Imagine for a moment that someone has invited you to a 90s fashion inspired party. Before you go into a dither thinking you will have to turn the invite down because you do not have anything to wear, read this helpful guide.
You will find lots of crucial information about what men and women wore in the 1990s, along with practical outfit ideas. There are also essential tips about picking the right individual items.
Go ahead and RSVP that you are looking forward to the party because after reading this guide, you will discover that the 1990s is an easy look to create.
Let’s get started!
Wilson Phillips urged people to “Hold On” as the decade opened, and that might have been good advice as the United States seemed to lose its innocence as the Oklahoma City bombing, Columbine High School shooting, and Princess Diana died in a questionable car crash occurred.
What was the fashion style in the 90s?
In the Eastern United States, teens started wanting to look preppy in the late 1980s, and it continued well into the 1990s. Both coasts saw an interest in hip-hop-and-gangsta clothing during the early 1990s. The middle of the decade saw a turning back to the 1970s as Britpop music became popular. By the end of the decade, fashion-forward gothic clothing was everywhere.
Everyone had a pair of high-waisted khaki chinos in their closet, which many paired with an Ivy-League blazer and an Oxford-style shirt. Tight-fitting tops paired with designer jeans were another trendy option at the start of the decade, as were oversized sweatshirts paired with a favorite pair of tight-fitting leggings.
By the middle of the decade, well-dressed men were sporting herringbone jackets and velvet sportscoats. Striped shirts were a popular option for men and women. Many adopted Royal Air Force and Union Jack motifs, especially after the Spice Girls released “Wannabe” on July 8, 1996.
Starting in California, the uncertainty of the late 1990s ushered in a time of fear for many people, and teens and young adults re-invented the gothic movements of centuries earlier. Marilyn Manson created this turn to black in many ways, but he was not alone as Madonna also embraced it.
Each movement during the tumultuous 1990s inspired changes in fashion as people sought clothing that reflected what they were feeling. The popularity of the internet brought the world closer together, causing fashion trends to change faster as people could stay abreast better than ever before.
History of men’s & women’s fashion in the 90s
People found joy in putting different pieces together to create a unified look in the early 1990s. This look embraced the wearing of cardigans and khakis. Every well-dressed girl had a pair of Mary Janes. Denim jackets and green parkas were favorite winter coats. This style, which first emerged in the 1980s, was not the only style to appear during this decade.
While many chose to continue to embrace Ivy-League styling, others decided to add ethnic pieces to their wardrobes, like the Japanese pieces created by Rei Kawakubo, the founder of Comme des Garcons. Many chose to wear tight-fitting garments, with those designed by Gianni Versace, who took inspiration from Greece culture, being particularly popular.
In 1993, Marc Jacobs, while working for Perry Ellis, introduced the grunge look. While it ultimately got him fired by Ellis, the look consisting of silk slip dresses, chunky combat boots, and plaid shirts would go on to become the grunge look that was a staple until the end of the decade.
Additionally, by the mid-1990s, Miuccia Prada was introducing people to nylon. While fashion editors initially described the style as ugly chic, the general public was soon embracing elements of it. Avocado and ochre hues suddenly appeared everywhere.
After creating the iconic bum bag for Louis Vuitton in 1995, Vivienne Westwood is mainly responsible for creating the gothic look of the late 1990s. She was very interested in adding details to historical costumes, and her heavy-bosomed models all wore their faces painted white.
Why was this period so important for fashion?
The ease of getting on the internet changed fashion forever in the 1990s. Before that time, people had to wait for periodicals to appear on newsstands to learn about the latest styles, and fashion editors had the last word.
In the 1990s, supermodels became household names, and everyone could quickly see what Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista, and Cindy Crawford were wearing. While the 1980s had been a time of glamour, people focused on relatability during the 1990s as they had more extensive access to stars from their homes and offices. People started turning into talk shows, like Oprah Winfrey, on television to see what other people they could relate to were wearing.
Miami had been the center of fashion in the United States during the 1980s, but that moved to Seattle when the 1990s were over. The grunge movement came as people grew tired of trying to relate to people with money that seemed to have nothing vital to say. While technology led this switch, the fashion movement was not far behind.
Before you head out the door to your 1990s party, let’s take a deeper look at what men and women wore in the 1990s. Understanding these items will allow you to put together with outstanding 1990s outfits in which you will look adorable and keep with fashion movements throughout the decade.
What did men wear in the 90s?
At the beginning of the decade, many men wore preppy-style clothing. “Saved by the Bell” premiered less than six months from the start of the 1990s, and in the beginning, many guys took fashion cues from the outfits worn by Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Dustin Diamond, and Mario Lopez.
Throughout the decade, men’s fashion continued to revolve until the middle of the decade held a lot of variation, which I will cover more in-depth in a moment, before the decade ended with grunge. Often men wore open flannel shirts with their favorite band’s tee underneath, and they paired jeans with high-top tennis shoes.
The early 90s
As I have already covered, many men copied the preppy style at the beginning of the decade, but it was not the only style. The early 1990s also saw a significant rise in electronic music played by D.J.s at large dance parties.
Nylon tracksuits, often featuring a favorite college football team, were the usual attire. Others chose to wear tight-fitting nylon shirts under nylon quilted vests and bell-bottom pants with studded belts.
The mid-90s saw a return to punk-rock clothing, with ripped jeans and work footwear. There was also an interesting combination of punk rock meats skate fashion, with many men attempting to look like Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong.
Rap and hip-hop music was also popular during the 1990s. Those preferring this style of music often wore baggy jeans that barely would stay up. They also wore golden chains, bucket hats, and leather bomber jackets.
Many people chose to layer denim on denim or velvet on velvet during the mid-1990s. The pants could be baggy or loose, and men often wore different shades together. Another trend was to wear a denim blazer over a denim vest of a different color.
The late 90s
Wearing goth-style clothes became huge in the late 1990s. Often men wore skinny black jeans over black boots and long leather coats.
