Late-90s Fashion: 14 Trends that Defined us ALL

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The late 90s saw the close of our favorite decade, sigh! 

However, 1997-1999 brought us many treasures on screen, on the radio, and the runways. ‘Friends’ was getting good, Ricky Martin was shimmying, Xtina and Britney were killing it, and rom-coms were still churning through the studios. 

Fashion was very clearly transforming and hurtling toward the dreaded ‘00s. Waistbands were creeping toward the hips, silhouettes were cleaner, and makeup was fresher. 

Years from this period:

1997 Fashion: Low Hips, Satin & Bare Midriffs

1998 Fashion: Column Skirts, Messy Hair & Cargo Pants

1999 Fashion: Tank Tops, Tulles and White Minimalism

So without further ado, here are our favorite trends and moments from the late 90s. 

1. Slip skirts, tanks, and kitten heels 

When heading on a date (or a red carpet) a go-to outfit featured a slip-style midi skirt, midriff-baring tank, and strappy kitten heels. Add a cropped cardigan secured with a single button at the bust, and a zig-zag headband. 

2. Baggy JNCO jeans 

Raver jeans by the brand JNCO were ultra-wide, flared pants that were popular among the techno party-goers. They were worn with fabric belts, tight tees, plug necklaces, spiky hair (with neon dye), and sunglasses over baseball hats. 

Read: The Definitive Guide to 90s Brands

3. Leopard print

Shania Twain, the country-pop queen of the 90s was famous for her animal print threads in the 1997 “That Don’t Impress Me Much” video. Remember that fabulous long, hooded coat over flared pants and a crop top, all in matching leopard? She also had matching heeled boots and matching suitcase. 

4. The “Curtain” haircut

90s boys grew their hair until it reached that perfect “curtain” style. The hair was floppy and thick, parted in the middle, and framing the forehead. You can find such styles in old ‘Dawson’s Creek’ reruns and on basically any other late 90s teen shows. 

5. Cardigans as tops 

The cardigan was a must-have in the entire 90s, but they were particularly popular in the late-90s. They were often worn as tops, with low-cut necklines and cropped hemlines. Or, they were worn as a sweet little set with a matching tank. 

6. Dark denim

Denim was transitioning from the paler blue varieties to deeper navy and indigo hues. Check out the images from the ‘Forever Spice’ book launch in 1999 (The Spice Girls minus Geri!). You’ll find dark denim jeans, (Sporty’s had a shine finish that was popular at the time) that sat on the hip.

Note the uber-90s midriff tops, colored sunglasses, leather, chokers, Adidas sneakers, and short, layered hairstyles. 

7. Pastel makeup and twisted hairstyles 

Makeup in the late 90s was less neutral-toned and fresher with pastel shades and sweet, glossy lips. Creamy eyeshadows in pale blue or lilac shades and fruity lip gloss were makeup bag staples.

Check out the “C’est La Vie” video by B*witched for the perfect example. What’s more, it shows the iconic 90s hairstyle that involved twisting, the hair toward the back, and gathering the ends in a bouncy cluster. 

View: You Will Love These 25 Throwback Photos of 90s Hairstyles

8. Crop tops and baggy pants 

Baggy pants with fitted crop tops were everywhere in the late 90s, as sporty-meets-sexy thrived. Sporty Spice wore track pants with crop tops, sneakers, and armbands. British pop group S Club 7 wore this look to perfection in their “Bring it all back” video, as did Mandy Moore in the “Candy” flick. 

9. Low-cut bottoms 

The tides were turning and bottoms were changing from high-waisted to ultra low-slung, a trend that would reach eye-watering extremes in the ‘00s. Posh Spice wore her sleek black minis on the hip, while Mariah Carey wore her jeans far below the belly button.

10. Skater clothes 

Blink 182 inspired late 90s guys and girls to wear ultra-low Dickies shorts, backward baseball caps, fabric belts, Hurley t-shirts, Oakley’s sunglasses, and spiky hair. The air in 1999 was thick with Dax wax and rang out with punk-rock, bad boy sounds. 

11. Indian-inspired bindis and saris

The late 90s saw a rise in fashion and aesthetics from India and other Asian cultures. For example, incense sticks and sari-style bedspreads were popular in the bedrooms and homes of young people.

Fashion also took inspiration (whether appropriate or not) with bindis on the forehead and wrap skirts in sari materials. People would also have henna tattooed onto their skin during festivals and at trinket stores. 

12. Baggy tracksuits

Baggy tracksuits with crop tops were a late 90s staple. Aaliyah wore a bright yellow Tommy Hilfiger tracksuit with a triangle bra and dark sunglasses in 1997. 

Read: When Streetwear Was Out There: Tracksuit Styles of the 90s

13. Slim column gowns 

Red carpet gowns in the late 90s were often minimal in terms of silhouette but ornate in terms of embellishments. For example, the 1998 Emmy Awards red carpet is riddled with torso-hugging dresses that fall straight to the floor, with spaghetti straps and low backs. We also see beading, sequins, and dark sunglasses. 

14. Boot-cut trousers and fitted tops 

Smart-casual womenswear was more refined in the late 90s, without a shoulder-pad or front-pleated slack in sight. Women chose boot-cut pants in dark denim, jewel tones, or even leather. They paired them with a turtleneck, crewneck, or V-neck top that was fitted and often sleeveless.