1990s Fashion: History and Influences

In the last few months, 1990s fashion has been declared vintage, historical, and retro, and searches for the subject have been picking up significant steam. Duh! Welcome to the 90s *rolls eyes*! Many readers have asked me to write an article about the trends that inevitably make (and have made) their way back into the main stream. I’ll do it! But you owe me…

Casual Attire

The 1990s was a time of great change and, believe it or not, fashion rebellion in a sense. Because of the recession toward the beginning of the decade and new business philosophies that proved the importance of employees feeling more comfortable at work, Casual attire was the name of the decade. Dressing down in every aspect of life became normal. Going to work in “business casual” clothing was relatively new on a large scale and for the first time, you couldn’t tell who was rich and who was a bum.

Another reason for the uprising in casual attire was the influence that 90s music had on fashion. Grunge, Hip Hop, Alternative, and Boy Bands all dressed in casual-”chic” attire, influencing fans and non-fans alike. Doc Martens and flannel, parachute pants and LA Lights, or oversized sweaters and eyeliner anyone?

In the 1980s, consumers were purchasing products left and right, often spending more than they had. This is normally called “conspicuous consumption,” and it was a lesson learned going into the last decade of the millennium.  Minimalism was popular in 1990s fashion, and a rejection of the large fashion icons became mainstream. In other words, people saw other people dressing down and decided to save money (or they were too lazy/cool for fashion!).  Overalls, flannel, bright colors that lingered from the 80s, denim everything, and baggy clothes were all a nonchalant rejection to expensive fashion.


Global Influences

Viewing fashion from around the world via the internet and eCommerce were just beginning to take off, making it easier to purchase clothing from around the world. This increased the variety available to consumers, and the sources of influence as well.  Inexpensive clothing manufacturers from China, Mexico, and other such countries were able to sell directly to consumers. This might have been one of the causes of the decline in upscale fashion in the 90s. It was also the reason for the strong Chinese influence on mainstream 1990s fashion. In 1997, Britain handed Hong Kong back to China after occupying it for 156 years, creating a sense of Chinese pride in anyone with a smidgen of Chinese in their ancestry. Cheongsam dresses became popular, and influenced other aspects of fashion including shawls with similar embroidery.


1990s Fashion in the 2010s

Did you think you were done with the 90s? Think again. Influences from past decades are always showing up in the future, and the 90s are no different.  Shabby-chic, Casual-chic, and any similar “dressed-down, but nice” can all be attributed to cleaned up versions of 1990s fashion. Here are some other aspects of 1990s fashion that you can find in some form today. These weren’t invented in the 90s, just popularized then (or at least a type was created then).

  • Lace Blouses
  • Chucks
  • Pastels (late 90s, and now 2012-2013)
  • Displaying designer labels to show off
  • Yoga pants (as a style)
  • Thong underwear
  • Flannel
  • Navy blue blazers and boat shoes
  • Polo Shirts
  • Neon cross trainers
Believe me now?

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