Last Updated on December 16, 2020
Break out the body glitter and the glow sticks, everyone, it’s a PARTY!
Make believe it’s 1996 and you’ve been invited to a party by the most rad boy in school! You’re so excited you could scream! In fact, you did scream.
But then you panic – what are you going to WEAR? Well, this is where I come in. This is going to be your go-to, one-stop-shop and comprehensive guide for 90s party dressing.
Let’s get this party started!
- Dresses, Tracksuits, Overalls, & Co-ords
- #1 Can’t go wrong with the Mini Dress
- #2 The Slip Dress is SO Kate Moss
- #3 A Floral Dress was obligatory for the grunge look
- #4 Channel your inner Ginger Spice with a Sequined Dress
- #5 Nothing says “totes casual” like the T-shirt dress
- #6 Make your Mean Girls fantasy come true with a pink Velour Tracksuit
- #7 A pair of Overalls/Dungarees/Romper is the easy way out
- #8 The Clueless Co-ord was HUGE
- #9 Can’t go wrong with a Bodysuit
- Tops & Jackets
- #10 We all had that one Keyhole Cut-out Top
- #11 A Satin Top Is An Absolute Must
- #12 The Bell Sleeve Top that always managed to somehow end up in your soup
- #13 A Crop Top that would show JUST enough of your midriff
- #14 A Bardot Top always adds a subtle hint of sexiness
- #15 The Spaghetti Strap Top was a staple
- #16 A Cropped Turtleneck Top gives the illusion of modesty
- #17 The Fringe-y, Beaded Top of your youth is back
- #18 A Halter-Neck Top shows off a little skin without the
- #19 You could throw a Cropped Denim Jacket over literally anything
- #20 An Oversized Leather Jacket gave you instant badass cred
- #21 Flared Denim allowed us to live our flower power fantasies
- #22 Mom Jeans made out butts look big, but they were sooo comfy
- #23 Spandex Leggings were the last leftovers from the 80s
- #24 Everyone wore Leather Pants – male or female
- #25 The Short, Black Mini Skirt was boring, but essential
- #26 The PVC Skirt isn’t for BDSM, you know
- #27 We wore Plaid Skirts with red nail polish, like all true bad girls
- #28 Peggy Bundy made Animal Print Pants cool
- #29 We didn’t all look the best in Shiny Pants, but we FELT the best
- #30 MC Hammer Pants don’t even need a qualifier
- #31 Cat-eye Sunglasses made everyone look super cool
- #32 Black Matrix sunglasses for when you wanted to pretend you were Keanu Reeves
- #33 A Fanny pack/bum bag made everyone look stupid, but they’re sooo practical
- #34 Carrie made the Saddle Bag look incredible on SATC
- #35 We all cosplayed as our favorite Spice girl in Platform Pumps
- #36 Platform Sneakers elevated our outfits; and us, literally
- #37 The Bucket Hat should have burned in hell
- #38 Glittery Butterfly Clips separated the cool kids from the wannabes
- #39 Rhinestone Hairclips adorned our greasy locks
- #40 A Crushed Velvet Scrunchy signaled the new IT girl in town
- #41 Slap-on Bracelets were painfully cool – literally
- #42 The Black Tattoo Choker showed everyone you were a “bad” girl
Dresses, Tracksuits, Overalls, & Co-ords
#1 Can’t go wrong with the Mini Dress
It’s the easiest and most obvious choice, right? The 90s mini dress is not particularly adventurous, because it’s pretty much just straight up-and-down, but it’s very effective, in its simplicity. Not only does it look good, but it’s super easy to make into an outfit, because you can pair anything with it, like a choker and butterfly clips.
I recommend this ensemble to turn heads:
#2 The Slip Dress is SO Kate Moss
If you’re into that whole lingerie-as-outerwear thing, then you’ll love this slip dress. Slinky, silky, and…not much of it, really, as far as fabric goes, the slip dress is for those of you who are brave and really into their body. Just make sure to pair it with delicate shoes, the chunky Spice Girls platforms don’t really work here.
