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Last Updated on July 4, 2021
Were you a kid or teen in the 90s?
How strange does it feel that our decade is now considered retro, and is already experiencing its first mainstream fashion resurgence? But hey, we’re not complaining, 90s clothing was varied, eclectic, joyful, and cool in a way we haven’t seen since (or is that just hindsight talking?).
If you’re in the mood for your own 90s wardrobe revival, read on! We’ve picked the best 90s retro fashion looks to fold into your modern life.
- Baggy denim dungarees and overalls (with one strap loose!)
- Double-layered spaghetti strap midi slip dresses (often beaded)
- Embroidered waistcoats over puffy blouses
- Ripped jeans, combat boots, and plaid
- Mood rings, tattoo necklaces, multiple bangles, and platform shoes
- Tweed or tartan mini skirt suits
- Oakleys, TEVAs, Jansport, and No Fear
- Sunflower-print skater dresses and clunky shoes
- Straight maxi skirts, tanks, cardigans, flower hats, and space buns
- Grandpa pants, baggy cardigans or sweaters, and chunky shoes
Baggy denim dungarees and overalls (with one strap loose!)
The denim dungaree or overall has an effortlessly cool, youthful, casual, and cute aesthetic depending on how you style it.
Denim dungarees swarmed the 90s, with stars such as Will Smith, Aaliyah, The Backstreet Boys, Tupac, TLC, and Jennifer Aniston rocking them on a regular basis. They were often worn with one strap loose, especially in the hip-hop world.
However, even the littlest members of 90s celebrity fashion wore the look, like the Olsen twins and their flower brooches and pink tees.
- Upstyle a denim overall or dungaree with a pair of point-toe pumps or strappy sandals (see Carrie Bradshaw for inspiration) and layer it with a silk, lace, or velvet tank, tee, or long-sleeved top underneath
- Pop on a plain white tank, tie a plaid shirt around your waist (‘Hey Arnold’ style) and throw on a pair of Vans slip-ons for comfy-cool weekend lounging
Double-layered spaghetti strap midi slip dresses (often beaded)
Add a dash of body glitter, shimmery lip gloss, and space buns in the hair. This was the choice of many middle and high-schoolers heading to the dance, and celebs on the red carpet such as Claire Danes and the character Bianca in ‘10 Things I Hate About You’.
- Bias-cut silhouettes are flattering and celebrate the body without hugging or clinging
- Cowl-necklines in silky fabrics are feminine, flattering, and offer softly-draped texture
- Layer an embellished spaghetti-strap slip dress with a distressed denim jacket or cropped leather moto jacket and knee-high boots
Embroidered waistcoats over puffy blouses
The Tanner girls from ‘Full House’, Blossom (from ‘Blossom’), Clarissa (from ‘Clarissa Explains it All’) and Phoebe Buffay (from ‘Friends’) nailed this look. Oversized blouses with puffy sleeves, or sometimes menswear shirts, were worn under waistcoats, and often with Mom jeans.
The waistcoats were floral-embroidered, satin, paisley, or leather with fringes. Sometimes they were straight outta Dad’s closet and embellished with multiple brooches and badges.
- Go thrifting in the menswear section and find waistcoats with angular seams, satin backs, and belt-style adjustable tabs
- Look for soft cotton or linen blouses with floaty sleeves and voluminous shoulders
- Streamline the look by swapping the blouse with a fitted tee or off-the-shoulder long-sleeved top (early-season Rachel Green would approve)
Ripped jeans, combat boots, and plaid
How much more 90s does it get?
Kurt Cobain, Jordan Catalano, and the dudes from Soundgarden perfected the ripped jeans, boots, and plaid shirt look. It was often layered with a denim jacket, “old man” cardigan, or khaki and shearling coat. Seattle grunge at its finest.
This is arguably the most popular 90s style that has returned in recent years, with young people ‘gramming themselves in denim cut-offs, chunky boots, crop tops, and plaid shirts tied around the hips.