By the end of the decade, punk rock had combined with hip hop to create heavy metal. Yet, the style of clothes did not vastly change with baggy clothes and gravity-defying hairstyles.
Before the trend got too far out of hand in most circles, Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein introduced jeans and other clothes that were neither too tight nor loose. Jeans were high-waisted and usually medium stonewashed. Yet, they often used bold colors.
Simultaneously, some were turning to industrial rock and metal. While very similar to gothic in many ways, these outfits made use of many metallic fabric fashion accessories. Unlike gothic fans who usually wore their hair long and unkempt, industrial rockers preferred shorter haircuts.
As the decade grew to a close, trench coats and reefers became popular with men. This was especially true after the release of The Matrix in the last year of the decade.
What was men’s fashion in the 90s?
Many young people refused to conform to fashion trends during the 1990s, and therefore, they wore an amazing assortment of styles. Men often wore different clothing items depending on where they were going for the day or night. Taking a deeper look at individual clothing items may allow you to decide how to put them together to create your unique look before a 1990s party.
Leather bomber jackets were a popular trend in the 1990s with many groups. Particularly popular were leather jackets with dice, playing cards, or pool balls on them. Michael Hoban of San Francisco, California, is responsible for creating this look, with the jacket often worn over a pair of jeans.
The unintended association with cocaine made an eight-ball jacket a trendy choice. Major league baseball players Darryl Strawberry and Bobby Bonilla wore this type of jacket.
Denim biker jackets
Many men embraced wearing oversized denim biker jackets in the 1990s. These jackets usually snapped up the front with brass buttons, and they featured a large patch in the back of the person’s favorite motorcycle brand.
Manufacturers usually made these jackets from distressed denim. They usually ended about the natural waist and had two large pockets in the front. Some had other patches on the sleeves. Instead of motorcycles, some featured American flags or other patriotic symbols. Wearing one gave a man recognition as a tough guy.
Turtlenecks were a fashion staple during the 1990s. Especially at the beginning of the decade, men often wore them relatively tight to create a preppy look. As the years progressed, turtlenecks became a little looser and ribbed.
Wearing one became a symbol that you were a sensitive guy. Older men often wore ribbed turtlenecks in a dark color to show that they were an intellectual. Men paired them with various pants, including blue jeans and dress pants.
M.C. Hammer’s release of “Can’t Touch This” in 1990 ushered in the trend for baggy jeans in the early part of the decade. These slightly baggy pants tapered at the ankles were called hammer pants.
After musicians wore them for a few years as they breakdanced, the pants would become popular with skateboarders. By the end of the decade, hip-hoppers everywhere wore baggy jeans.
Starting in New York by Mobb Deep and in Los Angeles by N.W.A., every hip-hopper was wearing a snapback. The popularity of Tupac and Ice Cube increased the wearing of these caps that men could adjust using a plastic strap in the back.
Unlike Dad hats with a pre-shaped brim, snapbacks of the 1990s had a broad bill that everyone could adjust to their style. Unlike modern snapbacks with a five-panel construction, those prevalent in the 1990s had six panels with a very stiff front panel.
While people living in the 1970s were not the first to wear windbreakers, they were among the first to wear nylon ones. These lightweight jackets that typically zipped up the front were trendy, with manufacturers making most from nylon. Other choices pulled on over the head, and a few had lightweight hoods attached.
Some of the most popular options were made in bright neon colors, and manufacturers made others in popular logo colors, like Chevrolet, Harley Davidson, and baseball teams. Many options had broad stripes across the chest, while others had vertical stripes, usually on the left side of the front.
One of the most iconic looks of the 1990s are overalls, usually worn with one strap hanging down. There are several popular styles of overalls, including acid-washed denim and corduroy. A popular look was to wear white overalls over a white tee underneath. Another popular option was to wear overalls over a flannel shirt. While most men chose to wear overalls that ended at their high-top sneakers, men could also opt for overall shorts.
Distressed jeans were a popular trend within several groups during the 1990s. For those into hip-hop music who wanted to add bling to their jeans in any way possible, those in the grunge movement went to great lengths to distress their jeans.
Men often sewed patches onto their jeans to show association with particular groups or because they loved the design. Jeans were often brought long and allowed to fray by walking on them. Young people begged their parents to let them buy jeans with large rips in them.
Designer Claude Blankiet made wearing stonewashed jeans a fashion statement, while acid-washed jeans were a trendy choice in the early part of the decade.
Everyone had a favorite flannel shirt, especially when the grunge look was popular around the middle of the decade. These shirts were usually worn unbuttoned over a graphic tee, and men often wore this look over a pair of jeans with combat boots. Others wore them tied around the waist when the weather was hot.
Most men brought them a size or two too big to be extra roomy and comfortable. While there were many different choices in plaids, red and blue along with orange and blue were especially popular.
Like flannel shirts, combat boots were a staple for the grunge movement. Dr. Martens was the most popular choice, but others were available. These boots were typically black and laced up the front with about eight eyelets on each side. A back pull-on loop made them easier to put on.
These boots that came to about the ankle had a thick sole, and they usually had a small heel. Many had yellow stitching where the upper met the sole. While most stopped right above the ankle, some men opted for taller options that stopped about mid-calf.
Although the bucket hat first became popular in the 1960s, it remained hugely popular in the 1990s. These hats made of cloth are incredibly lightweight, so they were easy to tuck in a backpack.
Many of the hottest bands wore bucket hats on stage. While girls often wore floral options, guys usually stuck to blue, green, or earth-tone choices. These hats were generally made of canvas or heavy cotton material and resembled an upside-down bucket without a handle.
During the 1990s, many men wore tracksuits everywhere. Ask an average guy what their favorite tracksuit was, and you would probably hear Adidas, Puma, or Reebok. Tracksuits were usually worn with a cap advertising the company and athletic shoes manufactured by the same company.
