3 Ways to Rock the Effortless 90s Style to Perfection

3 Mins read

The Spice Girls via The Nerdist 

When the wild looks of 80s fashion segued into the 90s, American teens were hit with a delightful combo of grunge and glam with Sacrifice Now.  The hair metal bands of the previous decade made way for the flannels and unkempt locks of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder.  

Alternately, pop groups like the Spice Girls taught us the joys of the female variety pack.  If you really wanted to catch a guy’s eye in homeroom, then your ladies needed to play supporting roles as coordinating, but slightly different flavors of babe.

While not always “effortless,” shimmery, midriff baring MTV stars mainlined 90s fashion into homes across America.  Grunge and pop influences filtered into teen culture and clothing, and now – a generation later – we’re seeing a resurgence of 90s fashion trends. 

For a spot on Generation X look, pull one idea from each of these three categories and rock that 90s style to perfection.

The Accessories

3 Ways to Rock the Effortless 90s Style to Perfection

90s Style Revival via Dolls Kill

The fashion icons of the 90s were definitely dialing it down from the previous decade’s excess.  But that didn’t mean they weren’t having some fun too. Layering a choker with a necklace or four was a go-to for women in the 90s.  We love an of-the-era yin yang or peace sign choker with golden pearls and a fake tattoo or two.

Fanny packs and tiny backpacks reigned in the 90s, and none quite like black nylon Prada bags (which have just been re-released in eco friendly recycled nylon).  Designer labels were out of reach for most teens, but mall stores and mail order catalogs like DELiA*s put disseminated trends within reach. 

Footwear ranged from Doc Martins and patent leather stacked heel boots to straight up grandpa sneakers.  Controversy flied when Candies tapped Playboy model and comedian Jenny McCarthy to hawk their sexy shoes with a series of ads shot in the bathroom.  Another wave of footwear hit in the late 90s with foamy, ankle roll inducing platform sandals from brands like Rocket Dog. 

Hair & Makeup 

3 Ways to Rock the Effortless 90s Style to Perfection

Alanis Morissette – Women and Hollywood via the artist’s Twitter

Laying off the Aqua Net seemed like a good way to save the ozone layer, and grunge gave us permission to do a whole lot of nothing with our hair if we so desired.  Fiona Apple and Alanis Morissette left their long brown locks untouched (save a few accent braids), while Friends stars started a beauty revolution. With no Pinterest or Instagram to pull from, ladies were tearing pages out of fashion mags and taking them to the salon in search of “The Rachel” or “The Monica” haircut of the moment.

If you weren’t working a face framing “Rachel,” a spider plant looking updo was in order.  The front could get a slick, gelled down side swoop, a series of half cornrows, some romantic tendrils, or any combination thereof.  Meanwhile, the back was all over the place with a flipped waterfall, spiky frosted tips, or a butterfly clip laden bird’s nest. 

Makeup of the 90s was full of interesting phenomena too.  Shimmery lids ruled in pastels like pink, blue, and white, and the eye shadow canvas covered all the territory it could find from lash to brow.  In high schools across the country, body glitter and fruity scented lotions from Bath & Bodyworks worked as an aphrodisiac and territory marking device.  Women of the 90s alternated between matte, dark mauve lipstick or liner and nearly neon, saccharine sweet glosses.  

Though full, fluffed up boy brows are all the rage these days, eyebrows in the 90s were as mean and lean as you could get.  Everyone in Hollywood from America’s sweetheart Drew Barrymore to the Baywatch bad gal Pam Anderson had tattoo thin brows going on.  Guess that made more room for eye shadow?

The Clothes

3 Ways to Rock the Effortless 90s Style to Perfection

Neo Nineties Style via Urban Outfitters 

For our guide to 90s fashion, let’s start at the top.  The crop top that is. Whether in a sweater or a spaghetti strap tank, navels (often pierced) were out on full display.  Tiny babydoll tees enraged conservative parents and school administrators everywhere. Paired with low slung cargos or camo pants, they showed off plenty of midriff.  Oversize sweaters, flannels, and thermal tops made the rotation too, and could be easily pulled off and tied around the waist to reveal the sexier layer beneath.

Delicate floral prints – often on black – made their way into 90s wardrobes, and took the form of blouses and flirty flared dresses.  The slip dress, in satin or velvet, ruled the night, and daisies or smiley face graphics were staples of daytime wear. 

For lack of a better term, mom jeans were prevalent throughout the decade, and finally gave way to the sexy flares and no back pocket denim from Silver around the year 2000.  By the late 90s, fashion was hinting at what would become a full blown epidemic in the early 2000s – bubblegum pop. Destiny’s Child, Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Lopez (aka J.Lo) and Britney Spears were ushering in an era of form fitting, full force sex appeal.  With their backless chainmail tops, hip hugging suede pants, and two toned hair, the effortless style of the 90s was officially gone.