1997 Fashion: Low Hips, Satin & Bare Midriffs

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1997 fashion showing three women with different 1997 styles
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Last Updated on January 26, 2022

The year was 1997, I was 11 years old at the time, and had just come out of the cinema after watching Titanic for the third time… Those were the times!

The red carpets were filled with satin slip dresses, led by the flower printed picks of the Olsen twins and Nicole Kidman’s Galliano chartreuse dress with fur-trimmed edging.

It was a golden era for Hollywood, no doubt.

But, it was also the time of low, very low, hung jeans which looked great on Jennifer Love Hewitt and not so great in real life…

Let’s crawl down this nostalgic rabbit hole together as we remember the greatest hits of 1997’s fashion!

Mary-Kate and Ashley’s floral satin red carpet outfits 

On a 1997 red carpet, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen turned up in what’s quite possibly the most quintessential young 90s girl outfit ever. They wore floral satin two-pieces, tiny, dark sunglasses, and a fresher version of “The Rachel” haircut.

I swear I remember wishing to the high heavens that I had an outfit like that. Interestingly, this pyjama-style look came back around in recent years, with the pyjama suit reaching the red carpets and the bodies of some of the biggest stars such as Selena Gomez, Zendaya, and Sarah Jessica Parker. 

Looking at the twin’s get-up now, it’s interesting how demure and even old-fashioned the floral prints were for such young girls. Then again, the 90s were populated with muted florals whether it was grungy or girly. 

Try-it: 

  • Look for a satin cowl-neck tee in a floral print and pair with a simple black midi sheath skirt and flats
  • Pair a satin spaghetti-strap tank with blue kick-flare jeans, an embroidered duster coat, and Doc Martens 

Nicole Kidman at the Oscars 

When it comes to the most beloved Oscar dresses of all time, Nicole Kidman’s 1997 John Galliano for Christian Dior dress is a sure hit. On paper, the dress may not be so great. But in reality…it’s stunning, with shiny chartreuse-green satin, colorful floral embroidery, a high neckline, and thigh splits trimmed with fur. 

Nicole accessorized with dangling earrings and a deep, brick-red lip. As an unexpected pop of contrasting color, she wore satin heels in a pale eggshell blue satin. Nicole’s incredible, statuesque figure and creamy ivory skin made the look all the more breathtaking. 

We learned from this look that colors needn’t be predictable, less isn’t always more, and the perfect fit is key. 

Try-it: 

  • Embrace the satin and embroidery in the form of an elaborately-detailed coat or blazer. Wear with everything from torn black jeans to a sleek midi sheath dress 
  • Look for a rich, jewel-tone satin shirt, tank, or dress and contrast it with a bold lip color. For example, a deep emerald green blouse with a magenta lip, or a burnt-orange satin shift with a milky-pink matte lip 
  • See how far you can push a look with accessorizing and details. What are your limits? Can you make fur, embroidery, statement jewelry, and clashing tones work? Your wardrobe is your playroom, there are no rules, just fun 

Read: Check Out These Different Styles of Earrings

Claire Danes at the 1997 Oscars

We’re turning to the Oscars red carpet once more, as we have to talk about Claire Danes. Claire wore an icy-blue paneled satin dress with a fishtail hemline. The top was a fitted knit tee with a high neck and capped sleeves. 

The skirt sits low on the hip, elongating the torso and giving a laid-back attitude to an otherwise sleek look. In authentic 90s style, Claire wore a matching necklace and earring set with crystal flowers in blue and silver. The makeup was a 90s masterclass, with pale blue shadow, frosty brown lips, and short, side-swept hair. 

Try-it: 

  • Look for a soft-knit tee in a pale blue, perhaps shot with fine metallic thread. A ribbed tee-style sweater with a high neckline is also a great staple piece for work layering
  • Wear a satin bias-cut skirt (there’s no shortage of them on the market at the moment!) over a fitted graphic tee for weekend wear. Swap the tee for a fully-beaded tank for going out 
  • For a near-perfect dupe for Claire’s lipstick, try ‘Heather Shimmer’ by Rimmel 

Jennifer Love Hewitt in ‘I know what you did last summer’

I’m pretty sure you can guess what look I’m going to spotlight here. Are you picturing brown pants, a bare midriff, layered chokers, and a pale blue tank and cardigan set? You nailed it. This look worn by Jennifer Love Hewitt was a typical portrayal of the American teen-on-screen, with a little extra skin to garner interest (sorry, it’s a Hollywood fact). 

The low-slung trousers were a departure from the high-waisted jeans of the early 90s and foreshadowed the too-low waistbands of the 00s. A small detail that holds a lot of reminiscence for me is JLH’s necklaces, particularly those little silver charms on dark chains. I had many of those, particularly dolphins, suns, moons, peace signs, and daisies.

(Note to self: trawl through storage to see if I still have my 90s jewelry).