Two unique types of tracksuits were popular during the 1990s. The first was the neon tracksuit, often made of parachute material and always in a very bright color. The second was the rave tracksuits that were even bolder in color and worn to dance clubs.
Now, you know how men dressed during each part of the 1990s, but you will not want to stop reading. The next part will cover how women dressed in the 1990s. Then, we will look at different types of 90s fashions, so be sure not to miss a word.
What did women wear in the 90s?
One of the earliest moments in fashion history during the 1990s occurred when Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, and Christy Turlington strutted down the runway in Vienna, Austria, in 1991 arm-in-arm. While they had on beautiful clothes, almost everyone alive could tell you their names because supermodels had become celebrities.
It would not take women in the 1990s long to do away with high glamor as they preferred jeans and leggings. By the end of the decade, women had spoken in numbers too big to ignore that casual clothes were here to stay.
The early 90s
At the beginning of the decade, many women returned to wearing clothes from the 1970s and early 1980s, which they found at second-hand stores. Punk styles, flared jeans, and mini-skirts were all popular options.
Other women were already embracing casual clothes by wearing biker shorts in the summer and oversized sweatshirts in the winter. Everyone had their favorite pair of leggings, which were often black. Most women wore low-profile canvas tennis shoes.
Starting with women in Seattle, Washington, grunge became a popular style. Women often put on graphic tees, which they covered with open flannel shirts. This option was usually worn over baggy jeans, which often had been distressed or had large rips in them. They also wore slip dresses with combat boots.
By the mid-90s, women no longer cared what the supermodels were wearing. Instead, they took their fashion cues from Kate Moss. Slip dresses became even more popular as women wanted to copy Moss’ heroin-chic style.
Especially after the release of Clueless in 1995, women embraced a schoolgirl look by wearing undersized sweaters, baby doll t-shirts, and knee-high socks. Cargo pants and sweatshirts, especially from Gap, became favorite wardrobe items.
Other women started wearing hoodies daily. Many companies turned to produce women’s clothing that was heavily branded, like Tommy Hilfiger jeans and Old Navy sweatshirts.
The late 90s
The Bohemian style became extremely popular in the late 1990s. Embroidery, mixed fabrics, and Eastern influences were everywhere. Following the lead of Dries Van Noten, women embraced ethnic clothing. His heavily embroidered tent dresses were trendy.
Another huge trend in the late 1990s was the wearing of bold colors. In many ways, British designer Matthew Williamson was responsible for this trend. Sienna Miller wearing his designs to the Oscars gave women a design that they could easily copy and that they loved to wear. Many women also learned to combine different fabric textures to create beautiful layered looks.
What was women’s fashion in the 90s?
While women wore a few mini-skirts in the first part of the decade, most of the decade was about wearing ultra-comfortable clothes. At the end of the decade, women started layering different fabrics to create beautiful Bohemian outfits that were often heavily embroidered.
Even then, dresses were long and flowy with lots of room to move. There was a very short time in the middle of the decade when tight-fitting sweaters and shirts were stylish. Especially in the latter half, prominently plastering logos and company names on clothing was considered fashionable.
While women no longer were expected to wear slips under most of their dresses, the slip dress was a popular choice in the 1990s. These dresses, shaped like a 1940s undergarment, were initially designed to hang close to the body, but they got looser towards the middle of the decade.
They were especially popular with punk rockers and those following the grunge look. Many choices were more middle-of-the-road, made using a pretty floral fabric. Most designers, including Marc Jacobs and Prada, had slip dresses in their collections.
Leggings were a popular choice, especially in the early 1990s. Cindy Crawford embraced this trend by wearing them with a black top, and many women soon added black leggings to their wardrobes. Another very similar pant that was popular was stirrup pants. Unlike leggings, these pants had a short strap that went under the woman’s foot.
A popular option was to wear leggings with an oversized sweatshirt, slouch socks, and a pair of Keds athletic shoes. Many women were convinced that this look made them appear taller and leaner, while others found it a comfortable look to wear.
The 1990s in women’s clothing was all about being comfortable, so it should be no surprise that women loved to wear flannel shirts. The grunge and the punk movement both embraced wearing flannel. When the two styles combined in the late 1990s to form the emo style, flannel did not disappear.
While bright colors were seen early on, by the late 1990s, earthy-colored plaids were worn over denim jeans. The flannel shirts left open in the first part of the decade were now buttoned up neatly.
Leopard print was the fabric of choice for many outfits during the 1990s. In the early part of the decade, leopard-print hats, gloves, and cuffs on long-sleeve shirts were popular. Then, Cindy Crawford sported a pair of tight-fitting leopard-print leggings. Closer to the middle of the decade, leopard print was a favorite print for bikinis.
Naomi Campbell rocked a full leopard print outfit on the pages of Vogue in 1996. Leopard print was also incorporated into many different dress styles throughout the decade, from slip to Bohemian.
Often called wide-leg jeans, these denim pants were popular in the early 1990s, especially in the grunge movement. Skaters, hardcore punks, ravers, and rappers wore these pants to set themselves apart from those who loved metal music.
These pants varied from bell-bottoms because the whole length of the leg was at least 20 inches wide while bell-bottoms flared out at the knee. Some of these jeans had a 50-inch leg circumference while 26 inches was widespread. Women often wore them with a tee and a snapback hat worn backward.
In the early 1990s, women often wore oversized sweaters as part of their grunge outfits. Many sweatshirts had a crew neck and no bottom hem. Logo sweatshirts became a prominent fad with Starter, Adidas, and Gap boldly worn across the chest. They often wore these sweaters over baggy jeans, denim jackets, and fake furs.
Towards the middle of the decade, the schoolgirl look became more popular, with many people wanting to look like the characters they saw on “Saved by the Bell.” These sweaters were often sleeveless and worn over white blouses. They were also short, with many allowing the top of the skirt that sat at the natural waistline to show.