Get Kate’s look:
#3 A Floral Dress was obligatory for the grunge look
Is it a boring choice for a party? Well, that depends. It’s not an outfit that screams PARTY MONSTER, but it’s very grunge, which is quintessentially 90s. Can’t have 90s fashion without grunge, and a short, dark floral dress paired with dark red lipstick and a bad dye job is where it’s at. Courtney Love, eat your heart out.
#4 Channel your inner Ginger Spice with a Sequined Dress
On the other end of the spectrum, we’ve got the sequinned dress, which does scream “Notice me! Look, I’m here! I’m partying! Look! Look at me! It’s a party!” Maybe a bit chatty for a piece of fabric, but you get the idea. It’s a one-step outfit, because it instantly brings the party wherever you go. I particularly like these dresses, (Girl Power!):
#5 Nothing says “totes casual” like the T-shirt dress
This isn’t the slouchy t-shirt dress we know and love, that’s basically just an oversized t-shirt – although that can be very 90s, too – but a dress worn over a white t-shirt.
It’s typically a short, strappy dress, perhaps black, worn over a white tee to say “Hi, I’m sort of trying to look cute because I’m wearing a dress, but I’m putting it over a t-shirt, so it’s really more casual than it looks, but don’t I still look great?” That’s a lot of words for a dress and a t-shirt, I agree.
#6 Make your Mean Girls fantasy come true with a pink Velour Tracksuit
Ok, but let’s assume you’re more into a casual vibe and the all-out, sequined dress look is not really for you. What are the alternatives? Well, short of showing up in jeans and an oversized t-shirt, you can just put on a tracksuit with some white sneakers. Is it the easy way out? Maybe. But it’s also iconic and tacky, and very on theme, so it’s not even like you’re cheating.
#7 A pair of Overalls/Dungarees/Romper is the easy way out
Why bother putting different garments together when you can go for a one-step outfit? A pair of dungarees or a cute romper can be the ideal choice for a party look, because it takes all the guesswork out of it.
Of course, you’ll feel less cute when you’re in some gross, sticky bathroom, getting completely naked to pee, but the time you save before you leave the house makes up for it. But hey, you’ll look just like TLC.
#8 The Clueless Co-ord was HUGE
If there’s one thing I love, it’s co-ords, so I’m REALLY pleased at their resurgence. There is no co-ord more iconic than Cher’s yellow one from Clueless, so if you’re gonna go for that type of look, it has to be that one. You can pick a different-colored tartan if yellow doesn’t suit you, but you’ve got to keep the skirt and the knee socks.
#9 Can’t go wrong with a Bodysuit
No, this isn’t to wear by itself, although – if you’ve got the body and the confidence, I say ROCK IT, GURL. Anyway, this is surprisingly versatile, because it allows you to wear any kind of pants or skirt with it, no tucking required. It’s also excellent to pair with fishnets and a tulle skirt of some kind, if you wanna channel 80s Madonna.
Tops & Jackets
#10 We all had that one Keyhole Cut-out Top
Don’t lie to me – you had at least one of these back in the day, which is why they have to make an appearance at a 90s party. It’s like the PG-13 version of a cleavage – we were too young to have one, and dad would have killed us, so we wore these vaguely flirty, keyhole cut-out tops to highlight one inch of sternum. Hmmm, sexy.
They came in so many styles:
#11 A Satin Top Is An Absolute Must
These were the glory days of satin – just ask Courtney Love and that iconic white dress – so it’s gotta be on the list. It doesn’t really matter what color, but it probably needs to be strappy, and it’s gonna be shiny as all hell. And that’s why we love it.
You can go for a lingerie-inspired number, with lace trims and everything, or it can just be simple. It will go beautifully with jeans, either way. I especially love these two colour and style satin tops. Comfy and lightweight:
#12 The Bell Sleeve Top that always managed to somehow end up in your soup
Bell-bottoms are often made fun of, but does no one remember bell-sleeves? Because I do, and I LOVE it! It’s the precise amount of dramatic flair I want to add to an outfit, and it takes any top or outfit from “meh” to “YEAH!”. Add some sparkles to the top and one of those wriggly hems, and you’re a walking, talking, 90s Barbie doll.
