just a thing of the ‘80s. If anything, they were the most popular in the ‘90s. The only difference was, in the ‘90s, they were bigger, brighter, and almost always had the sleeves rolled up. To recreate Clarissa’s look, you can easily find a mock turtleneck at your local thrift store, or you can try this men’s mock neck in a size or two bigger than your own.

2. Patterned Pants

Loose fitting patterned pants are all the rage right now, and they’re so easy to find. Clarissa was all about mixing patterns and being innovative in the color department—so anything goes! If you’re from Boston, Philly, or London, you can get these amazing pants from Primark. Or, you can find similar at places like H&M or Forever 21.

3. The Shoes

Clarissa loved her combat boots, Mary Janes, and her brightly colored Chuck Taylor Converse. For this outfit, grab an awesome red pair to really amp up the color palette of this outfit. 

4. The Finishing Touches

This is arguably the most important part of this outfit. Clarissa was queen of quirky accessories—the more, the better! Grab a brightly colored (or patterned!!) scrunchie of a completely different color (like blue or green for this outfit), and a huge bright watch and some bracelets. Finally, pop into your nearest Claire’s and grab the biggest, wackiest pair of earrings you can get your hands on.

 

The Fresh Prince (Hip-Hop)

Vibrant streetwear was an early ‘90s style staple. Will Smith became a bona fide trendsetter on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air with his colorful tracksuits, Zubaz pants, and his impressive collection of Jordans. Hip-hop group TLC followed suit and often performed in oversized t-shirts and men’s shorts, complete with cartoonish accessories in crazy colors.

1. The Overalls

Many of you will scoff at the idea of overalls: “But Zoe, I’ll look like a farmer!” “But Zoe, I’m not five!” BUT NOTHING! Overalls are super cute and super in style—if you wear them right (and that’s what I’m here to show you how to do!). Depending on the season, you can opt for “shortalls” (aka short overalls) or regular overalls, but make sure they’re a light wash. Just because of how my legs look in regular overalls (yikes!), I prefer shortalls, which you can find practically anywhere. I love mine from Walmart!

2. The Shirt

For this one, the sky is the limit! Pick a wacky colored and patterned cropped tee or blouse (so it sticks out of the overalls a little) so you can look as fresh as the Fresh Prince himself! Try this one from Forever 21 (it’s on sale!) to get the crazy vibe.

3. The Sneakers

Even though Will was known for his Jordans, they’re not very affordable (or cute, IMHO). You can go for any high top sneaker, or kick it up a notch with some heeled sneakers. These sneakers from DSW will have you looking fresh to death. (Bonus Alternative: These iridescent Chucks!)

4. The Finishing Touches

Will almost always wore some sort cool hat with all of his outfits. In the city, hats are all the rage, whether it’s a bad hair day or a fashion statement, you can wear them anytime. That and a cool pair of shades will make you ready to leap back into the ‘90s!

 

The Clueless (Expensive and Tasteful)

Cher Horowitz, who singlehandedly taught the world the importance of Alaïa, will forever be one of the most celebrated style icons in film. Plus, who wouldn't want her revolving closet? Cher made looking casual, yet smart and feminine absolutely effortless. This put-together beauty taught us the importance of brand names and always looking our best, no matter the occasion!

1. The Plaid Skirt

Okay we all know about the iconic “yellow plaid” outfit—it’s impossible to ignore how effortlessly chic that is. However, it doesn’t exist to buy today. HOWEVER, you can get a similar look by grabbing a plaid miniskirt. These are easily found at Primark, and even some thrift stores, but you can also try this one from Forever 21!

2. The White Button Down

This is so easy—just add a Peter Pan Collared button down. As you can (sort of) see in the picture, Cher’s is a little bit oversized as the sleeves are coming out of her jacket, and you can see the shirttails. You can borrow a button down from your dad, or get this one from Old Navy! 

3. The Black Blazer

A black blazer is a staple that every collegiette (and woman!) needs in her closet! Don’t be afraid to spend a little money on this one, as it’ll last you for life. My favorite type of blazer is a boyfriend blazer, which is exactly what Cher is wearing! To get one of these loose and comfy blazers, try this one from JCrew!

4. The Shoes

These metallic Mary Janes are ICONIC of the ‘90s (and are a bit of a nod to the ‘60s!). They surprisingly go with everything and can be made casual or dressed up. Get them from Urban Outfitters here

5. The Finishing Touches

You absolutely have to finish this look with knee-high white socks (which are everywhere right now!), pulled all the way up with your Mary Janes—so ‘90s! Leave your hair 

naturally shampooed and tousled on top like Cher, complete with a brown lip and neutral eyes!

 

The Full House (Everyday)

(I literally just watched this episode on TV the other day!) The Tanner girls were pioneers of fashion in the ‘90s, especially DJ. She always looked cute and sophisticated, and we all wanted her wardrobe. If you need any fashion inspo from the young girls of Full House, you can check out this other article I wrote. But here is a shortlist for one common everyday fashion choice from the ‘90s.

1. The Oversized Tee

When DJ had an off-day, she almost always wore an oversized tee with the sleeves rolled up. It’s so easy to get this look by borrowing one of your dad’s shirts (sorry that this is the main advice for everything) and rolling up the sleeves. If you don’t like that kind of harsh proportion on top, you can try this cuffed sleeve tee from Gap!

2. High Waisted Sack Shorts

The ‘90s was all about high waisted jeans (aka the dreaded MOM JEANS *gasp*). DJ was a connoisseur of high waisted jeans and sack shorts. These can easily be recreated in a trendier way with these jean shorts from H&M. 

3. The Shoes

DJ’s shoes are a breeze—all you need is a white pair of Keds! What does this remind you of? (The ‘60s!)

4. The Finishing Touches                              

To complete the look, wear long socks that match your shirt and bunch them at the bottom. Then, do a deep side part with your hair and fluff it up around the bang area with some 

texture spray to get DJ’s signature ‘do! 

 

So next time you go out on the city, or hang out with friends, looking effortlessly fabulous and proportioned like the ‘90s is the right way to go!

And there you have it, collegiettes! How to Recreate Decades of Fashion from the 1920s to the 1990s. What trends did you notice repeated themselves? Can you see what decades we get some of our fashion choices from today?

If you missed last week’s article on the 1980s, click here!