While leotards started being popular in the mid-80s, they were trendy during the 1990s. They were typically made from Lycra and spandex, with many in neon colors. Many options were a single bright color, but other color-block choices were available.
These skin-tight pants were often worn for exercise, but other women wore them as streetwear. Some stopped just above the knee, while others came down to just above the ankle. Most had tops with broad straps across the shoulders. Lycra pants and tees eventually replaced them before the decade was over.
At the beginning of the 1990s, people viewed the hoodie as a symbol of academia, but that trend did not last long. Then, skateboarders and surfers wore them. While many choices were solid gray with a company’s logo, like Champion, placed on the chest, many were also color-blocked, with different shades of blue being a trendy choice.
Hoodies with their long strings and hoods were a popular wintertime choice as people chose to wear them instead of wearing a coat. Several designers, including Tommy Hilfiger, Giorgio Armani, and Ralph Lauren, made them a significant part of their collection for several years.
Starting with the release of “Dirty Dancing,” low-profile tennis shoes made from canvas were every girl’s favorite type of shoes. These shoes were often made from canvas and had no arch support. Many women chose to wear them with their favorite leotards to the gym or with their leggings because they found them so comfortable.
While many different companies produced these shoes, Keds owned by the Stride Rite Corporation was a favorite choice. Often women would paint their white tennis shoes in favorite colors and designs to match their hoodies or oversized sweaters.
Slouch socks were a popular option during the 1990s. These heavy socks went up to the mid-calf, but women never wore them that way. Instead, women pushed them down to their ankles. They were almost always worn with low-profile canvas tennis shoes.
Many women chose to wear mismatched options. For a while, it was also popular to wear more than one choice at a time, with one pulled slightly higher than the other. While the upper part of these socks was extremely thick, the foot area was much thinner.
Madonna, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Princess Diana all wore bike shorts during the 1990s, and so did many other women. These shorts, often made from Lycra and spandex, came down to about the knees, and they were cut to fit extremely close to the body.
Women often paired them with an oversized sweatshirt, slouch socks, and low-profile tennis shoes. Many women wore these shorts that were often in bright neon colors under a pair of leggings as they went to the gym to work out.
Once there, they would remove the leggings and let their artificially tanned legs shine. Other times, they would pair them with a crop top, which was often white.
Leather pants made from various leathers were a fashion staple in the 1990s. These pants were tight and usually worn with a tight-fitting top. A silk blouse was a prevalent choice. Women who could not afford real leather pants wore pleather pants. These pants were made to resemble genuine leather but were available in more color choices.
These pants usually had a high waist and were cut straight. There were a few options that even had a slim cut. Some leather pants also laced up their side or across the waistband.
Women often wore denim button-down blouses during the 1990s. These blouses often had a western cut with a large front yoke. Many of these shirts also had an embroidered design instead of a front pocket. Ladies often wore denim shirts with colored jeans. Other denim shirts were cut to end just below the bust. These shirts were often tied in the front.
This popular summertime option was often worn with blue jeans of a different shade of blue. Again, these shirts often buttoned down the front and were broad across the shoulders. They were often paired with simple jewelry that followed the shirt’s neckline.
Women in the 1990s had lots of choices in clothing styles. In the next chapter, I will discuss even more about how men and women put outfits together during the decade to reflect their interests. Therefore, you will want to make sure to keep reading.
Streetwear varied greatly depending on where you lived in the world and the group you belonged to, but some trends were universal. This was a decade where company names were proudly placed on oversized sweatshirts and hoodies in large letters. No longer were people restricted to wearing jeans of a particular color. Stone-and-acid washed jeans were popular, but so were colored jeans.
The slip moved from being a hated undergarment to being a fashionable dress. Depending on which group you belonged to, it might be neon, paisley, or black.
Men and women wore hairstyles that allowed them to grab a few more minutes of sleep because they could quickly fix their hair. While Rommy Revson patented the first scrunchie in 1987, most women owned many of them in the 1990s.
90s grunge fashion
The 1990s grunge style was all about the minimalistic look. Marc Jacobs may have best embodied the style when he sent Christy Turlington and Naomi Campbell down the runway in 1993 wearing printed chiffon, crochet cardigans, and jersey cutout dresses to represent the Perry Ellis Company. While he was quickly fired for the move, women everywhere fell in love with the look. He soon opened his fashion house and continued to produce grunge pieces.
It mainly took off after Courtney Love, and Kurt Cobain embraced the style. By the 1990s, a new type of grunge, called romantic grunge, was being adopted as women turned to silky dresses, often with an A-line cut. Leopard print was seen everywhere, including entire outfits featuring this print. While guys sported distressed jeans, silk pajama shirts, and layered flannels, the look is best known for its distressed jeans and oversized sweaters.
Men wore plaid and pinstripe tops over ripped jeans. Baggy beanies were worn year-round by men and women, who were part of the Generation X movement. Marc Jacobs recreated the look in his 2018 show, and you can still find elements of this fashion style in many clothes today.
90s hip hop fashion
Many boy bands, especially Bones Thugs-n-Harmony and Boyz II Men, left their mark on hip-hop fashion during the 1990s. Most sported some type of Kangol cap in a bright color, and it became a staple after the release of the blockbuster New Jersey City in 1991. At the opposite end of the body, every hip-hopper wore Timberland boots. These yellow-brown boots were popular by Wu-Tang Clan, DMX, TLC, and Aaliyah featured bulky rubber soles and bold grommets.
Most hip-hoppers chose to wear long white tees. While many wore them over blue jeans, others tucked them into dungarees, but that was not the only way these denim overalls were worn. Some chose to wear them by fastening only one strap, while others decided to wear them with nothing under them. They could be fitted or baggy as people considered both to be stylish.