#13 A Crop Top that would show JUST enough of your midriff
Listen – I couldn’t leave this off the list, because the crop-top is possibly THE most quintessential 90s clothing item. Lots of bare midriffs to see, to the eternal struggle of my chocolate-loving self. There is only so much sucking in a person can do. The crop top is cool because it goes with all manner of different high-waisted things and it comes in a variety of styles, so you just gotta pick one. These two are quintessentially nineties.
#14 A Bardot Top always adds a subtle hint of sexiness
And if you don’t want your stomach out, but you don’t want your boobs out, either, there’s still an option for you: the bardot top. Also known as an off-the-shoulder top, this allows you to be a little fancy, while also showing a bit of skin, while ALSO retaining your modesty. It’s a sartorial superhero, really. Just ask Tyra Banks and all her off the shoulder dresses. The only thing is that your arms will be pinned down a lot. Soz, gal. Can’t have it all.
#15 The Spaghetti Strap Top was a staple
I don’t even think I need to say anything here, because we’re all familiar with the spaghetti strap top, especially 90s babes like Alicia Silverstone. We know it, we love it, we’ve worn it, and it goes with everything: shorts skirts, midi skirts, jeans, shorts, even track pants.
I’m sure either you, your mom, or an older sister had it in your closet back in the 90s. In fact, I’m sure you STILL have one somewhere. It’s what I’m wearing right now. I rest my case.
#16 A Cropped Turtleneck Top gives the illusion of modesty
You know how I feel about turtlenecks; from my point of view, they’re a timeless classic, but for a party, you may not go for the one you think. You don’t want to look like Nick from Backstreet Boys – you gotta amp it up, so make it a cropped, sleeveless turtleneck. If you can find one with glitter running through it, you’re golden. This shows just a touch of midriff with any high-waisted pants or skirts, so it’s a little sexy, without screaming HELLO, BOYS.
#17 The Fringe-y, Beaded Top of your youth is back
Okay, okay, show of hands who remembers these. They were usually co-ordinated with shorts, but you could also get them separately. They were t-shirts (usually with a cartoon character) that had the hem and the sleeves fringed, and then beads were tied at the end and they’d all clink together driving everyone bonkers. PERFECT for a party! And perfect for accidentally hurting yourself – those beads were hard.
#18 A Halter-Neck Top shows off a little skin without the
Listen, this can’t be a 90s party with no halter-necks. They were practically mandatory, either in top or dress form, so I hope you have your nipple shields ready, because you can’t wear a bra with this. You might also want to have a nice tan, and maybe a tacky temporary tattoo of a butterfly on your shoulder. Just tell people you’re a really big Mariah Carey fan.
#19 You could throw a Cropped Denim Jacket over literally anything
What, are you gonna wear a cardigan over your party dress like some kind of geek? (Picture that in Quinn Morgendorffer’s voice, and actually, SHE looks great in a denim jacket) No, no, no – you wear a light blue-wash denim jacket, preferably a little cropped. It goes with everything, but mostly with teeny tiny little strappy party dresses. Birkenstocks are optional.
#20 An Oversized Leather Jacket gave you instant badass cred
There are a few things in life that instantly signal to other people that you’re cool, and one of them is the oversized leather jacket. Preferably, a men’s leather jacket, and if they squint really hard, people might mistake you for Winona Ryder – before that whole shoplifting incident. You can throw this over anything, so that’s not much of a concern, but put on some dark lipstick for extra badass points. Go leather or faux leather …
#21 Flared Denim allowed us to live our flower power fantasies
What’s more 90s than flared jeans? They add some pizzazz to your outfit, and they look really great with those platform shoes you’re probably going to wear. Plus, they can actually be kind of flattering on certain body shapes, because they give you that hourglass-y shape.
Go light or go dark, but go 90s!
#22 Mom Jeans made out butts look big, but they were sooo comfy
Okay, so maybe they’re not the most PARTEEEEE garment in the world, but mom jeans work beautifully to tone down whatever insane top you’ve got going on. Plus, they’re high-waisted, incredibly flattering, and aggressively 90s. Can’t go wrong with these, especially if you add some chunky heels to off-set the mom-ness. Take a cue from Drew Barrymore to see how to style them.
