Grunge, Catwalks & Airports: 1991 Fashion Trends

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1991 fashion trends including cindy crawford, kurt cobain, naomi campbell
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Last Updated on January 5, 2022

The 91s… Ahh, what a sweet year it was!

We had Nirvana and we were crushing on grunge style real bad before it was even a trend. It was all about poking holes in our clothing and trying hard to play it cool like Kurt…

Cindy’s blow-up hair was the hairstyle to have, and the stench of hair products girls used to achieve the iconic mane was a thing to fear!

And let’s not forget the epic Versace catwalks that made the Big Six Supermodels career and turned glam up a notch on everybody’s daywear…

Go ahead and check out the most important trends of the year, and my tips on how to achieve the looks!

Cindy Crawford’s red dress at the Academy Awards 

Cindy Crawford, arguably one of the most beautiful women of all time, was all the rage in the early 90s and for very obvious reasons. Cindy turned up to the 1991 Academy Awards with to-be husband Richard Gere in a red Versace sheath gown that further solidified her as a fashion and beauty icon. 

The dress featured a sweetheart neckline with a very low plunge, halter, low back, and a very high thigh split. In true 90s style, Cindy wore pale stockings and chunky black heels, choices that would likely be seen as a little stuffy or old-fashioned today. 

Cindy’s hair was full 90s, with big, bouncy waves and raised roots, and her makeup was smoky-yet-natural. We love the in-your-face glamour of this look: red, skin, slinkiness, sex-appeal, all tied up with a shade of demureness. 

Try it: 

  • Deconstruct the look for every day with a halter-style red bodysuit worn with high-waisted straight-leg trousers, black pumps, and a cropped leather jacket
  • Look for a red midi-dress with a low back and plunging V-neckline, and pair with heeled biker ankle boots for a night out
  • Blow-wave your hair with a volumizing product, line your lips with a deep nude liner, and buff a neutral brown shadow onto the upper and lower lash lines 

Eclectic grunge, Nirvana style 

One of the most influential albums of the 1990s was Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’, released in September 1991 (their second studio album after 1989’s ‘Bleach’). Not only did this solidify the Seattle Grunge sound of the 1990s, but it presented the grunge look to the masses. 

The 1991 Nirvana look was decidedly “normal” at its core, with blue jeans, tees, cardigans, sweaters, cord jackets, polos, and Converse. Denim was ripped, knitwear was ragged, and hair was long and floppy (and sometimes pink). The look (whether curated or not) personified young guys and girls the world over, who jammed in basements and lived in their threads for days on end. 

Try it:

  • Pick through your wardrobe and find your oldest and most-loved gems, whether they be jeans or an old tee from your highschool drama club. Layer them with lived-in knitwear don’t be afraid to clash colors and textures 
  • Grunge-ify your going-out attire by layering an oversized cord jacket over a shirt dress with ripped black skinny jeans and heeled lace-up boots 

Read: 80s vs 90s Music: There’s Has to be Only One Winner

Versace’s iconic runway show: babydoll dresses and supermodels 

Picture Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, and Cindy Crawford stomping the runway lip-synching George Michael’s “Freedom”. They’re wearing mini babydoll dresses in block colors, with sheer tights and smoky eyes. This unforgettable moment happened at the Fall/Winter 1991 Versace show and showed off the other-worldly beauty and power of the 90s supermodel elite. 

The dresses were girly yet sexy, and something the “average” woman could see herself wearing. They were simple yet nuanced with narrow-cut straps, sweetheart necklines, and soft, flippy hems. 

Note: I also have to give a shout out to the 1991 Versace Spring Ready-to-Wear look consisting of mini shift dresses with matching stockings and heels, in rich yellow, pink, green, and blue. It was like a 1960s-meets-space-age candy store of fashion. Not to mention the polka-dot pants with graphic blazers and embellished belts. 

Look, I could write a thousand pages on the beauty and fun of Versace’s 1991 shows so I’ll stop here.

Try it: 

  • Try a few mini dresses to find the silhouette that suits you best. Tall, willowy ladies would look stunning in 60s-style shift dresses, while curvier women would look beautiful in skater dresses cinched the waist and gently flaring or floating over the hips
  • Layer with opaque stockings for winter, and elevate yourself with heeled booties 
  • Channel 1991 Versace exuberance with bright, graphic tights and a cropped jacket in a matching color story 
  • Strut like Naomi and own your beauty!  