The hip-hop movement embraced people from many different cultures. While denim was huge, many of the most popular jeans came from black-owned brands, like Phat Farm and FUBU. Hip Hoppers chose to wear denim in many different ways, including pairing a denim jacket with their favorite denim jeans. Another area where ethnicity played into hip-hop fashion was in color. Various factions adored tie-dye, paisley, African wax prints, and bright colors within the movement.
Everyday 90s fashion
MTV celebrated its 10th birthday in 1991, and many young people tuned into the channel to see what their favorite music stars were wearing. Cargo pants were one commonly seen feature. These baggy pants had many pockets, so most people did not carry a briefcase or a purse. They were often paired with a long flannel shirt.
Various styles of jeans were available, with high-rise straight-leg jeans being trendy. They were often paired with an open-front flannel shirt and a favorite tee to create an outfit for hanging out with friends. Another favorite was bibbed overalls paired with a favorite oversized sweatshirt or tee.
Most tops had the maker’s label proudly put on their front. Another favorite option with jeans was a hoodie with long front ties that were left hanging down the front. Regardless of the choice of top, it was usually worn extremely large, giving the wearer plenty of room to move.
While people in the grunge and hip-hop movements often wore combat boots and Timberlake boots, most guys wore Nike tennis shoes. These shoes often had mesh incorporated into them to provide a better customized fit. Meanwhile, ladies wore white canvas tennis shoes. They often chose to paint their own to match their favorite outfits.
Black 90s fashion
Salt n Pepa, Will Smith, and Queen Latifah brought black fashion into American homes, making it fashionable to wear African-inspired headwear, like Kufi hats and headwraps. Gold chains were often worn around the neck.
Despite its religious roots, blacks who were not Muslim often chose to wear the rounded, brimless Kufi hat. These bold-colored hats came in many different geometric patterns.
Meanwhile, many women chose to wear African headwraps after being made famous on Sesame Street by Erykah Badu, who used them as a cross-cultural teaching tool. Additionally, Lauryn Hill and India Arie furthered their popularity with their music videos.
Specific colors became very important to black people during the 1990s, and they often found ways to incorporate these colors into their wardrobes. David Hammons created the African-American flag using red, green, and black in 1990 to symbolize the struggle and ultimate victories of people of color in American society. Many people chose to wear those colors as a sign of unity with the movement. Vibrant prints and woven textures were often worn over denim jeans and skirts.
90s summer fashion
Jelly shoes were a summertime staple for girls during the 1990s. Ladies often paired them with their favorite bike shorts. These skin-tight shorts that stopped a short distance above the knee were available in various colors with the shoes.
The hot pink ones were perfect for wearing with green and pink outfits, while the glitter ones simmered under all other options. Long tee shirts featuring your favorite boy bands, like Backstreet Boys, Hanson, or New Kids on the Block, were often worn on the top.
Alternatively, women would pair their jelly shoes with denim shorts and a button-down denim shirt tied below the waist. Then, she would choose a colorful Lisa Frank necklace and Goodie barrettes to complete the look.
Meanwhile, men would wear denim shorts with a long tee shirt and a snapback hat worn so that the brim was in the back. Alternatively, they might wear a pair of baggy athletic shorts paired with a baggy tee and a hat from their favorite Major League Baseball team. High-top athletic shoes, especially those made by Nike, ruled summer days.
It was all about being comfortable for both men and women, so most clothes did not fit tightly.
90s school fashion
After the premiere of “Saved by the Bell,” everyone wanted to look like Zack Morris, Kelly Kapowski, and Jessica Sparro, giving rise to a school fashion movement for both men and women.
Some were like Kelly, who often wore belted minidresses, tights, flats, and a denim cropped jacket. Other females often wore white short-sleeve tees with paisley shorts and a long polyester vest. You could also see hints of the grunge movement, like wearing a Canadian tuxedo with combat boots.
Men often followed trends shown on this show, especially by wearing crop tops and high-waisted denim jeans. Others embraced Zack’s trend of dressing in bright colors, like a bright red tee worn under a teal and royal blue bomber jacket.
Men often wore high-waisted skinny jeans tucked into their high-top sneakers with an open-down-the-front printed shirt when they could get away with it. Often men coordinate their outfits with their girlfriends, as can be seen in this show where A.C. Slater and Jessie Spano wear matching socks, khaki shorts, and the same color top.
90s skater fashion
While there are specific fashions from the 1990s skater movement that have impacted style forever, others are thankfully dead. One of the latter is the peaked beanie. These beanies had a bill on the front, and the bill was usually worn at a 40-degree angle to the face, so it served no useful purpose.
These hats may have been worn with long JNCO jeans that were at least 23 inches across at the cuff. These jeans were big throughout, and they were worn long to naturally frayed. It was nearly impossible to keep them up as they weighed a lot.
Even though it was impossible to keep these pants up, many tried with a canvas belt. After the belt was fastened, there was a floppy end, where many used a black-tip marker to write the name of their favorite band. Of course, a large wallet chain had to be attached to the pants, even when the wallet was empty.
You can still find some skater fashions worn today, like cargo pants. Skaters in the 1990s wore them extra big with a wallet chain attached to them. This clothing item was a crossover piece with grunge and gothic, but skaters would wear them with one leg rolled up to show their alignment with other skaters.
90s goth fashion
By the 1990s, there were at least three large goth fashion movements, but all wore black lipstick, fake or real piercings, and chipped black nail polish.
Some stuck to the stylized version first made famous by Wednesday Addams on “The Addams Family.” Women wore long black dresses or short black miniskirts and black sweaters with a white button-down shirt peeking out at the top. Black babydoll dresses were a trendy option. Black combat boots were worn on the feet, and they often had large platform soles.
Another option was to wear bad goth, as seen in Nancy Downs’s character in “The Craft.” She almost always had on a black wool beret and was often seen in black miniskirts and baby tees. Spiked choked collar or cross necklaces were popular choices. Often, leather and mesh were matched together when creating outfits.
