The resurgence of ’90s fashion has resulted in a truly mixed bag of emotions. While the ’90s can be credited with providing us now-favourable slip dresses and kitten heels, there’s also a raft of trends we’d like to keep in the past. After reaching out to the rest of the Who What Wear team, we reminisced about all the pieces we used to be so proud to own but can’t imagine ever wearing again (we
think), as well as the celebrity looks we’ll happily revisit time and again.
Just when you think all of the possible forgotten looks from the 1990s had remained hidden, along comes another one. How much do you want a really ridiculously small bag right now? And how much better would it be if it had tiny handles and was rendered in silk-satin (see Kate Beckinsale below)? Or what about those ’90s Kate Moss images you come back to time and again for inspiration on what to wear on a night out? We’ve recently rediscovered a love for old-school Sarah Jessica Parker and combat trousers, too. The revivals are coming in thick and fast, people. Thick and fast.
Keep scrolling for our guide to the ’90s fashion items, trends and combinations we wore to death and then forgot about until now.
Style Notes: Perhaps one of the most iconic fashion moments of the ’90s, Dionne’s and Cher’s checked skirts often come back around into high-fashion circles.
Style Notes: From very revealing bras and bikinis as tops through to more demure unbuttoned styling like Gwyneth Paltrow in Great Expectations, there was a lot of stomach action during the ’90s.
Style Notes: Cassette tapes are long gone, but Mariah Carey’s monogrammed Louis Vuitton rucksack feels as current as ever.
Style Notes: Slip dresses will be popular forever and ever, but there’s something about the slinky bias cut that feels so right now. Kate Moss has long been an advocate of the simple style, but she was a particularly strong figurehead for them in the ’90s.
Style Notes: From the midi length to the snakeskin fabric, we can totally imagine this Cindy Crawford dress being worn by someone on Instagram this season. It might’ve had a bit of a dip in the intervening years, but animal print is currently still very cool.
Style Notes: This stunning blush-pink red carpet look remains one of the most iconic dresses of all time.
Style Notes: Helena Bonham Carter rocked the gothic look in this sheer-sleeved red carpet gown, which she styled with a gold chain necklace (also very on trend right now). There are plenty of copy-cat sheer dresses and tops around this season.
Style Notes: Velvet was the fabric of the ’90s, and this Sarah Michelle-Gellar look is representative of the slinky styles popular during the decade.
Style Notes: She will forever be remembered for that safety-pin dress from Versace, but let us not forget this stunning chain-mail number, please. The fabric became popular after Gianni Versace created a more wearable version, and the idea has returned yet again with chain-mail tops popping up all over the high street, including Zara.
Style Notes: If you saw this in Dalston today, you wouldn’t bat an eyelid. So many men and women are adopting the sportswear staples of the ’90s, especially when they come logo-emblazoned like Whitney’s. We’ve currently got our eyes on the Adidas and Wales Bonner collab.
Style Notes: If your top wasn’t A) a vest or B) a corset in the ’90s, then you were living in a bubble! SJP was a strong supporter of boned and bodiced bandeaus, wearing them with everything from short suits to fancy red carpet skirts. In 2021, it feels very Bridgerton.
Style Notes: If you weren’t grunge or super polished, you probably spent the ’90s trying to imitate Lisa Bonet and her artfully thrown-together NYC hippy look. The mini sunglasses and sneakers still stand up today, and we all know celebs continue to love a “naked” dress.
Style Notes: Printed leggings started in the ’80s and went well on into the ’90s. It’s not a look we often reach for these days, but there’s no denying that Naomi Campbell pulled it off with ease. To replicate, stick to the gingham trend that’s bound to make a return this summer.
Style Notes: Will denim shorts ever die out? Probably not. Here’s Halle Berry wearing them in the most ’90s ensemble possible: with a high-waisted black belt, socks-and-hiking-boots combo and a crop top.
Style Notes: Tell us truthfully now: You want a mini bag again, right? Kate Beckinsale’s little fabric bag (and pink skirt) look so right for now. We wonder if she still has the pieces she wore to this film premiere. Also, props to Clare Danes on the very au courant tiger-printed top.
Style Notes: Take a glance over any sandal collection from the current season, and you’ll journey back to 1995 when strappy heels were the only option. Here’s Jennifer Lopez giving an excellent “business casual” look in hers.
