As always with the trend cycle, what goes up, must come down and thus we’re stuck in constant anticipation, dancing between our dichotomous desire to be on-trend and to abide by sustainable standards, but the 90s trend seems immune to this fabled cycle.
A recurring internet obsession – from cult classic movies like Clueless and Pretty Woman to popular music by the likes of TLC, the Spice Girls and Nirvana – references to the decade seem persisting and unavoidable, and the fashion world is aware of this. Paris Hilton-reminiscent minidresses, faux fur lined cardigans, low rise trousers and a spattering of rhinestones have strutted the runways of fashion week perhaps more consistently than any other era’s aesthetic. The question is, how are we not sick of the 90s by now? The answer is simple, there is no true ‘90s’ aesthetic.
The question is, how are we not sick of the 90s by now? The answer is simple, there is no true ‘90s’ aesthetic.
Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent and then at Celine explores 90s grunge, Versace odes to 90s baroque excess and maximalism, Prada champions the emergence of 90s feminine pragmatism and minimalism, Calvin Klein revels in the 90s emergence of Americana and so on. The era is multifaceted but authentically represented in a way that other eras simply aren’t – it was a point in history that reached a perfect equilibrium of digitalisation, communication and pop culture but still kept a certain amount of separation and authenticity.
It was an era of naive hope,- where culture, fashion and the future of youth seemed bright and the clothes reflected this. It was fun, it was quirky, it was identity giving. Jelly shoes, pastel slip dresses, pearl adorned hair clips – the turn of the millennium on the horizon seemed optimistic and even fashion’s greatest tragedies sparkled with a certain allure (the glamorised and mysterious deaths of Gianni Versace and Princess Diana have captivated fashion lovers and conspiracy theorists alike for decades, for example).
What was to come in the following decade would also cause fashion to yearn for the simpler time of the 90s. The 2000s were framed by ‘addiction chic’, white-washing and a desperate excess as the conglomerates rose and commercialism gripped the industry aggressively and unforgivingly. It pushed Galliano to break down, Ford to the bottle, forced Elbaz from his Lanvin lovechild and even claimed dear McQueen’s life.
And so, the 90s stands as a beacon of peak modern culture, capturing an older generation in nostalgia and captivating a new generation in the allure of the aesthetic with all its wonderful excess and fantasy (even more so during the pandemic), thus enduring the trend cycle and constantly being referenced, revised and reimagined by new generations and movements – it mutates into the current with a recollective comfort.
While I can’t see myself sporting jelly sandals around Soho anytime soon, the oversized pieces and cultural throwbacks are reminiscent of a simpler time. In the face of our pandemic-shaken world, this is welcomed stylistic catharsis.
Benji is best known for his fashion journalism and educational videos under TikTok username @fashionboyy. He also makes content for publications like The Face, Highesnobiety and Bricks about fashion news and the Gen Z landscape. His goal is to demystify and democratise fashion to make it more accessible and inclusive.
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