The 1990s goth movement also included some Victoriana goth. This style that was popular with men and women harkened back to black clothes worn during the Victorian era, with black lace being trendy. Men often wore black tailcoats while women wore lacey dresses and a black satin necklace.
90s punk fashion
One of the most influential designers of punk fashions was Vivienne Westwood. Her 1991 collection called Cut, Slash and Pull was fashioned around the 16th-century practice of slashing, cutting, and pulling fabric to showcase the layers of clothes underneath it.
In Wedgewood’s case, she used those techniques to show bare skin under the clothing, and she often surrounded holes with gigantic faux-fur bobbles. Her outfits’ bodices were often cut very low and lined with faux-fur. Her remaining collections during the 1990s often mixed England’s easy charm and tailoring with France’s solidarity and proportions.
Tartans were a popular fashion item with punk rockers during the early 1990s. These Scottish-inspired skirts or trousers were often green-plaid bottoms were often worn with a band tee with the arms ripped off and ankle boots. Other times, the outfit might be worn with penny loafers and long socks.
Most punkers still wore their favorite black leather jacket decorated with pins and patches from their favorite bands. By the start of the 1990s, many had gone away from hard-core punk, so hair was worn in more natural styles, but it was often dyed pink.
90s formal wear fashion
Starting in the late 1980s, men returned to a much more elegant dressing style. Tuxedos featured large satin or grosgrain lapels, and they either had a peaked or shawl cut. Tuxedo coats were often double-breasted and had broad shoulders that were heavily padded. This type of coat came in slightly at the waist but was amply cut all over so that men could easily move in them. Deeply pleated trousers were worn with these coats.
Men often wore ivory dinner jackets to summer parties. Typically, men wore these jackets with a wing-collar shirt that was pleated in the front and had an attached collar. The shirt and jacket were often worn with black dress pants and suspenders.
Women often wore long silk or satin dresses to formal events. These dresses usually reached the floor and hugged the woman’s body tightly. Women wore various colors, including bright neon colors, with hot pink being a trendy choice. These dresses often hung from spaghetti straps.
The 1990s were a decade when clothes were comfortable to wear. Keep reading to get some different ideas of what to wear to a 1990s party. I have carefully put some outfit choices together for men and women that are easy and comfortable to wear.
Now, I will share with you some of my favorite combinations. These are only suggestions. Feel free to mix and match ideas depending on what you already have in your closet and what you can find in your favorite markets.
Typical combinations for men
One of the critical decisions men will need to make is what style of clothing they want to wear. You can choose to be a skater, punk rocker, hip-hopper, or a member of the grunge movement.
If you are going to the party as a couple, consider both going as part of the same group. Once you decide, you can start thinking about combining individual pieces to complete any outfit. I am here with suggestions to get you started thinking in the right direction.
If you choose to go as a member of the grunge movement, then start with a favorite tee featuring a band, preferably one of the bands popular in the movement, like Nirvana, Green River, or Pearl Jam.
Then, cover the tee with a long flannel shirt. Receive bonus points if it is plaid and a little bit faded. Now that you have your top covered, wear ripped jeans on the bottom. While yellowish-brown Timberlake boots are best, you can wear any combat boot style on your feet. Complete the look by wearing a beanie on your head.
It is equally easy to put together a skater outfit. Start by wearing a pair of low-profile canvas athletic shoes on your feet. White and black options were favorites. Then, choose a pair of wide-leg cargo pants that are baggy. You will need a canvas belt and a wallet chain.
Then, top them with a graphic tee that is long and roomy. Alternatively, choose a hoodie. Receive bonus points if it has a large company logo on its front, like Champion, Adidas, or Nike. Wear a bucket hat on your head or a snapback worn, so the bill is in the back.
Another terrific option is the schoolboy look. Consider wearing your favorite muscle shirt. One in a solid color with wide straps across the shoulder is best. Then, wear it over a pair of light stonewashed jeans. Choose jeans that are high-waisted and fit close to the body overall.
Put a pair of low-profile tennis shoes on your feet. The best options are ones with a broad white toe box. Cover your muscle shirt with a button-down cardigan in multiple colors if the weather is cool. When possible, opt for one with brown buttons that look like they have been covered in leather.
You can easily be a punk rocker for a 1990s party. Start by putting on a pair of distressed jeans. Then, add your favorite combat boots. Dr. Martens was the usual choice. The next step is to wear an oversized punk rock band tee shirt. Blink, Bouncing Souls, New Found Glory, and American Hi-Fi were all favorite bands.
If you cannot find one, select a graphic tee shirt. Top it with a leather bomber jacket. Then, rub some moose through your hair so that it will spike up. If that is not possible, consider wearing a bucket hat. Of course, you will want to complete the look by adding some temporary tattoos.
You can easily recreate the 1990s look with a pair of denim dungarees. Be sure that you only fasten one strap. Choose to wear a long white tee shirt underneath it. Ideally, one that promotes a 1990s hip-hop band, like The Lost Boyz, a Tribe Called Quest, or Bone Thugs-N-Harmony.
Roll up the bottom of the dungarees a little bit before putting on low-profile white tennis shoes. If you cannot find denim dungarees, then choose a pair of high-waisted jeans, but be sure to roll them up a little at the bottom of the legs. Complete the look by wearing a bright-colored Kangol cap.
Many business executives wore a power suit during the 1990s. You will want to start with a baggy suitcoat. Where possible, choose a single-breasted one made from houndstooth fabric with a slight curve at the bottom.
Then, wear it over a pair of baggy jeans. Choose to wear a button-down shirt in a color that matches your suitcoat. Alternatively, you may want to pair it with a white tee shirt. Wear this look with black Oxfords. Take a shower and forget to brush your hair to get the 1990s messy look. While wide ties were in during the 1990s, it will ruin the look of this outfit, so skip the tie altogether.
Typical combinations for women
Like men, women had many clothing choices in the 1990s, but they were all loose and extremely comfortable to wear. There were so many different styles that everyone could easily find one they wanted to recreate.
