I’m exploring sixty years of popular fashion and part 1 took us from the space-inspired 60s, through the hippy-chic of the 70s to the big shoulders (and bigger hair!) of the 1980s. Let’s pick up this fashion story in 1990…
The 1990s seem to be having a bit of a renaissance in fashionable circles just now: denim dungarees, spaghetti-strap tops, check skirts and shirts, and Doc Marten boots have been spotted on some apparently young and fashionable types recently. Should we ‘look back in anger’ at an incredibly diverse decade in fashion or should we embrace some of its hottest looks ‘baby, one more time’?
The 1990s was the decade of ‘Madchester’ and the rise of BritPop and CoolBritannia on this side of the Atlantic. Couple that with the twin winds of the ‘Friends’ phenomenon and rappers launching their own fashion brands from the US, and the 90s was the decade of super casual fashion excess. From Sporty Spice’s track-wear, through to Christina Aguilera’s hip-hugging cargo pants, we were either wearing over-large and athletic-inspired or tiny and covered in glitter. And if it had a smiley face, even better!
In this article for The Guardian, former editor of Face magazine, Sheryl Garratt, looks back at the rise of 90s youth culture and it’s influence of what we were wearing then.
The first decade of the new millennium saw moves away from the baggy and the sporty (with the exception of the Juicy Couture velour tracksuit!) and towards something a little more glamourous – although the rise of the Ugg boot shows that we weren’t giving up on comfort entirely! The ‘Noughties’ brought back the capri pant – preferably in denim and worn ‘low-rise’ enough to show off your thong (if you were young and firm enough!). Denim has, of course, always been fashionable, adapting to suit the youth culture of each generation in turn. The 90s was no exception and saw everything from denim micro-skirts to denim vests – and it was OK to ‘double-denim’ if you wanted to.
There were some fashion pieces that every generation could embrace, too: the arrival of the pashmina and return of peep-toe heels were something even Mums and Grandmas could enjoy without looking like ‘mutton dressed as lamb’. Some brave souls even adopted the cropped cardigan, but probably over a flowery blouse rather than letting it show off your midriff!
Instyle magazine looks back at some of the more questionable fashion choices from the 2000s.
Are we still too close to the last decade to reflect on it impartially? Perhaps that depends whether you enjoyed the puffer jackets and ‘festival fashion’ that it brought, or whether it largely passed you by. As we have seen often in this retrospective, one decade often rejects the looks of the previous, perhaps an inevitability in the fashion world’s constant quest for the ‘new’ (or the ‘reinvented’!). The 2010s was no different, presenting perhaps a more sophisticated, grown-up glamour than the Noughties had. This is reflected in the rise of some new fashion icons like the perfectly put-together Kim Kardashian, the buffed Beyoncé and the generally ‘out there’ Lady Gaga.
Although we liked to put flowers in our hair and embrace the denim flares for a ‘Woodstock’ festival look, the rise of social media and key influencers ensured that we always looked polished when the camera was on us. The 2010s also saw the first serious moves into sustainable fashion; for the first time, perhaps, we took an interest in how and where our clothes were made – and the rise of online shopping meant we could buy from anywhere around the world if we wanted to. Towards the end of the decade, first Kate Middleton and then Meghan Markle had the ability to sell out an item online within hours.
This article from Fashion United – written at the very end of the decade – reflects on what it thought we would remember from the 2010s; were they right?
2020s – and beyond?
What has this decade brought in terms of fashion? So far, we seem to have been harking back to times past: the 1980s and the 1990s have both had ‘moments’ already. Perhaps it comes from a nostalgia for better times (summers were always long and sunny when you were young, even if they really weren’t). Or perhaps it’s simply the ease with which we can buy and sell our clothes online (thanks to the likes of Etsy and Vinted), but it seems to me that anything vintage, from any decade, is acceptable now.
Whether you like your denim super-skinny or completely bell-bottomed, whether you favour a pashmina or a crocheted tank-top, it feels as though the 2020s haven’t found their style (yet) so it’s up to us to wear what we like and what suits us. If you can still get into something from your youth hanging at the back of the wardrobe, you earn style credits for having had the good sense to hold on to it for all this time.
If the 2020s aren’t going to show us what to wear, we’ll have to make it up ourselves!