Style Notes: While this trend might have started with Liam Gallagher and the Manchester music scene, the likes of AllSaints and Naomi Campbell were seen promoting this look too. Most recently, Justin Bieber tried to bring it back again. Opinions are split.
Style Notes: This item’s popularity probably has a lot to do with the fact that The Matrix was such a huge hit—everyone wanted to wear Neo’s long leather coat. But because that maxi silhouette isn’t exactly practical, it evolved into this shorter form instead, as seen on Winona Ryder and on Kate Moss.
Style Notes: As modelled here by Victoria Beckham, pedal pushers weren’t shorts or trousers, and they definitely weren’t cropped kick-flares. They sat somewhere in a no man’s land. Very popular at Tammy Girl. These were filed under “never to wear again,” but never say never…
Style Notes: The halter neck and the handkerchief were the official tops of the ’90s—and they were always paired with a pair of boot-cut jeans (probably from Miss Sixty).
Style Notes: Seriously, though—who didn’t own a pair of combat trousers? Thanks to AllSaints, the baggy “dad” trousers actually looked pretty sassy when combined with a crop top.
Style Notes: The waistcoat was often worn during the ’90s as a piece all by itself, rather than belonging to a suit. Ideally, it should be worn à la Drew Barrymore with a denim skirt and a bum bag. Today’s version is most likely to be knitted and worn over a big-collared blouse.
Style Notes: Kurt Cobain was a style icon for many reasons. His baggy cardigans and love for the general grunge look inspired a whole generation of fashion. But we still love these oversized red sunnies he wore on the red carpet for the MTV Video Music Awards in 1993. While they’ve just started to come back into fashion, we’d forgotten about them for so long.
Style Notes: Trust Liv Tyler to really remind us of our youth. The strapless top was a must for any ’90s wardrobe. Preferably accessorised with an oversized necklace.
Style Notes: There are many reasons to love the Gwyneth-and-Brad era. For starters, they always somehow managed to do the couples-dressing thing without appearing tacky. But they also did casual dressing like no one else.
Style Notes: Thanks to The Craft, there wasn’t a group of friends in the ’90s that didn’t try the “light as a feather, stiff as a board” game. (If you know, you know.) But trying out spells isn’t the only thing the goth movie inspired—it also impacted our wardrobes. Cue lots of layered necklaces and black.
Style Notes: Plaid and checked shirts were a real grunge ’90s vibe, but they didn’t just belong to the likes of Kurt Cobain. In My So-Called Life, Claire Danes’s Angela Chase often wears the shirts over cute floral dresses, a classic ’90s look.
Style Notes: Sure, the LBD hasn’t exactly disappeared, but in the ’90s, it was all about the super-short and sassy version. No one did it better than Jennifer Aniston’s Rachel from Friends.
Style Notes: Blossom, played by The Big Bang Theory star Mayim Bialik, was probably singlehandedly responsible for our obsession with ridiculous quirky hats. While we’re much more for a cute beret these days, back then, the school of thought was “the bigger, the better.”
Style Notes: Oversized denim dungarees were hugely popular among hip-hop stars in the early ’90s, and it wasn’t long before everyone from TLC to Joey Potter in Dawson’s Creek and Rachel Green in Friends had a pair too.
Style Notes: After ’80s fashion gifted us with acid brights and neon bum bags, ’90s style icons like Goldie Hawn and Drew Barrymore gave the look an altogether cooler vibe with black-leather bum bags slung around high-waisted jeans.
Style Notes: Ah, the baby-doll. Mainly considered lingerie, it wasn’t until Emma Bunton, aptly nicknamed Baby Spice, started wearing them as eveningwear that they became such a trend.
Style Notes: Tinted sunglasses may be popular Instagram fare among likes of Gigi and Bella Hadid right now, but has anyone really worn them better than fashion’s original sister duo, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen?
Style Notes: If you didn’t have a tie-dye T-shirt like the original Destiny’s Child lineup, were you really living through the ’90s? These were truly everywhere, with even grunge icons like Kurt Cobain getting involved.
Next up, the biggest spring/summer 2021 fashion trends to know.
This piece was published at an earlier date and has since been updated.