While distressed jeans were popular with some groups, others wore large ethnic prints. Colors varied from white to bold tie-dye colors. In order to help you put together a perfect 1990s look, you will want to consider these different options.
It is so easy to create a 1990s look. Tommy Hilfiger was one of the top designers of the period, so consider wearing a red, white, and blue pair of denim shorts with a matching crop top. A leather belt is a great option to wear with your shorts.
Then, pull your hair back and put it in a scrunchie at your neck. A short white necklace looks perfect with this summer outfit. If you need a jacket, consider a denim one with snap closures down the front. A pair of glitter jelly shoes are perfect for your feet.
Wearing denim-over-denim gives you the perfect 1990s look. Choose a pair of wide-bottom jeans that have a high waist. A dark pair is a great choice. Wear them with a simple leather belt. Then, wear a dark red turtleneck on top. Make sure it is loose enough that you can move easily.
Top the turtleneck with a long denim vest. Consider options with a patch where the guy’s breast pocket would be on a suitcoat. The two shades of denim should not match. Wear this outfit with white low-profile tennis shoes made of canvas.
A leopard-print mini dress is a perfect choice for a 1990s party. Add a black leather belt to its middle, and pair it with black nylons. The belt should have a simple silver closure and be wide to make it comfortable to wear.
You will want to wear a black cropped jacket with studs over it. Receive extra credit if the jacket is denim. Wear this look with your favorite pair of black ballet flats. Use a scrunchie to create a high ponytail and wear gold hoop earrings.
The grunge look took a softer turn in the 1990s, and it is an extremely easy look to recreate. Start with a pair of distressed black jeans. The best ones will have some leopard print around the holes. Top it with a graphic tee shirt.
Ones featuring your favorite band are best, but white tees were also a popular choice. Whatever you choose, make sure it is a size or two too big for you. Then, wear a studded leather jacket over it. You will need combat boots for your feet and a beanie for your head.
Let your inner goth come out by wearing an outfit inspired by Wendy Adams. Start with a short-sleeve white blouse that has a pointed collar. Top it with a black minidress. If the dress does not already have one, add a wide black belt to your waist. Black clogs are the perfect shoe to wear with this outfit.
On cooler nights, you can wear a black leather jacket. Of course, you will need black lipstick and some fake piercings. Several days ahead of the party, paint your fingernails black so that it has time for some of it to chip off. Complete this look with your favorite braid style, for example, with two pigtails on both sides of your head.
You can easily put together an outfit that will rival what Queen Latifah wore to accept her MTV Video Music Awards award. Start with an African wax pantsuit. Make sure it has plenty of room to move. Ideally, it is blue and white. Additionally, it should end with tight cuffs at the wrist.
Then, wear a matching Zulu turban hat on your head. Gold hoop earrings will look great with this hat. Simple T-strap flat sandals are perfect for your feet. If the outfit does not have one, add a matching wide belt at the waist. Do not forget to put on some bright red lipstick.
I hope you are already planning the perfect outfit to wear to a 1990s party. This is an easy decade to put together the ideal outfit because there are many possibilities. Keep reading because, in the next chapter, I will be covering some specific points to help you pick out the right clothes for your 1990s party.
Since the overall trend of the decade was big and comfortable, you may find yourself wearing these pieces around your home after the party is over because they feel so enjoyable to wear.
What should a man wear to a 90s party?
Dressing in the 1990s style for men was all about being comfortable. The economics of the 1990s meant that men often wore clothes handed down from their big brothers, and it did not matter if they fit correctly. Those who did not have big brothers often chose to pretend that they did as a matter of survival or just because they loved the roominess of the clothes.
During the 1990s, people had three prominent sets of clothes. One was reserved for school or work. People wore another set for special occasions and to houses of worship, and the third set was worn for leisure time pursuits.
Everyone had their favorite denim items during the 1990s. It was big and baggy for most groups, while the straight cut was popular in other circles. One essential thing in almost everyone’s wardrobe was a pair of denim overalls. They could be worn with both straps up and nothing on underneath or with a tee-shirt underneath them. Others chose to wear them with only one strap fastened.
Another popular way to wear denim during the 1990s was to combine different pieces, and they did not have to be the same shade of denim. For example, light-colored jeans might be worn with a dark-colored denim vest. Another popular look was colored denim, with green and red being trendy.
Everyone also had a favorite plaid flannel shirt in their wardrobe, and it was highly prized if faded and a little worn at the elbows. Most opted to wear their flannel shirts over tee shirts that were too big to create outfits that made them look long and thin.
In this case, the flannel shirt was worn open so that their favorite band shirt or another graphic tee could peek out from underneath. High school and college young men also wore them buttoned up and tucked into a pair of high-rise jeans.
Tracksuits were popular for athletics but were also worn for running errands. These suits could be in any solid color. The jacket on these suits had a company logo, with Adidas, Reebok, and Nike being popular choices.
The jacket had a high collar and a front zipper. Then, the jacket was paired with low-profile tennis shoes and a hat bearing the same logo. They were typically worn zipped up but open in warmer weather.
In that case, a matching tee shirt was worn underneath. Late in the decade, some did away with the jacket and wore the pants with a matching hoodie with long strings down its front.
Every man had multiple turtleneck sweaters in their wardrobe. They often chose to wear them over jeans and sneakers to create a casual outfit. Alternatively, they would wear them under a blazer to create a perfect look for a date night.
One only has to look at the iconic outfits of Steve Jobs to see how this outfit was worn in the business world. This clothing item bucked the trend for being baggy as they were always cut and worn close to the body. Many turtlenecks were ribbed, and wearing one was seen as a sign that you were a sensitive guy.
Cargo pants were worn in many circles, including skaters and hip-hoppers. Usually, they were extremely baggy. Men loved them because of a large number of pockets allowed them to carry many things. They were often worn with a wallet chain.
