At the end of the 1980s, Geoffrey Beene predicted the future of fashion in anticipation of the millennium:
“There will be a backlash against overdressing and ostentation. Economic conditions will change things, clothes will have to work for life.”
Whoever hedged their bets in favor of Beene’s prediction enjoyed a victory in the 90s. The decade was a turning point for the world of fashion; not only in silhouette and style, but in how fashion was presented and consumed.
The 1980s was marked by status, celebrity, and opulence. Designers such as Romeo Gigli, John Galliano, and Christian Lacroix celebrated the romantic aspect of high fashion. Height, decoration, and volume were crucial, and the women who wore this clothing demanded notice.
Another school of thought came out of the 1980s, one which certainly influenced the democratic style of the 90s: avant garde minimalism. Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto, and Geoffrey Beene focused their eye on clean, architectural, simple clothing.
The 1990s ushered in a new breed of woman: gone was the big hair and big shoulder pads. It was about the working woman who didn’t have to trade style for function. Furthermore, the 90s welcomed sexiness. Slip dresses, usually reserved for the home, became a ready-to-wear staple, styled with anything from strappy pumps to suede boots. Calvin Klein said,
“The eighties were a very conservative period, sexually and in so many ways. There’s a restructuring of priorities. It’s less about flash and more about people in the streets, the environment. People are becoming more real.”
Out of Belgium came Dries Van Noten, Martin Margiela, Ann Demeulemeester, and many more who were known as the “new brand of fashion intelligentsia.” These designers established solid footing in the 1990s, showing that the fashion industry was forward-thinking and modern.
The 90s also demonstrated that honoring decades past could be modern: in a nod to the 1960s, flares, platform boots, and Pucci-print psychedelic leggings were seen everywhere.
Additionally, designers became more aware of the consumer and expanded their reach. A focus on branding brought logo-based accessories that more people could afford, so that owning designer pieces was a reality to a greater amount of women and men. Tom Ford was a sensation at Gucci, rebranding the house as an icon of the chic, modern woman. Ford reinvigorated classic Gucci styles with a 1990s flair and made the house the most successful it had ever been. Karl Lagerfeld had been rejuvenating Chanel since he took over in 1983, and in the 90s, the interlocking Cs became one of the most recognized--and coveted--logos in the fashion world.
The 1990s also brought about theatrics during fashion shows, most notably from Alexander McQueen. Fashion served the public more than clothing; it was cultural and bound the real world to what was being paraded down the runway.
We’ve created our own ode to the decade, with a shoppable selection of fabulous 1990s pieces. From psychedelic leggings by People of the Labyrinths to a Gucci monogram pencil skirt, there’s a little bit of the 90s for everyone!
Watson, Linda. 20th Century Fashion: 100 Years of Style by Decade and Designer : In Association with Vogue. 2nd ed. Buffalo, N.Y.: Firefly, 2004. Print.