I don’t know whether it’s because the fashion of the 90s was particularly horrible and uninspired (as opposed to, say, that of the 20s or 60s), or just the fact that I’ve already lived through it, but every time I see someone wearing one of those miniature leather rucksacks that are all pockets and buckles, or a brand-new pair of cherry-red Doc Martens, or a scrunchie, or even a harmless A-line tea dress – which is more and more often these days – I grimace unintentionally. Even when I see all three garments on the same woman at once, I still can’t quite believe 90s’ clothes are enjoying a resurgence.
It was bad enough the first time around. The legacy of going through adolescence during the 1990s is stacks of photos of myself looking completely at ease in extremely questionable attire. At the time, I had no idea that I was part of the decade that style not only forgot but also forsook. Purple leggings under black-and-white spotted culottes, with a purple polo neck – for a trip to the theatre, you say? What could be more chic? (Oh! A black-and-white spotted alice band! Of course.) Do dung-coloured Army surplus trousers with a cropped T-shirt and a baggy fleece sound unfeminine? On paper they do – but just wait until I add some instant crimson highlights to my ‘look’ using this amazing hair mascara! ‘What are you going to wear to the school disco tonight, Nicky?’ ‘Oh, probably some brown lipstick, a long cotton skirt, a velvet choker and a casual patchwork hat. Boys? Boys! Come back!’
There are some 90s’ mega-trends that I did manage to ignore. Buffalos were, thankfully, not part of my sartorial repertoire – but only because I couldn’t afford them. Neither were dungarees – I saw one of the popular girls rocking them with a rainbow-striped body at school one day and knew I could never come close to how incredible she looked. And even I drew the line at scrunchies.
Sadly, however, there were many 90s’ style fads that did not succeed in passing me by. I spent hours at school perfecting a fetching waistcoat made from blue-and-gold sun, moon and stars fabric (you know the design I mean). It was such a ludicrously treasured item that it took a starring role at my hen do – to much hilarity from my school friends. I once bought a blue iridescent lipstick from Boots while Christmas shopping and wore it to youth group (aka my weekly chance to show off my wardrobe to the max) even though it made my teeth look yellow. And I’ve already mentioned the talking-point haircut with which I saddled myself in 1994 – to be honest, I still don’t know whether this was a bona-fide 90s’ ‘thing’ or a display of bad taste that was entirely my own…
The only Noughties updates of 90s’ trends that I have managed to get on board with again are tapered trousers, double denim and leggings – and it took me a long, long time to reacclimatise to each. Now I’m done. So to the all the other sartorial upstarts trying to worm their way back into our affections when they should remain well and truly in the past – that means you white jeans, floppy hats, cargo pants, long and frumpy stone-wash denim skirts with buttons up the front, and woolly over-the-knee stockings – I say a firm No.
There are a lot of memories from the 90s that I can feel warm and fuzzy about – Dawson’s Creek, Blur vs Oasis, the blessed absence of Facebook or anything ‘on demand’, phoning friends’ houses from a pay-phone using a number stored in our memory (!), waiting for photos to be developed… It’s just the fashion that doesn’t bear thinking about. Did it have to be so frumpy and frivolous?
What do you think? Are you nostalgic for the Nineties, or just plain embarrassed? What was your biggest 90s’ fashion crime?