Ah, the 90s. What a great decade! I should know. I lived it.
The 1990s completely influenced my current style aesthetic. Blossom is my style icon. Who can forget Beverly Hills 90210, Clarissa Explains It All, My So-Called Life and Clueless? These shows and movies launched trends.
I was 11 at the start of 1990 and 21 when the decade ended. I cut my hair like Brenda Walsh when I was 13. I experimented with my style during this time:
Nineties style is back with a vengeance. There are many imitators. But one cannot simply throw on a plaid button-down and call it day. Take it from someone who knows.
The 90s ushered in goth, grunge and school girl chic. Casual fashion was an art form. We wore cargos, military boots and cropped tops. I still have multiple piercings in my ears — three in my right ear and two in my left. That’s what you did. No, there’s no significance with the number five. The cartilage in my right ear starts higher than it does in my left ear.
So, here’s a proper tutorial on 90s fashion. I don’t want you walking out of the house with just a plaid shirt tied around your waist. I care that much.
That said, I have modernized the looks. There’s a difference between retro-inspired and outdated.
Florals and Docs
Baby doll dresses were all the rage. It wasn’t unusual to see floral baby doll dresses with military boots. Doc Martens were having a particularly lucrative time. I wanted nothing more than a pair of Doc Martens. Docs are characterized by the yellow thread near the bottoms.
Twenty years later, my friend Tricia hooked me up with a pair of Doc Martens. Better late than never, I suppose.
Casual-style military jackets were also on trend. You saw the occasional denim jacket holdout from the late 80s.
Here’s my interpretation:
To modernize the look, I chose a slightly less fitted floral dress with an asymmetrical hem. I kept the Doc Martens sans rolled crew socks. I’m so glad the rolled sock stayed in the 90s.
I added a safari jacket, which isn’t quite military-esque but still has a rugged casual feel. I chose modern jewelry. Asian detailing is showing on the runways right now. The necklace has a tassle, which also very popular.
To achieve this look:
Opt for a floral dress with a modern cut. Doc Martens are a little pricey. Swap the Docs for any military style boot. Add a bomber, denim or military-cut jacket.
- Floral scarf-hem dress — Been There Unique Boutique — $33
- Safari jacket — New York and Company — $35 (50% off)
- Jewelry — New York and Company — Purchased on sale but don’t remember the price point
- Doc Martens boots — gifted
Cropped and Plaid
Cropped tops with short skirts were THE style in the mid-90s. I’m approaching 38. I have neither the legs nor the gumption to raise the hemline. Feel free to wear your skirt at whatever length you choose. That’s the great thing about fashion. You don’t have to mimic someone exactly. Make it your own.
Here’s my ode to Empire Records:
You can play around with patterns. The grunge movement threw out all rules and caution to the wind, to mix really bad metaphors. It was anti-establishment. Wanna wear florals with plaid? Sure, why not?
The shirt belongs to the hubby. One of the buttons popped off. I didn’t see the sense in purchasing a shirt for a photo or two. He graciously let me borrow it. Besides, I wore men’s flannel shirts anyway. And men’s flannel boxers for that matter. Yes, in public. I’m sure there’s a photo somewhere I can resurrect.
To modernize the look, I chose a metallic top. In all actuality, the skirt is a nicer material and cut than what we would have worn. We didn’t have jobs back then.
To achieve this look:
Choose a pleated or straight skirt. You can opt for a plaid pleated skirt, if you like. Pair with a crop top. You can tie a sweater or cardigan around your waist. Don’t forget the military-style boots.
- Ponte skirt — New York and Company — $20 on sale
- Metallic crop top — Express — thrifted from ThredUP for $13 ($50)
- Floral boots — Mossimo — thrifted and never-worn for $7.99 (est. $35-50 based on research)
- Plaid shirt — Old Navy — borrowed; purchased at Plato’s Closet
Sweet Pea, the photobombing cat, returns.
Sweet Pea is a much better model than I. Look at that pose and stare. Very high fashion, I say.
Let’s talk makeup, shall we. The 90s was all about the natural look. By natural, I mean lots of browns. Case in point, see the photo of me at the beginning of this post as a reference. Everything was brown. We all wanted to be Winona Rider from Reality Bites.
The very nude — read barely there — makeup look is gracing the runways. I opted for the almost nude look by using my contouring palette for shadow. The idea was to create just enough shadow and highlight. I wore a brown lip. I have an entire tutorial on brown lipstick.
We loved khakis and cargos. It’s all Gap’s fault. Remember when The Gap was relevant? No? Then you’re not old enough to remember their awesome ad campaign.
For this look, I opted for modern khakis and cargos. I made sure to include a crop top and Keds knock-offs. Keds — or any canvas sneaker for those of us poor kids — were THE casual shoe. Always worn without socks, of course. We were such rebels in the day.
To modernize the look, I chose a cropped khaki that really isn’t a cargo pant by definition but hearkens back to the day with the detailing. In all honesty, the top is more flowy and less fitted than what we would have worn.
To achieve this look:
Look for a khaki with a modern cut. Pair with a crop top. If you don’t feel comfortable wearing a short top, layer with tanks. A loafer can substitute for solid or patterned canvas shoes.
Let’s take a closer look at my $5 floral shoes. I love these things.
- Crop top — Charlotte Russe — thrifted from ThredUP for $5 ($17)
- Khaki pant — Free People — thrifted from ThredUP for $22 ($88)
- Floral canvas shoes — Mossimo — clearance at Target for $5 ($17)
Which look did you like best? Comment below.