Read: The Insatiable List: “Big Six” 90s Supermodels

“Airport fashion”, Cindy Crawford in jeans, a turtleneck, leather, and bare face

We’re referring back to our 90s queen Cindy Crawford once more, with her “airport” look comprising blue jeans, a brown belt, brown leather boots, black turtleneck, and black leather jacket. The “airport” look was highly popular in the 90s, as it is now, as it was a snapshot into the “off-duty” lives of high-profile celebrities. Cindy’s look was timeless, all you need is to adjust the cut and accessories and you’ve got a killer contemporary casual outfit. 

  • Layer high-waisted straight-leg jeans over a V-neck black bodysuit with a black or brown leather belt. Wide-leg or flared jeans are great for adding a 70s retro silhouette 
  • Pair with Cuban-heeled black or brown leather Chelsea boots 
  • Veer away from the popular leather moto-jacket and try a leather or suede blazer-style jacket or even a cropped leather trench 
  • Brush your brows, smudge brown kohl into the upper lash line, and walk with purpose (like Cindy rushing to catch a flight)

Popular 1991 hairstyle trends

The 90s had some great hair moments, but what styles were popular in 1991? Here are some of the top haircuts for men and women.

Men’s Hairstyles

  • One of the most popular hairstyles for men in 1991 was the “Flat Top”. This style was seen on actor Jason Priestly when he starred in 90210 and it was instantly copied by men all over America.
  • The 90s curtain hairstyle was also gaining popularity, this was a defining 90s style and an excuse for all teen boys to avoid haircuts too!

Women’s Hairstyles

  • Popular hairstyles in 1991 for women included the natural ringlets trend. This was embraced by artist Mariah Carey, as her naturally curly hair was a sensation on the Grammys’ red carpet. Hair teasing was still popular from the 80s, so bigger was better with natural curls.
  • Cindy Crawford starred in the 1991 Pepsi advert and wowed the world with her messy blowout, a trend that continued into the decade.

Popular brands in 1991

Trends come and go, but style is eternal. That quote may be true, but brands will always be a driving force when it comes to fashion. Which brands were popular in 1991? Keep on reading to find out!

US

Tommy Hilfiger is a brand that hit the mainstream in the early 90s. Though this brand wasn’t yet popular with the hip-hop scene, it was starting to become more and more well-known. With a mix of preppy clothes and sportswear, you could wear Tommy Hilfiger at any event.

Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren were also popular American designers in the early 90s. Though both brands continued to have success through the decade and to the present day, they were at the forefront of classic American style in 1991.

Read: 24 Preppy Clothing Brands that Ooze Sophistication

Try-it:

  • All three American brands are still up and running now, however, if you want their early 90s style you should visit thrift stores or online marketplaces to find some hidden 90s gems.

UK

When it comes to high street fashion and popular brands, the UK often has the same taste as America. However, there are always a few UK-based designers that take the nation by storm!

Retailer Jane Norman was popular for girls and women in the early 90s and carrying their shopping bag was a sign that you had style. This brand offered casual and dressy clothes for the girl on the go.

Another popular brand in the UK was GAP. This brand was popular worldwide and based in the U.S, however, Brits embraced its casual style and branded hoodies. You could always find someone in GAP denim or a slouchy sweater in 1991.

Try-it:

  • It’s easy to find GAP clothing as the stores are still running and you can find true 90s vintage pieces online. Jane Norman clothes are more difficult to get hold of as this store is now closed down.

Notable 1991 fashion shows

Fashion weeks are exciting events, especially when they feature iconic 90s supermodels and emerging designers! Some of the greatest catwalk events happened in this decade, but which shows were popular in 1991?

Versace Fall 1991

In the fall-winter season, Gianni Versace debuted his latest Versace collection to the world. This featured a star-studded cast of supermodels including Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, and Cindi Crawford too. This girl gang of models pranced down the runway whilst lip-syncing to George Michael’s single “Freedom! ‘90”. This collection included feminine up-do hairstyles and flirty red minidresses – perfect for a date night outfit.

Azzedine Alaia 1991

Another impressive fall-winter show came from designer Azzedine Alaia. This fashion icon was already known for his flirty knitwear garments, so of course, they were included in this early-90s show. The garments also included leopard print knits, butterflies, and other hints to the animal kingdom. Time to go wild with fashion!

What memories do you have of the year? Let us know below.