Try-it:  

  • Hike up that waistband if you’re not prepared to get “midriffy”. Pick a pair of 1970s-style flared trousers with a high-waist. Try an earthy tone such as brick, chocolate, or rust 
  • Pair your trousers with a ribbed or pattern-knit tank and matching cardigan, or a denim jacket if you’re not into the matching set 
  • Tuck a plain white tank or tee into your trousers, add a pair of tan wedges or heeled boots, and a collection of layered necklaces (preferably with tiny dolphin pendants)

Read: Denim Jacket Outfits: 4 Ways to Reimagine Your Trusty Jean Jacket

Key 1997 Clothing Styles

The popularity of Gap fashion

In 1997 Gap’s designers spent over 10 weeks preparing for the brand’s fall/winter show. This preparation included over 1,000 samples of apparel for men, women, and children too. The brand wasn’t an independent design house like Calvin Klein, however, they still created new trends and pleased their key client Chief Executive Millard Drexler too.

This era of Gap focused on chic basic garments like white denim jeans or well-crafted shirts, proving that you don’t need to be flashy to be fashionable. Supermodels wore these minimalist designs on the cover of Vogue and many teens copy this laidback style.

Try-it:

  • Instead of opting for clashing colors and prints, go for neutral tones. Embrace white, cream, grey, and black.
  • Blue denim is a must, find a well-fitting pair of high-waisted denim shorts or some denim mom jeans. A boxy denim jacket is also a 90s Gap staple.
  • The iconic Gap logo hoodie is a perfect way to get this signature look. These are readily available online.

Read: The Definitive Guide to 90s Clothing Brands

Levi’s wide-leg jeans

Another key 1997 trend was the emergence of wide-leg jeans. These were popularized by denim retailer Levi’s through their provocative 1997 advert. See it here:

The wide-leg jean advert starts with a man and a woman in a lift and, due to the great fit of the jeans, their life as a couple flashes before our eyes. With a heavy focus on love and youth, these jeans were marketed as the trouser to own!

Levi’s were already known for their great denim products, but their new wide-leg option introduced a laid back style with added comfort. Though this new style was loose, it still fitted around the wearer’s hips and waist for some figure definition.

Try-it:

  • You can still buy these Levi wide-leg jeans online and through resale websites, if you want an authentic garment!
  • Most fashion retailers have their own denim range and wide-leg is a popular fit today.
  • Always opt for blue or grey denim when trying to get a 90s vibe! Avoid any bright pops of color.

Read: Undeniable Proof that Men’s 90s Jeans are Here to Stay

London Fashion Week 1997

When it comes to fashion week, London always puts on the best show. Known for edgier styles and daring street fashion, LFW was at its prime in the 1990s. In 1997 Alexander McQueen debuted his second show “It’s a Jungle Out There”, shocking the media with structured tailoring, animal references, and grungy styles.

London Fashion Week 97 also saw Tommy Hilfiger present a new collection. This classic preppy style opposes McQueen’s gothic grunge, however, paints a picture of the well-made basics that took the 1990s by storm. With the brand’s classic red, white and blue colors this collection is recognizable to this day.

Try-it:

  • To get the Alexander McQueen look, opt for a darker palette for blacks, browns, and burgundy. Find a well-tailored jacket to accentuate your waist and mix this style with ripped jeans or mesh tops.
  • If you’d prefer to embrace the classic Tommy Hilfiger style, look for clean-cut shapes and bright red, white, and blue colors. Tommy Hilfiger clothes are more accessible online.

Gender Fluid Clothing

Gender Fluid fashion blurs the lines between what is traditionally womenswear and menswear. Though this trend is really hitting the mainstream now because of Gen Z, this was still a popular subculture in the 1990s. Key gender-fluid icons from the 90s include Grace Jones, Annie Lennox, and Boy George. Jean-Paul Gaultier’s 1997 collection also includes a range of women in traditional men’s suiting.

Grunge superstar Kurt Cobain also embraced this trend by subverting expectations on stage. He was seen playing gigs in a dress, showing that you can wear whatever you want. Prince was another star that wore more feminine tailoring and heels in the 90s, proving again you don’t have to stick to gender norms.

Try-it:

  • Gender means different things to different people, especially today when gender is the subject of many debates. Rather than looking for set rules, embrace the fun side and wear what you’re truly drawn to.
  • Classic gender-fluid fashion includes dresses for men and boxy tailored suits for women, basically go for the style that traditional opinions don’t want you to wear!

1997 was a great year for men’s fashion too! British designer Paul Smith debuted his 97 collections which featured bold pops of orange, pink, and green alongside tailored jackets and high-waisted pants. The designer’s signature stripe and bold print were also featured throughout the collection.

Another popular fashion week presentation in 1997 was Doug & Gene Meyer. This men’s runway show embraced well-fitting knitwear, good denim, bright pops of green and orange, and neutral colors too. Casual outfits with a pop of green were absolutely a 1997 trend for men in the high fashion circles.

Try-it:

  • To get the fashion week trends from 1997 today, we suggest owning a bright pop of green. Whether that’s in the form of a shirt, a tie, or even trousers – it’s the color of the year for men.
  • You should also embrace navy, popular choices for this color involve jeans, suit jackets, or sweaters too.
  • Smart casual is the goal here! Don’t go for a preppy look, keep at least one element of your outfit relaxed.

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