The Five 90s Fashion Trends That Are Screaming for a Revival

Let’s all hide our flaws under flannel and denim!

Radical shirt available here

I’m about to stop being polite and start getting real, y’all.

I’m fat.

(…omg stop no way no you’re not you’re just curvy you’re so pretty you’re not that fat you’re just big-boned…)

Look, I’m not chubby or chunky or thick or big-boned or curvy…I am a fat lady. I’ve been varying degrees of fat for most of my life, and while I can blame a very small part of that on a combination of lousy genetics, getting older and having a kid, the majority of my weight issues come from my borderline-obsessive love of doughnuts and poor eating habits. Someday I would like to not be fat, and I understand that change is solely my responsibility. I’m otherwise in good health, and I exercise regularly, so thank you for your concern.

I only tell you this because as a fat kid that grew into a fat adult, I staunchly (and paunch-ly…get it?!) believe that fashion in the 1990s was the absolute bomb-diggity for hiding insecurities, encouraging self-expression and boosting self-esteem.

However, when it came to trends, the 90s was a decade of contradiction. I mean, we had a whole “fun and sun” aesthetic:

Remember dELiA*s?

Lots and lots of midriff-bearing top-like structures, spaghetti straps, form-fitting dresses and low-low-low-rise jeans. And satin…satin as far as the eye could see! Of course, the more conservative girls may have preferred this look:

But neither of these was a good choice for a fat teenage girl in the throes of puberty.

Thankfully the pendulum swung aaaallll the way over to this:

The Grunge Years

Grunge.

Baggy jeans, flannel shirts, Dr. Martens, chunky jewelry…all of these wonderous pieces piled on top of each other to create a look that simply screamed “Don’t look at me!”

The abundantly-clothed grunge aesthetic was the perfect trend at the perfect time in my life, and I miss it. But I’m also a grownup now, which means I have a grown-up job that has very specific feelings about employees showing up dressed like Stevie Budd from Schitt’s Creek.

So these are the five fashion elements from the 1990s grunge era that need a revival like, pronto.

1. Layering Over Mock Turtlenecks

A mock turtleneck was the perfect piece of clothing for covering up as much of your neck as humanly possible without feeling like you were being strangled by a cotton-poly cobra. It was also an essential piece of clothing for the cool girls who made out with their boyfriends in the back of their parents’ station wagons (spoiler alert: I was not one of these girls).

Do they still make mock turtlenecks? (Yep, they do. Just Googled it.)

Mock turtlenecks came in every color and pattern imaginable, and they were generally light and breathable. This meant that a person (me) could throw sweatshirts, hoodies, flannels, blouses that would no longer button in the front over it and instantly become a preppy, a slacker, a loner, an emo kid, a young professional, or just a really awkward ninth grader just trying to make it through Algebra 2.

Although in ’93, I was drawn to denim button-downs in a very real and very mystical way.

As seen below:

2. Oversized, chunky sweaters

Cable-knit sweaters-the bigger and bulkier the better-were a hella-dope wardrobe essential back in the day. The Gap sold some classics, but if your grandmother knew how to knit, that was pretty cool, too.

Big sweaters came in handy during that delicate time between 1991–1993 when we as a society began the grand phase-out of “pegging” our pants to make way for the boot-cut revolution because they worked so well with both styles. They also allowed us to hide our hands, because for some reason in the early 1990s, we didn’t want people to see our hands.

This particular “big sweater with shorts” situation that you see below was my go-to look for casual events. This sweater (I had many) was large enough to flood over my bulky top half, but the shorts showed off the one part of my teenage body that I was totally proud of: my inexplicably muscular calves.

3. Dark, dark lips

My absolute favorite lipstick of all time was Revlon Super Lustrous in Iced Mocha. I’m fairly sure they still make something like it, but it will never compare to the 90s version. Paired with a dark brown lip-liner, a matte foundation and a butt-load of charcoal-pencil eyeliner, I was ready for a wild Friday night at the local 24-hour diner.

We loved dark, dramatic lips in the 1990s. We loved dark, dramatic everything in the 1990s. We lined our lips with dark pencils and filled them in with juuuuust slightly lighter-but-still-dark lipstick, then we completed the look with various shades of brown eye shadow, liner and mascara. It was bold, but it inexplicably worked.

As a heavy-set girl, it was difficult for me to experiment and express myself with clothing because a majority of the clothes in “normal” stores didn’t come in plus sizes. But makeup was freeing; makeup allowed me to get creative and finally feel like I was a part of things.

In retrospect, I may have overdone it a bit.

4. Crystal Pendants

I’ll be completely honest. I don’t understand what this trend was all about, but I loved it. For a while in the mid-90s, all the goth/slacker/grunge kids at my school had these dagger-shaped crystals hanging from their necks on weird, waxy cords.

There was a flea market just outside of town, and almost every booth sold them. Did they have magical powers? Did they have some sort of cosmic significance? I’ll never know. What I do know is that the funky-necklace-on-long-cord thing was a much better accessory option for a thick-necked kid than a choker necklace with a yin-yang symbol dangling from it.

These pendants were also the ’90s equivalent of fidget spinners; I spent many a 10th-grade chemistry class swinging this little beauty around my finger while staring absently at the periodic table on the wall and wondering what the hell Scandium was used for. I’ll bet they sure would come in handy for Zoom work meetings nowadays…

5. “The Rachel”

Friends (aka NBC’s Golden Goose) ran from 1994–2004 and was pretty much the best thing in the history of all things. It launched the careers of a whole bunch of people and became a cultural phenomenon.

But one of the most important things Friends gave us was Jennifer Aniston’s character’s haircut; “The Rachel.”

Legend has it that stylist Chris McMillan created this look through experimentation and a little bit of weed, and it quickly became THE IT look of 1995. Everybody had “The Rachel”, and for good reason. It was a super cute shag-bob cut with feathery, face-framing layers and lots of height and body (bonus points for chunky blond highlights).

And it was the perfect cut for a round face.

I had “The Rachel” long after the rest of the world grew out their layers. It worked for me. It was fun, it was easy, and it made me feel confident. Honestly, I’d still have it if it weren’t for Covid and my crippling fear of being judged by my hairstylist.

What I would NOT do, however, is bleach my naturally dark hair blonde again. For obvious reasons:

Originally published at https://vocal.media.

Mother, wife, teacher, writer. Work has appeared on Vocal.Media, 30 Second Friendships, Creative Writer’s Society, Reedsy.com and hundreds of lesson plans.

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