I’ll be honest with you all here: I really hate the 90’s. I know it’s not particularly popular or fashionable stance for me to take, but eff that. SILENCE NO MORE! I lived through the 1990s, unlike a lot of you that are undoubtedly reading this article. There were some high points, for sure, but there were a lot of tremendously awful fashion moments that should just be forgotten permanently. No, wait – if we forget them, we will never learn from our mistakes and be forced to relive them AGAIN. I’ve got fashion PTSD from that shit, man! It was bad when we were kids, and it isn’t better now. There. I said it. I feel better already. Can we still be friends? It’s not you; it’s – wait… it is you. It’s all you 20-somethings and teens that are nostalgic for these terrible, terrible choices. It’s like being nostalgic about an ex-boyfriend or terrible booty call. You get lonely or bored, go through the sexual recycling bin, and then realize what a terrible idea that was later on. I mean, bucket hats are beginning to make a comeback. Bucket hats! What kind of fuckery is this? I promise you, if Dr. Seuss hats come back, I am holding every single one of your fauxstalgic asses responsible.
It could very well happen, as it was pointed out to me that bucket hats are showing up on celebrities. This is how it happens, folks. Know your enemy. Become familiar with your enemy, but don’t get too close. If you do, you’re going to end up being another schmuck wearing a terrible trend. No one wants to be that guy. Don’t let it happen to you! I have a list of Do’s and Don’ts to make this revival work and not look like a massive mistake since the 1990s, like everything else, weren’t 100% bad. There’s like three percent of the population that can make this work – RiRi and Rhiannon Hennesy being in that small percentage. You’ll thank me later when you see your friend’s photos ten years from now and viciously taunt them while remaining unscathed.
TL;DR? The 1990s didn’t totally suck, so here’s a list of things that were kind of rad, so you don’t look dumb.
90’s Makeup and Hair Trends
The 90’s had some great lipstick trends, and I am incredibly grateful for those. Because of this, you can take a modern outfit and inject a slightly retro look with your makeup. It can harken back to a time or mood that you are trying to create without looking costumey.
Drew Barrymore was one of my absolute favorites at the time, primarily because I looked a lot like her as a kid/teen. Drew took a lot of grunge elements like a dark brown or burgundy lip but gave them a softer, boho vibe with her choppy hair, daisies, feminine slips, and (sadly) thinly arched brows. Her sometimes bestie at the time, Courtney Love, took that same burgundy lip (though she usually wore red) and made it loud, lewd, and more rock n roll with smeared liner, torn fishnets, and combat boots. A lot of people were, and still are, super critical of Courtney, but I’ve always really liked her and wholly respect the influence that she had on the fashion industry at the time. That’s no easy feat!
Other strong makeup trends happening at the time were the mauve look, which Kylie Jenner has helped make popular again. One of the most iconic uses of it, for me, was the cover of Rolling Stone with the three main actresses from my favorite show, Twin Peaks. Lara Flynn Boyle, Sherilyn Fenn, and Madchen Amick make it look amazing with perfectly groomed brows, simple makeup, and incredibly voluminous hair. Moving to the neutral side of the lip color spectrum, dark brown was everywhere and it looked so good. An earthy, sexy brown was a phenomenal neutral that had all of the drama of burgundy without the noise. I never learned how to wear it well and I was always jealous of Nia Long, Jada Pinkett (before the -Smith), Aaliyah, and Lauryn Hill. Oddly enough, it was often paired with a frosted light silver eye or just heavy black kohl liner. On the lighter side of the lipstick spectrum, you have the frosty pinks frequently worn by blondes like Kate Moss, Alicia Silverstone, and Mandy Moore.
Drew and Nia long had the best pixie cuts of the decade, along with Halle Berry, Winona Ryder, and Jada Pinkett. Other amazing styles included the ubiquitous high-and-tight ponytail, bantu knots, chunky highlights, “The Rachel,” baby bangs, box braids, choppy and/or flippy layers.