Additionally, they were usually worn with a canvas belt. The belt that did very little to hold the pants up had a long tail. Many men used a black marker to write the name of their favorite band on the end of their belts. Usually, these pants were off-white, but they could also be blue denim or khaki.
Colors in men’s clothing changed throughout the decade, but they stayed bright. In the early part of the decade, blue, green, orange, pink, and yellow. They were often worn together in combinations inspired by comic books, but men wore colored jeans.
During the middle part of the decade, Hawaiian and paisley patterns in bold colors were popular. As the decade drew to a close, plums, reds, and deep blues were favored. As many new startups took on a more casual vibe, they were often seen on business shirts.
Nike was usually the chosen brand in sneakers during the 1990s. In 1990, the company premiered its air trainer. This shoe called the Nike Air Trainer SC had a full-length Phylon midsole. Men were convinced that the visible Air-Sole in the heal would help them run faster and jump higher.
These shoes that were always white with bright color design elements had a rubber sole. Another popular choice was the Asics Gel Lyte III. These low-profile shoes had a mesh upper that men were convinced allowed them to conform better to their feet.
Every person had a favorite band or two, and they loved to wear tee shirts with a picture of the band on them. These shirts were often worn under denim vests or jackets, but they were also worn under flannel shirts. Most featured a popular boy band, like 98 Degrees, Men to Boyz, or New Kids on the Block.
While bright colors were popular throughout the decade, these shirts were often in earth tones. There were even people who wore a band’s shirt when they hated the band so that when someone commented, they could start an argument about how bad that band’s music was, and these people were called posers.
Women’s fashion for a 90s party
Guys do not get to have all the fun at a 90s party. There are many great ways women can dress, like in the 1990s. As with men, big and comfortable was often more important than making a fashion statement during this era. There were also many unisex options, such as flannel shirts and cargo pants worn by both sexes. If you are headed to a 90s party, consider these choices.
Slip dresses were a favorite for many ladies during the 1990s. You could find these dresses that hung from spaghetti straps in many different lengths. Some women chose mini-length slip dresses, while floor-length options were popular for formal occasions.
They also came in many different colors. While floral ones were popular in the early 1990s, metallic and sequin options became popular mid-decade. At the end of the decade, more were floor-length in bright colors, with hot pink being especially popular.
Like the guys, women wore oversized shirts during the 1990s. It was trendy to wear a long tee shirt and cover it with a flannel shirt. These long shirts could be any color but were often white. Others chose to wear long earth-toned band shirts featuring their alliance with a favorite band.
They were worn with blue jeans in most cases, although women also wore them with cargo pants. One trendy look was to wear denim jeans, an oversized shirt covered by a flannel skirt, and the hair put up with a scrunchie.
Wearing two denim items at the same time was a popular choice. For example, a woman might wear blue jeans and a denim vest. Women often wore denim blazers over a white turtleneck and jeans on the bottom.
The 1990s carefree attitude meant that the two shades of denim did not have to match. Often, the deeper shade was worn on the bottom, but that was not always the case. Several types of denim were available, including options in bright colors. Therefore, women could put together many different looks with a few simple pieces in their closets.
Like men, women wore overalls in various ways. They often wore them with only one strap fastened. Overalls for women came in different lengths. Very short ones were popular with some teens, while ones ending about the knee were popular with others.
The most popular option were ones that ended at the floor. Overalls also had different width legs, with some having extremely wide legs in the early part of the decade. While denim was the most popular choice, women also wore colored overalls and white ones.
Women also wore cargo pants. Punk rockers often combined them with long band tees and flannel shirts. Like guys, they usually wore them low and with a canvas belt. Usually, they wore them with combat boots but occasionally wore them with low-profile tennis shoes.
Depending on the group they aligned with, they usually wore them with either a beanie or a backward snapback. While denim and white were the most common color choices, manufacturers also produced them in various colors, including khaki.
Leggings were a big hit with women during the 1990s, predominantly black and leopard-print options. Women often wore them everywhere with an oversized tee-shirt. They would also wear them with slouch socks pushed down against their ankles as tight as they could get them.
At times, women would wear skin-tight biker shorts under their leggings and take them off when they reached the gym. Towards the decade’s end, leggings were becoming super bright and metallic. At that time, women often wore them with polyester jackets and fitted tee shirts.
Many women wore flannel shirts over tee shirts in the 1990s. This made an ultra-comfortable outfit when worn with blue jeans or cargo pants. One of the first stars to start this look was Shirley Manson of Garbage, who often wore solid red flannel shirts.
Most women chose to wear herringbone flannel, available in many plaid colors. One thing that women seldom did was button up their flannel. It was always worn as an outer garment, and women loved it because it was so comfortable.
Crop tops were a fashion favorite in the 1990s, and there were many different styles. Many music icons wore them in MTV videos, including Beyonce and Brittany Spears. They also appeared in films and television shows, where stars like Gwyneth Paltrow and Reese Witherspoon wore them. Luxurious options appeared on the red carpet at every major awards show.
Many women wore them paired with mom jeans. Many hung from spaghetti straps, but others had elastic at the top to ensure they stayed in place. While most had no sleeves, there were long-sleeve options, like Drew Barrymore wore when she flashed David Letterman on his show in 1995.
We have covered a lot of what women and men wore in the 1990s. Still, I’d like to share some concluding thoughts. Therefore, you will want to make sure and keep reading.
I wish we could go back to the easy clothing styles of the 1990s someday. If you have been invited to a 1990s party, I know you will have a great time putting your outfit together. I am eternally grateful that some items from the 1990s, like leggings, have remained available.
If you have any questions, please let me know. I will be happy to help you out. When you get ready for your 1990s party, be sure to post a picture as I want to see what you wore. Share this post with your friends going to a 1990s party, and you can post their photos too.
While you are waiting for the party date to arrive, read my other posts, where you will find all types of fashion advice.