#23 Spandex Leggings were the last leftovers from the 80s
Like the beloved disco pants of yesteryear, spandex leggings were big in the 90s, and if you’ve got the figure, they can also be super flattering and easy to wear. They’re black, they’re shiny, so anything you put on top is going to look good, especially if it’s one of those 80s-inspired off the shoulder numbers. Just channel Sandy from Grease – TELL ME ABOUT IT, STUD.
#24 Everyone wore Leather Pants – male or female
There is nothing cooler or more rock ‘n roll than leather pants, so they make the perfect party animal outfit. You can pair anything with them, really, because they will instantly elevate even the most boring of shirts or t-shirts, but if you really want to go super 90s with it, get something sequined or embellished to wear on top. You know, like Steven Tyler.
#25 The Short, Black Mini Skirt was boring, but essential
It’s not the most exciting of choices, that’s true; but it’s accurate to the times, so we’re going to go with it – short, black mini skirts are basic, but they’re effective, and they were everywhere in the 90s. They were practically the go-to, if you didn’t want to wear a strappy dress.
#26 The PVC Skirt isn’t for BDSM, you know
It’s a freaking party, so wear something flashy! A denim skirt is great, but it’s super boring, so swap it for a shiny PVC one. Not something you can typically wear on the street during the day (although I’m sure Victoria Beckham would beg to differ – that gal loved a PVC skirt), but for a special occasion and evening dressing, it’s perfect. The only thing is that you’ll probably wanna wear it with some cute, strappy heels, or a pair of heeled boots, because it doesn’t really go with flat shoes.
#27 We wore Plaid Skirts with red nail polish, like all true bad girls
It’s all about Catholic school-girl, Clueless-y chic, so a plaid, pleated skirt is a must. Pair it with a white shirt, combat boots, and a bad attitude if you want to make believe you’re one of the gals from The Craft, or just a crop-top for a more Britney-inspired look. Either way, don’t say anything blasphemous if you don’t want God to smite you.
#28 Peggy Bundy made Animal Print Pants cool
You want to be REALLY extra? Then what do you say about animal print? In pants form? Yep, that’s a LOT of animal print, but this is a party, so anything goes. Just don’t wear it with more animal print, because that’s a bit too safari, but anything in a solid colour on top should do nicely. Get some tips on how to dress like Peggy Bundy.
#29 We didn’t all look the best in Shiny Pants, but we FELT the best
Does anyone else get the feeling that all the 90s partywear was shiny? Everything looked like it was too small, almost, and it stretched over your curves in a cheap, shiny fabric. And that’s EXACTLY the look we’re going for! Like Cher! If there’s a pair of shiny, gold pants in your sartorial arsenal, this is the time to break them out.
#30 MC Hammer Pants don’t even need a qualifier
You knew these were coming, so you can’t act horrified. MC Hammer pants are a staple of 90s party dressing, because they allow you to break into the coolest dance moves. And you know that once it’s Hammer Time (and it WILL be), you’ll be the incontestable star of the show, mark my words.
#31 Cat-eye Sunglasses made everyone look super cool
We’re not getting away from these, so might as well get them out of the way: too-small-for-your-face cat eye glasses are BACK and you gotta wear them to the party. The good news is that they go with any outfit you decide to put together. The bad news is that they don’t look particularly flattering on anyone. Except Julia Roberts. But this is fashion, so we make sacrifices.
#32 Black Matrix sunglasses for when you wanted to pretend you were Keanu Reeves
You thought we could overlook these? No, sir. The tiny, rectangular, Matrix-inspired sunglasses are all the rage, and they are so 90s, it hurts. In fact, you could probably slap them on for literally any outfit, and you’d instantly make it look like it came straight out a 90s clothing catalog – remember those?
#33 A Fanny pack/bum bag made everyone look stupid, but they’re sooo practical
Listen, this is a party, so you want to be out there dancing, not minding your bag all night. The (hideous) solution to this is a fanny pack (or bum bag, as it’s known in the UK). This is so much more than just the slightly pornographic name – it is the hands-free solution to all of life’s problems before “hands-free” was even a thing. Just strap it on around your waist and you are free to party, go on a rollercoaster, or walk in a crowd without getting robbed. WOOO!
