The early 90s (we’re talking 1990 to 1993) are a fascinating few years to explore when it comes to fashion.
The color burst of the 1980s was giving way to deeper, grungier styles. Supermodels were catapulted to superstardom and workout gear was still shining bright. Glamour was becoming sleeker and sexier, while youth fashion became even more eclectic.
Here are our favourite fashion trends and moments of the early 90s.
1. Mom Jeans
Check out the imagery from the first season of ‘Beverly Hills 90210’ and you’ll find quintessential Mom jean action. High-waisted, kinda puffy in the crotch. Slim-leg but not fitted. Officially back in action today.
2. Grunge plaid flannel and denim
Grunge was the definitive style of the 90s, looking back. While countless other trends were happening at the time, grunge had fingers in every pie. Bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam showed the world how to wear grunge. Staple pieces were plaid flannel shirts, baggy shorts, ripped jeans, worn-in Converse, and worn-out cardigans.
3. Brimmed hats with big flowers
Classic 90s show ‘Blossom’ made brimmed hats popular, especially those with faux flowers pinned to the brim. Other popular hats were bucket hats and the ever-classic baseball cap.
4. Women wearing menswear-style suits
Julia Roberts wore a menswear suit at the 1990 Golden Globes. Women wearing pantsuits wasn’t a new thing, but the suit itself went through changes in the 90s. The early 90s saw baggier, more slouchy suits as a follow-on from the 80s.
5. Baggy denim overalls
Denim overalls were everywhere in the 90s, particularly in the earlier years. TLC famously wore baggy denim overalls accessorized with condoms at the 1994 AMA’s. Read more about TLC’s 11 best styles of the 90s here. Tupac wore dark denim, baggy overalls with a striped polo sweater, and a backward baseball cap.
6. Turtlenecks, jeans, and boots (and little sunglasses)
Halle Berry and Cindy Crawford were photographed on their “off-time” during the early 90s, usually stomping through an airport. They wore the classic early 90s uniform of mom jeans, a fitted turtleneck, heeled leather boots, little sunglasses, and a leather jacket.
A fantastic photo taken by legendary Patrick Demarchelier for Vogue in 1991 is a 90s how-to. It features straight leg blue jeans (slightly ‘Mom’), white tees, big gold jewelry, and red/black tartan blazers.
Of course, Cher from ‘Clueless’ made the trend a must-have later on in 1994. Tia and Tamera Mowry also wore tartan stockings and brimmed hats in the ‘Sister Sister’ promo.
8. Kufi hats and African textiles
At the 1991 Grammys, En Vogue wore incredible outfits featuring embellished Kufi hats and rich-toned African textiles. Check out our awesome 90s hats page for some kufi trends. Their shoes were achingly 90s, with metallic leather, slingbacks, pointed toes, and mid heels.
9. Bold shoulders
Check out this amazing video of the streets of New York City in 1993.
You’ll see many short, curly haircuts, chunky heeled shoes, and wide-shouldered jackets and coats. Women on their way to work in NYC wore blazers or trenchcoats with blouses or high-neck tops.
10. Waistcoats over baggy shirts
A popular ensemble for young people and stylish adults consisted of a baggy shirt with an embroidered waistcoat over the top. Bottoms were usually mom jeans or mini skirts with slouchy socks and lace-up boots or high-top sneakers.
11. Leather jackets
Leather was popular throughout the 90s, but leather jackets were particularly present in the early 90s. We saw Drew Barrymore in slouchy leather jackets with messy hair and punk-rock ripped jeans. Uncle Jesse also served the leather look, complete with tight leather motorbike pants.
12. Bright colors and neon tones
Neon was still going strong in the 90s, as it was in the 80s. Bright colors were seen everywhere, including high fashion runways. The Chanel 1991 Fall ready-to-wear runway saw rich pink and blue skirt suits dripping with accessories such as necklaces and animal print hats.
13. Structured corset tops
In 1992, Liv Tyler wore a fitted midi dress with a corset-style top and structured cups. This was a popular style at the time, just like Madonna’s iconic Jean-Paul Gaultier cone bra corset.
14. High-cut, simple workout gear
The early 90s saw workout gear that was a little more refined than the neon tones of the 80s. There were still many flashes of bright to be seen, but it was mostly clean black, white, and navy colors with full leggings under high-cut leotards.
Check out Cindy Crawford’s 1992 workout video ‘Shape Your Body’.
We also spy simple shorts and crops, with slouchy white socks and sneakers.
15. Sexy, glitzy glam
Red carpets in the early 90s saw tight silhouettes, lots of skin, and plenty of high-shine fabrics and embellishments. Female bodies were celebrated as supermodels made their mark. At the 1991 Academy Awards, Madonna wore an old Hollywood beaded gown that hugged her body, while Jodie Foster wore a plunging embellished pantsuit.