- Clash patterns and colors by wearing a red and black plaid shirt tucked into a blue and white floral wrap midi or mini skirt
- Refine the classic look by wearing straight-leg clean denim jeans with a French-tucked plaid shirt and stiletto-heeled booties
- Layer a worn-in plaid shirt with a long-line blazer and ripped black skinnies
Mood rings, tattoo necklaces, multiple bangles, and platform shoes
Did you absolutely beg your parents for a mood ring for your birthday or Christmas? Did you get the idea from the heart-wrenching movie ‘My Girl’? I can relate.
- Pick one hand to accessorize with multiple rings and jangly bracelets while keeping the other hand bare
- Search high and low for a peace sign pendant, pop it on a leather strap, tie it around your neck like a choker, and never take it off
Tweed or tartan mini skirt suits
The Chanel runway shows in the 90s were ablaze with tight-fitting tweed mini skirts with matching boxy jackets and bustiers in pale or pastel tones, accessorized with chain belts and layered necklaces.
The screen also showed skirt suits by way of plaid mini skirts and jackets worn by the iconic Cher from ‘Clueless’.
These sexy and revealing takes on classic French high-brow fashion were built for the athletic bodies of supermodels and the schoolgirl-chic taste of preppy 90s girls.
- Tweed skirts in inky navy or charcoal colors look stunning with crisp white work shirts, pumps, and cropped leather jackets
- Try a plaid pleated skirt over a long-sleeved bodysuit, with a long-line blazer and black heeled Mary-Jane shoes
Oakleys, TEVAs, Jansport, and No Fear
Oakley sunglasses, TEVA sandals, Jansport school backpacks, and No Fear branded tees and caps were worn by Dads, college students, and school kids alike. Add a shell necklace, board shorts, sunburn, and a resort tee you got from Summer vacation. We’re at peak 1995.
- TEVA sandals have had a resurgence in recent years, and look great when worn with unexpected pairings such as satin midi skirts, slip dresses, and denim cut-offs with blousy shirts
Sunflower-print skater dresses and clunky shoes
The sunflower print was a 90s staple and was often seen in the form of swimsuits or skater dresses with ¾ sleeves and softly flared hemlines.
Skater dresses were worn with jelly sandals, chunky combat boots, or clunky Steve Madden platform heels or slides. Younger kids added printed or textured knit tights, while teens threw on an oversized denim jacket or grungy cardigan.
- Upgrade the skater dress to a midi-length wrap dress in a floral print (if you’re lucky enough to find the original sunflower print, snap it up!) and layer with cable knit tights (in Winter) and heeled western boots
Straight maxi skirts, tanks, cardigans, flower hats, and space buns
Reese Witherspoon, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, and basically every Delia’s catalog model rocked straight or a-line maxi skirts worn with white-trimmed tanks, cardigans fastened with one button, and bowler hats with large flower pins.
The hair was worn in little buns all over the head, or worn with fluffy bangs and puffy headbands. The look was sweet, girly, and the height of mainstream wardrobes and youthful red-carpet fashion.
- Channel our 90s queen Rachel Green with a wrap maxi skirt and plain tee or tank
- Take the flower trend but make it modern (and very Carrie Bradshaw) by pinning a faux flower to your blazer or jacket lapel
Grandpa pants, baggy cardigans or sweaters, and chunky shoes
There was an odd facet of 90s fashion that focused on “Grandpa” style baggy pants in muted shades, baggy knit cardigans or sweaters, and chunky leather lace-ups.
Cotton drill and wool knits were popular fabric choices and colors were grey, brown, murky khaki green, and beige. Hair was worn lank and loose with a middle part, and makeup was minimal.
- Look for a pair of low-mid rise baggy “grandpa” trousers in a neutral tone and pair with a simple tank, cropped cardigan, and modern sneakers
- Turn the look on its head and pair the trousers with an embellished tee and heeled booties or pumps