GET THE LIP LOOK: Spice and Twig liners, Brave lipstick, and Soar lipstick by MAC; Dahlia by Pretty Zombie Cosmetic; Panther by Black Radiance; Rum Raisin by Revlon; Damned by Kat Von D; Creme de la Femme by MAC.
I get nervous when we start talking about the 90’s and denim. Waistlines were horrendously low, the width of the legs were large enough to be small waistlines, and white denim was totally a popular thing. When I think of the 90s, I think of JNCO, Girbaud, Bongo, and Gitano. For the record, I’m totally cool with the high-waisted Bongo and Gitano look coming back, just don’t stick me with the ugly bell bottoms of the late 90s. White Girbauds were the preference of the cute boys that I knew who were super into Biggie. Meanwhile, my fat belly was hanging over the ultra low-rise waistlines of bell bottoms that were sausage-casing tight on my thighs before they flared mid-calf. A couple of years later I switched to my 30+ inch JNCO and Kik Wear pipe jeans. Let that sink in: the legs of my jeans were bigger around than quite a few of my friends’ waistlines.
If the potential resurgence of these heinous, cumbersome pants excites you, you have never had a mosquito or worse – A HORNET – fly up the leg of your pants with no exit but from whence it came. If your pants some with risk of a small animal seeking refuge in the legs, you should probably reconsider your life choices. Stylish solution? Palazzo pants or other wide leg pants made with fabric other than denim. You get a similar effect without being a giant wind tunnel, the movement of the fabric is flattering, and they are insanely comfortable.
Patterns, Color, and Fabrics
The 90s did not shy away from loud patterns and color, which I am surprisingly okay with. I’ve come to enjoy the color play that dayglo shades have to offer, especially if you take that idea and modernize it with a neutral or gray, avoiding black. I cannot emphasize this enough: choose an element or two to play with, but do not go wild. You will look like you are wearing a costume rather than trying a new (old) style.
The first thing that I think of aside from neon colors is plaid. Grunge has been back in a big way over the last few years, only now it’s not just hipsters in buffalo plaid and ill-advised, overpriced hats. My favorite way to wear plaid is through less expected ways like a plaid flannel dress. Readers, don’t worry. It still screams 90s grunge. It just looks the slightest bit more modern and less like you walked out of a Soundgarden video.
There’s also the uber preppy plaid school girl look that was big in the 90s. Think Cher from Clueless or “Oops I Did It Again” -era Britney. The preppy look usually employed more the way of pastel plaids like Barbie pinks, lavenders, and yellow with matching cardigans, button up shirts, and over-the-knee socks.
Further into the decade, I think of hologram and silver metallic vinyl. Growing up in the south, I coveted vinyl clothing but not the swamp ass that came with wearing it. I recommend keeping hologram and vinyl to accessories, both for comfort and in order to not look like you’re wearing a costume. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. Next Top Designer contestant Ashley Nell Tipton nailed the trend with the “Unicorn Skirt,” also seen on actress Gabourey Sidibe.
Mesh was a leftover from the 80s, but still hot in the 90s. Everyone from ravers, goths, to Aaliyah knew the power of a good see-through mesh top. I’m pleased to see it pop up again in the form of cut-outs, bathing suits, and mesh crop tops. It’s universally sexy and can be used sparingly or over the top, I love both. Altar, an amazing boutique in Portland, does custom made mesh swimsuits that are incredibly sexy. They will make them in any size, and they look hot on everyone. Best of all, they can be used year round as swimwear or bodysuits.
REMEMBER: Any time you are trying a throwback look, keep elements of it modern. Choose one or two things that you like from the era and don’t go overboard with each outfit. If you throw everything on at once, you look like you are trying to hard. If you use a little restraint, you end up looking chic and on trend. Post your favorite 90s trends in the comment section, or tag us with #wearyourvoicemag and #wearyourvoicebeauty on Instagram. Can’t wait to see your looks!