#34 Carrie made the Saddle Bag look incredible on SATC
These are going to be very easy to find, because they are currently (and unfortunately) having a resurgence – the saddle bag. Also known as the ugliest bag shape known to man. It looks like a kidney, and it’s probably made out of canvas, with an obnoxious designer print, and a short, useless shoulder strap.
Can you tell that I’m not a fan? But it doesn’t matter what *I* say; Bella Hadid wore it, so we must all burn our cross-body bags and once again adopt the under-the-armpit kidney.
#35 We all cosplayed as our favorite Spice girl in Platform Pumps
There is only one rule when it comes to platform pumps: they need to be as shiny as possible. I remember I had a pair of red mary-jane ones, and they were truly hideous, so that’s what you’re going for. Slap on a pair of wide-leg jeans and a crop-top and you’re good to go. SPICE UP YOUR LIFE!
#36 Platform Sneakers elevated our outfits; and us, literally
I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want…a pair of Spice Girls platform shoes. If you’re old enough, you’ve worn these already, and if you were too young, you WISHED you could have worn them, just like your cool, older sister did. Now is your chance. Just don’t take a wrong step and twist your ankle, like I did.
#37 The Bucket Hat should have burned in hell
Girl, I’m not going to lie to you: the bucket hat is unattractive. Even Christina Aguilera didn’t exactly pull it off; there’s a cursed image of her wearing it somewhere. BUT it is very, very 90s, which makes it an essential for any party. Leave your Parisian beret at home, because there’s a new IT hat in town. Plus, it’s unisex in its hideousness, and it gives everyone that confused, fisherman-chic look that we are surely all aiming for.
I admit though, it is a guilty pleasure at a party. If you’re going to do it, do it bright and bold. LL Cool J anyone?
Check Out: A Tribute to All The Head Gear We All Wore
#38 Glittery Butterfly Clips separated the cool kids from the wannabes
Okay, these can’t be missing from your outfit, it’s not ALLOWED. Britney, Sabrina the Teen Witch and even Buffy all wore them. Is it even the 90s if you’re not wearing butterfly clips? They’re glittery, probably pink & blue, they get painfully caught in your hair, but they look sooooo good. These need to be paired with chunky hair glitter that you will never ever get out of your scalp; it’s THE LAW.
#39 Rhinestone Hairclips adorned our greasy locks
If you’re NOT wearing the butterfly hairclips (honestly, how dare you?), then you’ve got to wear the rhinestone ones. And you’ve got to do a middle part and pull the hair on either side really flat against your forehead for the greasiest, most unflattering look in the world that you then adorn with rhinestones! You can leave the curling iron at home for this one, there are no soft, beachy waves here. It’s ALL about the stick-straight hair.
#40 A Crushed Velvet Scrunchy signaled the new IT girl in town
If you’ve ever watched Heathers, then you know why this is on the list. If you haven’t, what are you even doing with your life? You need a huge, velvet or crushed velour scrunchy (preferably red) that you use to tie your hair back. Put a huge, oversized blazer on, and take up a bizarre hobby of playing croquet. Congrats – you’re the new Heather. (It’s kind of like being the new Supreme, but so much cooler)
#41 Slap-on Bracelets were painfully cool – literally
Why wear a bracelet, when you can wear a piece of plastic that you can literally painfully slap on your wrist? Oh yeah – because it’s SO COOL. It wraps around your wrist by itself! How cool is that??! Plus, it’s so fast and easy to get ready, because you don’t need to faff around with closures. Just slap it on and you’re out the door.
#42 The Black Tattoo Choker showed everyone you were a “bad” girl
Were you even a 90s kid if you didn’t wear one of these choker thingies?
Even Tai had one in Clueless. They were stretchy and itchy, and absurdly delicate. One wrong move and SNAP! You were only left with a piece of plastic. You can’t show up to any 90s party without one of these, though, so off to Claire’s you go to buy these in bulk for emergencies. What’s YOUR ideal party outfit? Are you casual in denim, or fancy in little 90s dresses?
You are now well prepared for a 90s party. What do you recommend? Leave a comment below!