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Fashion

These 90s Outfits Are Back — And We’re Not Sure If We Should Cheer. . .Or Cringe

From high-waisted jeans to sexy slip dresses, you'll be instantly transported back 30 years

Ah, the ’90s. It was a time of scrunchies, choker necklaces, crop tops and more plaid flannel than you can shake a stick at. The fashions of the day were often inspired by pop culture — many of the most memorable 90s outfits had grunge, hip-hop, hippie or goth elements, and young women saw megastars like Britney Spears and the Spice Girls as fashion icons. While the internet was starting to take off, there was no social media, and people relied on magazines, celebrities, and movies and TV for fashion tips.

Now, more than two decades later, many of the signature trends of the decade are back in style. Fashion nostalgia comes in cycles (remember when retro ’70s style was popular in the ’90s?) and now ’90s style is all over Instagram and TikTok — and many of the people rocking ’90s looks now weren’t even born until the 2000s.

If you’ve saved any of your clothes from the ’90s, you just might want to pull them out and wear them for the first time in years — that is, if your daughter hasn’t already claimed them for herself! Read on to take a walk down memory lane with some of our favorite 90s outfits.

High-waisted jeans

Model Cindy Crawford in jeans
Model Cindy Crawford in high-waisted jeans (1993)MediaPunch/Shutterstock

In the early ’90s, high-waisted jeans reigned supreme. Typically stonewashed, straight-legged and made from a stiff, non-stretch denim, these jeans were no-nonsense staples, worn by everyone from stay-at-home moms to supermodels. These jeans were often worn with a tucked-in top or bodysuit (another essential of the decade), creating a stylish and flattering silhouette.

Later in the decade, waistlines got lower, and by the ’00s, high-waist jeans became derisively known as “mom jeans,” thanks to a Saturday Night Live parody commercial. There’s no shame in mom jeans, though, as their higher waists can do a good job of hiding flaws. Now, “mom jeans” are in style again (seriously, you can even find “Best Mom Jeans” lists), as a new generation of women have realized that high waists are more forgiving and can even be more stylish.

Plaid

Model Naomi Campbell in plaid skirt
Model Naomi Campbell (1993)Neville Marriner/Daily Mail/Shutterstock

Who didn’t love plaid in the ’90s? While the pattern has been around forever, it took on a new ubiquity in the decade. Comfy plaid flannel shirts were favorites of grungy alternative types, while schoolgirl-inspired plaid skirts and sets were seen on high fashion runways and in movies like Clueless (Alicia Silverstone’s yellow plaid skirt suit remains iconic). Plaid never goes out of style, making it the ideal pick for fashion plates and brooding rockers alike. In fact, you might just have some plaid pieces sitting in your closet today, should you want to try a 90s outfit without feeling like you’re wearing a costume. 

Actress Bridget Fonda in the 1992 movie Singles
Bridget Fonda in Singles (1992)Warner Bros/Kobal/Shutterstock

Bike shorts

Actress Sarah Jessica Parker in the 1991 movie LA Story
Sarah Jessica Parker in L.A. Story (1991)Moviestore/Shutterstock

Before there was athleisure, there were bike shorts. While obviously worn for biking and workouts, bike shorts achieved a new prominence in 90s outfits, as women increasingly wore them outside of the gym. Often paired with an oversized sweatshirt and sneakers, bike shorts were the ultimate in casual comfort. And if you think bike shorts aren’t put-together, it’s worth remembering that none other than Princess Diana was frequently photographed wearing them. Who knew bike shorts could make you feel like royalty?

Given their figure-hugging nature, you may not want to try bike shorts as outerwear, and that’s okay — they’re still great pieces to wear around the house, and a pair of bike shorts worn under a dress or skirt can be a good hack to eliminate thigh chafing

Princess Diana wearing bike shorts
Princess Diana (1995)Times Newspapers/Shutterstock

Platform shoes

Mel B of the Spice Girls in platform shoes
Mel B of the Spice Girls in extreme platforms (1997)Photo News Service/Shutterstock

Chunky shoes are one of those trends that never really go away. Platforms were popular in the ’40s and enjoyed a renaissance in the ’70s. They made another comeback in the ’90s, and showed up in many different forms.

Boots, Mary Janes, flip-flops and even sneakers all got the platform treatment, and platforms could be found on the feet of rockers and pop divas alike. While some platforms of the ’90s may be a bit too chunky for everyday wear, they’re now beloved by Gen Z. But platforms are worth considering at any age, as their shape makes them far more comfortable and easier to walk in than high heels. 

Musicians Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale in platform boots
Musicians Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale wearing platform shoes (1996)Shutterstock

Slip dresses

Actress Drew Barrymore in slip dress
Drew Barrymore (1995)Bei/Shutterstock

In the ’90s, sexy slips were no longer just for the bedroom. Actresses like Drew Barrymore and Gwyneth Paltrow frequently wore slip dresses on red carpets, and many women paired their slip dresses with edgy touches like fishnet tights or choker necklaces. The simplicity of slip dresses, with no fussy buttons, zippers or extraneous details, gives them a timeless quality, and their silky fabrics look and feel luxurious.

After the big-shouldered, ruffled, sequined dresses of the ’80s, the slip dresses of the ’90s felt refreshingly minimalist. Like a swipe of classic red lipstick, slip dresses proved that sometimes the simplest looks are the most seductive.

Actors Gwyneth Paltrow and Brad Pitt on red carpet
Gwyneth Paltrow and Brad Pitt (1996)Bei/Shutterstock

Overalls

Singer Janet Jackson at VMAs
Janet Jackson (1994)Shutterstock

Nope, overalls aren’t just for farmers! In the ’90s, the classic denim look had a surprising new life as a fashion essential. Some women dressed their overalls up, by layering them over a cute floral-print top or piling on the quirky accessories, while others went for a more seductive approach, leaving little to the imagination underneath the denim one-piece.

Overalls might seem a bit childish, but in the ’90s they were worn by many a rock star, hip-hop diva and actress, proving that they could be a fun one-and-done wardrobe workhorse for women of all ages and fashion tastes.

Jennifer Love Hewitt in I Know What You Did Last Summer
Jennifer Love Hewitt in I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)Mandalay Ent/Kobal/Shutterstock

90s outfits forever

Whether or not you were a fashionista in the ’90s, it’s always fun to remember the trends. Even if you didn’t wear slip dresses and platforms back in the day, you just might be inspired to start adding some ’90s-inspired elements to your look, now that the decade is so thoroughly back in style. 

For more fun and nostalgic fashions, check out these vintage wedding dresses and our favorite 1950s trends!

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