The 1990s was an era marked by the rise of home computers, mobile phones, and a powerful wave of feminism. With the growing availability of affordable, ready-to-wear clothing, the decade became a playground for women to experiment with new styles. The rise of fast fashion in high street stores allowed women to stay on-trend without breaking the bank.
The 90s brought minimalist fashion with key looks that included the relaxed tailored suit for working women. These slopping shoulder, longline cardigan-like jackets were paired with soft, wide-legged trousers or knee-length pencil skirts. Neutral tones such as white, black, beige, and grey dominated.
Inspired by the minimalist trend, slip dresses gained popularity in the 1990s. These silky, figure-skimming dresses were often adorned with delicate straps, creating a sensual yet effortless aesthetic. The fashion world took notice when Princess Diana reinvented herself as a fashion icon in 1996 in her now infamous navy and black Dior slip dress.
The grunge music scene had a noticeable impact on fashion with its plaid shirts, Doc Martens, baggy jeans and surplus army gear. For women, the grunge look also included simple slip dresses often worn with chunky boots. Amidst a police crackdown on illegal rave parties, acid fashion influences such as high-top boots, leotards, denim shorts, and tights also made a comeback in the nightclub scene.
Oversized sweaters in bold colours and printed t-shirts worn with bomber jackets, boots, or fashion trainers were typical streetwear. Hip-hop culture also preveiled as women embraced loose-fitting tracksuits, crop tops, and oversized t-shirts. Trainers, particularly brands like Nike and Adidas, became an essential part of the streetwear aesthetic.
As the decade progressed, casual styles remained popular. Utilitarian styles such as cargo pants and sweatshirts from brands like 'Gap' became everyday wear.
At the beginning of the 90s, supermodels like Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford, and Naomi Campbell were household names. However, with the rise of grunge, a new type of model epitomised by Kate Moss and her "heroin chic" look emerged.
American TV sitcoms like 'Friends' and 'Sex in the City' inspired fashion trends and hairstyles throughout the nineties. The film 'Clueless' and American singer Britney Spears popularized the schoolgirl look, featuring crop tops, high-waisted tartan mini skirts, knee and thigh-high socks, and blazers. Peter Pan-style collars and chunky shoes such as Mary Janes, ballet flats, or boat shoes completed the look. Hair was either left down or styled into a high ponytail with a scrunchie.
In 1996, The Spice Girls burst onto the music scene with their bold fashion choices, mixing and matching various styles to create their own signature looks. From platform shoes to crop tops, they started new fashion trends that would become iconic outfits in the years to come. Each member of the group had their own distinct look, capturing the essence of the decade, from Victoria Beckham's little black dress to Mel B's cargo pants and Emma Bunton's baby doll style.
As the new millennium loomed, women's fashion turned towards a more bohemian style, drawing influences from the 1970s. Embroidery, mixed fabrics, and Eastern influences made their way back into fashion.
Headwear trends in the 90s added a distinct touch to women's fashion. The iconic beret, inspired by French fashion, became a popular accessory, adding sophistication to outfits. Another notable trend was the bucket hat, associated with the rise of hip-hop and grunge influences. Whether in bright colors or adorned with patterns, bucket hats became a statement piece that captured the casual and carefree spirit of the decade.