The biggest influence on fashion over the last few years is the ‘90s. The decade was bookended by very different fashion, in some respects polar opposites. It started with a meaningful nod to the ’80s, and the mid-to-late ‘90s had ‘70s appeal. As a result, the fashion influence feels like three decades, not one. The silhouettes, vibes, colours, themes, and proportional mixes of the ‘90s are deliciously varied. Yes, Seattle grunge was a distinctly ‘90s look, but that’s only one small part of ‘90s fashion. There is more to it than that.
Here’s a rundown of the impact of ’90s fashion influences on the current trends.
Blazers, jackets, bombers, and coats tend to be longer. They are tailored, fluidly tailored, fluid, or oversized. Maxi coats are back with a vengeance. Shoulder pads are small or large. Jackets have matching pants, skirts, or shorts to create a suit. Styles are single and double-breasted, and can be left unfastened. Belted jackets with self-tie belts are gaining momentum. Shackets continue to be strong. Sleeveless jackets like gilets are appearing. Waistcoats are on the rise. Wearing them over printed tees with a choker necklace is particularly ‘90s.
Pants and jeans are BIG. Bottoms are a little or a lot looser from hip to hem. Hems are straight or flared. If hems taper, the legs are wide. Fabrics are fairly rigid and structured, or soft and flowing. Think bootcuts, wide legs, wide crops, cropped flares, overalls, relaxed straights, boyfriend silhouettes, palazzos, balloon and barrel legs, carrot legs, lantern pants, joggers, and wide cuffed hems. Flat fronts and pleated fronts are equally popular.
Full-length pants and cropped pants are both on-trend. Full lengths are either very long, and skim or sweep the surface of the ground, or they’re at the new practical shorter full length that showcases more of your footwear.
Cropped pants are cropped anywhere from two to six inches above the ankle bone. Sometimes they are cropped an inch above the ankle bone and worn well with a specific type of shoe. Bermuda shorts that are knee-covering are having their fashion moment. Wearing them with a matching gilet is very ‘90s.
True to late ‘90s fashion, low rises are coming through, but aren’t yet mainstream. They are achieved by wearing bottoms with low rises, or by wearing slouchy higher rises with waistbands that rest on the hip bone. High and very high rises are strong, but mid rises are once again gaining momentum. ALL rise lengths are on-trend, so take your pick.
Also, here are my top denim trends for 2023.
Think tailoring AND slouch. There is a wonderful mix of waist-defining tailored silhouettes, but then also unstructured, waist-surrendering silhouettes. Tailoring, subtle fluidity, roomy fluidity, and oversized slouch are equally fabulous. Design details like ruching, smocking, shirring, draping, puffy sleeves, bell sleeves, lantern sleeves, and any type of exuberant sleeve continue to be big.
The lengths of tops, which includes knitwear, are shorter but midriff-covering. But super short cropped tops are mainstream too. The shorter tops create a good proportional mix with big bottoms. Boxy short shirts and shirting is big. Think mullet shirts, tunic shirts with dramatic puffed and smocked sleeves, architectural shirts, wrap shirts, boxy linen and silk shirts, front-frill shirts, pirate shirts, tie-front shirts, and poet shirts. Wearing shirts open like jackets over cropped tops, shell tops and tank tops is very ‘90s. Boho and boho-lite blouses, strappy tops, and frills and ruffles are still going strong. Johnny collars, cut-away tanks, sweetheart necklines, halter tops, corsets, boob tubes and crochet tops are coming through too.
Outfit matching is big. Think solid and patterned twinsets, two-piece dresses, two-piece sweater dresses, two-piece jumpsuits, pant and skirt suits, all sorts of accessory complements, jewellery sets, knitted top and bottoms sets, linen sets, tracksuits, handbag, belt and shoe sets, blouse and scarf sets, swimwear sets, and sock and top sets. Patterned coordinates are VERY ‘90s, and especially in soft flowing fabrics. There is denim on denim too.
Midis, Minis, Maxis, Knee-length
Hemlines vary greatly, just like they did throughout the decade. Midi, midaxi and maxi dresses and skirts are there but knee-length, above the knee and mini skirts are coming through too. Most of the silhouettes are A-line, pleated, tiered, wrap, babydoll, trumpet, shift, fluidly column, shirt, sack, and flared in some way for ease of movement. Pencil and form-fitting skirts and sheath dresses are less available because it’s all about flow, fluidity, and movement. Front slits on skirts and dresses are popular. Bias-cut slip skirts are there. So is wearing dresses over pants, and tees and shirts under slip dresses.
If you’re like me, and worried that midi and midaxi dresses will once again disappear because you prefer knee-covering frocks, nab the right ones when you see them on sale. I’ve made that a shopping priority for the rest of the year.
Think utility jackets, parkas, anoraks, trench coats, carpenter shirts, shirt dresses, cargo skirts, cargo pants, parachute pants, and cargo shorts in earth tones, black, white, brights, pastels, and denim with utility detailing like drawstrings, tie belts, oversized pockets, topstitching, paperboy waists, tabs, carpenter loops, canvas belts, and tortoiseshell trim.
Colours, Fabrics, Patterns
The most popular colours in the mid to late ‘90s were black, grey, white, beige, and every type of earth tone. We are seeing those neutrals come through with gusto. Summer black is an especially ‘90s look, as is wearing it head to toe, or with a pastel. Since the beginning of the ‘90s was ‘80s inspired, we’re seeing brights, neons, all sorts of blues and purples, and sorbet pastels too.
Fabrics like crushed velvet, cracked patent, sheer mesh, and broomstick pleating have made a comeback. Patterns like zebra prints and non-neutral camouflage are strong. So are large scale florals, and ditsy florals, swirl designs, conversational and novelty prints, geometric designs, Hawaiian foliage, and pattern-mixed tartans.
Columns of Colour
Wearing a solid colour (neutral or non-neutral) from head to toe in dressy or casual combinations has a ‘90s flavour. This means as a top and bottom, a cardigan and bottom, or jacket and bottom. The bottoms can be trousers, skirts or shorts. A dress with a jacket or cardigan in the same colour is another option.
Think square-toe pumps and flats, square-toe strappy sandals, fisherman sandals, clogs, snip-toe pumps and flats, refined and chunky Mary Janes, block heels, angled heels, sculptured heels, kitten heels, chunky soles, lug soles, platforms, flatforms, ballet flats, espadrilles, Dr. Martens, combat boots, chunky sandals with broad straps, chunky slides, refined and chunky mules, platform sneakers, chunky oxfords and loafers, Sperry boat shoes, heeled and dressy thong sandals, jelly shoes, closed-toe slingbacks, cowboy boots, velcro fastening, T-straps, big buckles, all sorts of backless shoes, and silver hardware. And sneakers, sneakers, SNEAKERS. This is the shoe of our fashion era in fashion, athletic, vintage, and hybrid versions. They were strong in the ‘90s and continue to be strong now. Wear them in any colour, and with anything.
Cast your mind back to the bags you sported in the ‘90s, and they are the ones that are on-trend for now. Think baguette, bucket and barrel bags, nylon backpacks, belt bags, shoulder bags, crochet bags, and hobos. As for other accessories, there are low-slung belts for low-rise pants and jeans, and waist-cinching belts for higher rises. There are statement hairbands and scrunchies, choker necklaces on black ribbons, neckerchiefs, bandanas, and extremely narrow neck scarves. Dark, almost black, nail polish with the same colour lipstick is as late ‘90s as it gets.
The ’90s isn’t my favorite fashion decade, but I do love the decade’s reinterpretation of ‘80s and ‘70s trends. How about you?