The 90’s – Defining the Fashionably Indefinable Decade

Television sitcoms and movies have a way of becoming the embodiment of a decade. I never quite realized how much until I was recently invited to a 90's themed party and my first thought was, "What the hell am I going to wear?" My normal bag of go-to looks didn't seem to really fit. The 90's don’t have a tendency to evoke the more obvious mental images as the other decades. There's the poodle skirt, saddle-shoe wearing teen or I Love Lucy housewife look of the 19Dillon at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival.Image via Wikipedia50's, the quintessential hippy or bell-bottomed Brady Bunch look of the 1960's, the disco queen or Farrah Fawcett hair as a Charlie's Angel of the 1970's or the acid wash & banana clips or layered mis-matched Punky Brewster look of the 80's. But the thing that struck me the most was that while there were characters that embodied the style of the times, the looks sort of stood out in and of themselves without the specific personified reference.

The 90's are a bit trickier. There were crocheted sweaters, chokers, hyper-colored pants and the Seattle-grunge flannel shirt & Doc Martins. But you can actually see some flavor of those looks in the years before and after. It's a bit harder to amp up those looks into a fashioned version people could look to and immediately say, "Ahhhhh a 90's themed party. It's not just some badly dressed people standing around drink Zima.”

The feat is not an impossible one - you just have to be a little creative. The times weren’t just about glow sticks and flared black yoga pants. But what it boils down to is that more often than not you need to add the pop culture references within your getup to evoke the 90's - which are actually pretty plentiful when you start thinking about it. You could start with the trifecta of Kelly's- Taylor, Bundy, and Kapowski (seriously did every show have a Kelly?). But you need the plug-in of the TV/move references to create the look. A tight floral print dress or vest over a T shirt doesn't bring us back to the Peach Pit. You need the 90210 logo to get the Dylan, Brandon, or Brenda 90’s connection. The Kelly Bundy bimbo look is also not 90's specific; you could also be portraying a model in a hair band video. But get your pal to couple off with you by throwing on Peg Bundy's strikingly teased red hair or a No Ma'am T shirt and boom - you quickly embody the Married with Children look circa 1991. There's nothing particular about mom jeans and tackily printed button-down shirts. But throw on a Bayside High T shirt, clunky cell phone and AC Slater's curly hair and boom - you immediately think, Saved by the Bell graduating class of 1993. How do you distinguish the Matt Dillon’s Singles look of flannel over an Indy rock band T shirt a la “Singles” from looking like the latest trustfund Hipster look out of Brooklyn? I’m actually still struggling with that one.

The fashion of the 90’s developed out of the outlandish remnants of decades past and set the stage for the more understated looks of the turn of the century. But there are enough iconic standbys to help your ensemble conjure up the days of Angela Chase, garage bands and radio friendly hip-hop and reminiscing about your days drinking Crystal Pepsi at West Beverly.

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